Verdict: 4 / 5
Saban’s Power Rangers knows how over-the-top its action scenes are and the film is willing to have some fun with it, occasionally poking fun at the original series.
I think everyone that has seen Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers after the age of 10 knows that the show is contrived and over-acted with bad costumes and second-hand special effects. Yet we remember it fondly because of this idiocy. My friends and I would jokingly shout at each other across the back yard swinging our arms in pretend martial arts moves, then proceed to cartwheel and jump around like lunatics. We knew how ridiculous it looked, but it was fine because we didn’t take it seriously.
This is the essence of Power Rangers. The concept is so far-fetched, there’s no way it could be turned into a serious action film. So why should it? The film is comfortable in its lightheartedness, for the most part, letting characters interrupt each other to make pop culture references the way we all do in conversation. This makes the whole thing, even within its ridiculous notion, seem grounded. It’s difficult to explain. The viewer spends most of the film not quite immersed, not quite in suspension of disbelief. You’re aware of the fact that you’re watching a superhero movie, and the movie knows this. I’ve never heard a cinema burst out laughing like that, not even during Deadpool.
The first few scenes are standard fare for these types of films. Epic, context-providing backstory followed by comical fooling around introducing one of the characters. From there we meet the rest of the cast one by one, establishing each stereotype before moving on to the next, all while steadily progressing the plot. There are some cues taken from the character design on the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers – jock reluctant leader guy, anti-establishment minority guy, socially awkward nerdy guy, shunned cheerleader girl and loner girl. There’s someone for every viewer to relate with. As predictable as this seems, the characters come across as grounded, real people, especially once we learn more about each of their lives and their motivations. All five actors play their roles well, especially RJ Cyler as Billy.
After the introduction of modern-day Zordon and Alpha-5 (you can’t call that a spoiler, the show is almost 24 years old), the film starts bringing things in, becoming more serious. The voice of Zordon (Bryan Cranston) seems familiar but a little misplaced. It’s difficult for such a popular actor to voice a semi-on-screen character. Alpha-5 (Bill Hader) is a perfect match, though the nervous robot is actually a robot now, not simply a person cosplaying a robot.
Rita Repulsa (still not a spoiler, you knew it would be her) is portrayed as a mixture of The Grudge and a Disney evil stepmother. She starts off creepy, then becomes genuinely scary. Elizabeth Banks was the perfect fit for this role, though I never would’ve believed it if I didn’t see it for myself.
Once combat begins we’re treated to the same acrobatic wire-work of the original series. The Putty Patrol seems a bit tougher than I remember them. Dramatic camera angles are mixed with found-footage-style crash zooms and losses of focus. A few 300-style slow motion shots punctuate the action. Some characters drop their catch-phrases, along with more stabs at other action films, in creative and entertaining ways.
If you enjoy superhero films at all, this is a must watch. Even if you didn’t watch Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Saban’s Power Rangers is a hilarious film. I see myself watching this several times over the next few months.
Oh, by the way, there’s a teaser scene in the end credits so remember to hang around for that.