Sunday, March 26, 2017

Movie Review: "Power Rangers" (2017)

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Director: Dean Isrealite
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

A group of teenagers discovers five magical power coins in a quarry outside their town of Angel Grove. These coins were left by an alien race to give those who found them special powers and the duty to protect the power crystal, which has the capability of destroying the planet, from falling into the wrong hands.

"Power Rangers" is directed by Dean Israelite and is a re-imagining of the 1990's kid's show "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers." It stars a cast of young, relatively unknown actors who make up the titular Power Rangers: the Red Ranger Jason, played by Dacre Montgomery; the Pink Ranger Kimberly, played by Naomi Scott; the Blue Ranger Billy, played by RJ Cyler; the Black Ranger Zack, played by Ludi Lin; and the Yellow Ranger Trini, played by Becky G. Also in the cast are veteran actors Bryan Cranston, who plays Zordon, Bill Hader, who voices robot Alpha 5, and Elizabeth Banks, who plays the villainous Rita Repulsa. The five aforementioned teens are made up of outsiders, part juvenile delinquents, part misfits, who discover five strange coins in a quarry outside of their small town of Angel Grove. These coins give the teens superpowers, as well as a duty to protect a powerful source of energy known as the Zeo power crystal. Along with the crystals, the long-dormant baddie Rita Repulsa is retrieved from her watery slumber. She wants the power crystal for herself so she can destroy the planet because she is just plain evil. Now, with training help from Zordon, the Rangers must learn to work together in order to stop her.

This incarnation of the "Power Rangers" is quite a large step away from the campy 90's television show, which was spliced together from an existing Japanese TV series and combined with American re-shoots. This version takes a slightly darker tone and is as different from the original show as any "Batman" film (that's not directed by Joel Schumacher) is from the 60's TV series with Adam West. The characters, mainly the Rangers themselves, are not deeply layered ones. Though they do each get a little bit of characterization with their own personal stories, they are primarily archetypes in this tale. Jason is the former star athlete with leadership qualities who keeps getting in trouble. Billy is the nerdy tech guy who has gone through a personal tragedy and is "on the spectrum." Kimberly was once a "mean girl" cheerleader turned rebellious outcast. Trini is the perpetual new kid with a chip on her shoulder, and Zack is the loner type who regularly skips school, but for a good reason. These up and coming actors fit their roles well and do a decent job as "teenagers with attitude," which was always said in the original show, but not really always present or apparent. We understand if others are rubbed the wrong way by their coincidental meetings and demeanors, and we can also see people being annoyed by how quickly the kids come together to form a special bond for the greater good. Unlike the TV show, which had episode after episode for years to build these characters, here, we only get a short 2 hours to tell their story. Sure, this movie doesn't have the cleanest narrative, but we digress. For what it is, we didn't see a problem with most of it. The veteran cast members do an awesome job in their respective roles. Elizabeth Banks' take on the evil Rita Repulsa is very effective and is a much more frightening embodiment of the character. We also like the fact that Bill Hader has lent his voice to the character of Alpha 5. If you don't know, Hader is incredible when it comes to voice over and sound effects work, so we are glad the filmmakers have taken the Alpha character away from being an overly anxious, obnoxious android and turned him into a wittier and even tougher, sassy character thanks to Hader's brilliant work. The CGI on this character is a little nightmare inducing, but it's not the worst thing we've ever seen digitized.

This is an origin story, so it takes its time building the universe and all of its participants. Unlike 1995's "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie," those behind the camera don't assume the audience already knows everything about this world, these people, their abilities, or their jargon, though they do give a lot of fan service for viewers who grew up with the TV series like myself. Much of the movie involves the construction of this world, our heroes, how they must learn their powers and prepare for their newly discovered duties. It isn't until the third act where we actually get to full-on Ranger action and get to check out their Zords in full operation. This is the one major complaint we do have about the film. We would have loved to see the Rangers in their suits a bit more, but we have a feeling we haven't seen the last of them. It certainly put a smile on our faces as these Zords and suits were unleashed.

In the end, this new incarnation of the "Power Rangers" manages to take something that was originally extremely cheesy and create something a bit more serious, but still maintains a fun, fan-serviced affair. Though it is pretty messy and overuses CGI in several instances, we surprisingly enjoyed this movie and are glad it wasn't the dumpster fire we assumed it would be based on the trailers.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~46%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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