Power Rangers (2017)
Directed by Dean Israelite
In Hollywood, today, franchises are frequently trying to reinvent themselves to be more and to be better. Power Rangers doesn't want to reinvent, rather it embraces it's keystones.
Five teens in Angel Grove, California find themselves unwittingly brought together by a stroke of fate when one of them, Billy, blows up the edge of a nearly defunct mine in search of... something. In the broken rock the teens find five, glowing, disc-shaped lights. After a fracas they find themselves changed, faster, stronger, and more resilient. Exploring the area near the mine, they find an alien lair of some kind where they're set upon by an android. They're taken to Zordon, the previous leader of the Power Rangers, who informs them what they are and the significance of finding the Power Coins. Zordon also shows them a potential future in which an ex-Power Ranger named Rita Repulsa kills all people on Earth, taking the powerful crystal that created life on the planet. To prevent Rita from gaining power, the team begins training together despite not being in sync with each other, and thus not being able to use their full power. Rita's impending attack looms closer as the teens try to come together to be a real team.
One of the best things about Power Rangers is how radically it holds onto it's entire persona in a refreshing way that not all franchises do. The characters, the tackiness, the martial arts, even the static masks with well-formed lips that don't while talking. The movie is up to it's ass in nostalgia. It's been a long time since a movie has come along that's been so aware of exactly what it is.
The other great thing about this movie is the soundtrack. Brian Tyler outdid himself creating a resounding atmosphere. Despite a glacial pace of poor characterization, the music stands on it's own. It's based on well worn musical standards for action, emotion, and drama with familiar riffs and swells, but takes those to a better level. The music actually succeeds in areas where the rest of the film utterly fails; we never care about the characters but the music makes me feel their vulnerability; the action isn't thrilling but the music gets my pulse pounding.
The music actually succeeds in areas where the rest of the film utterly fails...
Beyond these two great facets, Power Rangers is awash with barely-there filmmaking. The dialogue, story, pace, atmosphere, camerawork, and even the action are all utterly mediocre. The characters are all high schoolers who talk and act like 20-something, struggling, college students. Their dialogue reflects a lack of insight, passion, or vision which is astonishing because the film moves so slowly that there should be plenty of time for character building and progressive subtext.
Instead, the movie's chock-full of try-hard interplay between obviously misfit characters that share absolutely no chemistry. They really are 20-somethings acting like children; the first half of the movie is like a season of Degrassi or Freaks and Geeks. Then, when the team needs it most, they discover the true power... of friendship.
In general, the story flops around, passionlessly and painfully swapping between moods, moving from outspoken and emotionless drama to over-zealous comic relief, complete with a montage over the course of 11 days (in film time). And the worst part is that we never gain anything from it. Power Rangers tries so desperately to create a full background that all subtlety is thrown away. The characters literally sit around a campfire and start spilling their secrets, why they feel vulnerable, and why they're starting to appreciate each other. Their training to be Rangers feels like a half measure that's really just shoehorning their team dynamics and future interplay; the entire first act never feels organic. So when they finally get their suits they feel like five completely different people, not the culmination of five character arcs; it's two stories sloppily edited together. There's one story about five waylaid teens becoming friends and another about five superheroes saving Earth.
Overall the graphics are superb, despite unnecessary slow-motion, and the updated armor and Zords look superb. The only problem with the photography is that there isn't a consistent look throughout the movie, save for gratuitous Dutch angling. The quick changes only serve to make the lackluster first act even more unpalatable. If Power Rangers were a psychological thriller or a gory horror or a progressive sci-fi then Dutch angling and atmospheric changes would have a place... but the Power Rangers are a group of five teens with attitude who get superpowers and suits of brightly colored armor from five coins and use those gifts to protect the planet from strange aliens intent on getting a life-creating crystal buried underground. That doesn't really fit the bill for requiring Dutch angles and they never seem to fit the scenes they're used in. No, really. The Dutch angles never fit any of the scenes... they're used for normal conversations or while reaching for a doorknob or while climbing a hill. It's absurd.
On the other hand, the new designs are fantastic. Goldar is absolutely menacing; Rita Repulsa makes sense; Alpha 5 is cute, if obnoxious; Zordon is powerfully imposing; the Power Rangers themselves have armor that makes sense and looks awesome (and their butts are great).
But the real beauty of Power Rangers is the zealousness with which is holds onto all the hallmarks of the franchise. It doesn't throw away everything that made it such a powerful, pop culture phenomenon, but sprinkles references throughout the film. The movie is a nostalgic thrill ride. Elizabeth Banks gives just the right amount of campy, overacting to Rita Repulsa; Alpha 5 gives us a dejected, "Aye aye aye," after a mishap; the Power Rangers fight some Putties in a nondescript, sandy location that happens to be wide open for prime fighting space. I really can't list all of the references because it'll spoil the ride but suffice it to say that if you have any knowledge about the Power Rangers then you'll get excited chills as you watch.
This movie is fun. That's the main thing. As kids, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was all about trusting your best friends, stopping evil, protecting Earth, and doing some awesome karate in the process. The newest iteration of the team may have fancy, new duds but the movie in no way lets go of those tenets: trust your best friends, stop evil, protect Earth, and do some awesome, fucking karate. Mind you, that doesn't mean this is a good movie. In no way is Power Rangers a good movie, but it follows in a long line of bad movies that are amazingly entertaining/adrenaline-pumping thrill rides like National Treasure, Starship Troopers, Armageddon, etc.
TL;DR: Despite the low score for the movie (based purely on objective aspects) I absolutely enjoy Power Rangers and have already paid to see it twice. My buddy, Kevin, won't stop talking about, "Go, go, Power Rangers!" because that may or may not have been but definitely was the best part of the movie. Yes, the characterization and acting suck. The story sucks. The photography sucks. But the music is gripping. The action is satisfying. The nostalgia gleamed through like a contact high. Power Rangers is fun as fuck.
- Acting – 3 / 10
- Story – 3 / 10
- Cinematography – 3 / 10
- Soundtrack – 7 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 20 / 20
- Sci-Fi/Action – 10 / 20
- Other – 10 / 20