By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
Remember Power Rangers?
It was hard not to love such a creative, enthusiastically bombastic show about martial artists in multicolored spandex fighting evil witches and an evil emperor with all of his skin ripped off , utilizing the frequent assistance of dinosaur-themed robots.
Eventually, the different iterations of the series got kind of stupid, but in kind of the same awesome way:
Now, here we are, with an attempt at a happy medium.
In the midst of a losing battle, the last living Power Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), buries five colorful coins as his dying act of defiance against rogue Green Ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Millions of years later in 2017, in the town of Angel Grove, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), and Billy (RJ Cyler) have each found themselves in detention and looked down on by the rest of the school. Jason got caught committing a serious prank, Kimberly had bullied a fellow cheerleader, and Billy, a teen on the autism spectrum (a trait handled commendably well by the writers), accidentally botched another of his experiments.
Trini (Becky G), an outsider who likes to climb mountains and do yoga while she listens to death metal, and Zach (Ludi Lin), who visits the same area when he’s not at home caring for his ailing mother, aren’t part of the Mighty Morphin’ Breakfast Club, but they’re part of whatever pushes the five strangers together to guide them to the power coins inside a submerged spaceship. Inside, Zordon and his robot Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) inform the teens that they are destined to be Power Rangers, defenders chosen by fate. The coins give the rangers their superhuman strength, but in order to be able to “morph” and don their armor, they need to learn how to trust each other and work together as a team. They have 11 days before Rita awakens a monster called Goldar (sadly, not a blue monkey with armor this time around) and destroys Angel Grove in search of the powerful, world-ending Zeo crystal. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts factors in heavily. I’m not kidding.
For most of its first two acts, Power Rangers succeeds impressively not with silly action and bright special effects, but with the excellent chemistry of the five leads. The Breakfast Club-style setup that pushes the rebellious teens together needed to be effective, since almost three quarters of the movie involves the characters out of costume and working through their issues to be worthy of the Ranger namesake. Thankfully, it’s not only effective, it’s probably the most interesting part of the movie.
Elizabeth Banks is relatively unrecognizable as Rita, and she fully capitalizes on the opportunity to portray a 90s children’s show villainess by turning into a hurricane of camp whenever she’s on the screen. It occasionally clashes with the more serious slant of the main characters, but it also sort of works in the sense that she’s an insane alien villain waking up after millions of years of hibernation and completely enthralled by a new world. Regardless, Banks’ gleefully weird performance is a fair trade-off for occasional tonal jank.
For a 120 minute movie, Power Rangers is a bit light on overall plot—teenagers find the coins, get powers, fight Rita, and that’s about it. Not as many eggs are invested in worldbuilding, which helps keep the exposition dumps to a relative minimum but leaves a lot of potential questions unanswered. Ostensibly this is to leave wiggle room for the five (!) planned sequels, but even based on a show that was itself less concerned with plot than it was with elaborate costuming and martial arts moves, the plot felt a bit thin and a very focused suspension of disbelief is important for anyone not coming in armed with nostalgia to dodge some of the plot holes.
Branded from the first trailer as a potential shitshow, Power Rangers showed little promise with its gritty, Chronicle-flavored modern look and little of the silliness of the original classic. It’s a relief that this reboot not only delivers on the more serious elements (and even has a couple of startlingly effective emotional moments), but skillfully sprinkles the corniness without feeling forced or juvenile. It’s that rare blockbuster made with a huge amount of heart and a deep-seated love for the characters. It’s occasionally clumsy, but emerges as a distinct curiosity in revivals of old shows: it respects what was loved in so many childhoods, and has more than enough to warmly welcome everyone else.
Power Rangers (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone says “Rangers.”
Take a Drink: whenever Krispy Kreme is mentioned or shown.
Do a Shot: for every licensed song.
Take a Drink: for every instance of slow-motion/speed ramping.