When they announced a new Power Rangers movie a couple of years ago, I’ll be the first to admit that I was probably inappropriately excited about it. I’m not even the biggest fan of the TV show. In fact, the series as it is now is utterly rubbish.
But 20-something years ago, I’d have quite happily sold my mother for a Megazord toy for Christmas. I can still remember watching the very first episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on a Saturday morning, in my PJs, amazed at what was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. It captured me so much that, even though I only watched it for a couple of years, it stuck with me ever since. That’s pretty special.
So naturally I absolutely loved the 1995 movie. It’s accepted by most rational people that it’s a god-awful film, but it’ll forever be a guilty pleasure for me, and I don’t care one little bit.
So, here we are 22 years later. We’re in the age of huge, superhero team movies, transforming robots and big blockbusters. If this movie didn’t work now, it probably never would.
Power Rangers is a tricky beast to review though. For most, and certainly for me, I think it’s easy to just get swept along on a wave of nostalgia, grinning with glee at the little nods to all the things you’ll remember from your childhood. Every part of me wants to just say it’s perfect and everything I wanted from it. It’s far from it of course, but my god, its good fun.
The first 5 minutes are unexpectedly dark. We get a prologue set some 65 million years ago that introduces us to a couple of key players, but probably not how most people would expect. It sets the tone well and it states the case that in this version of Power Rangers, if people get too hurt, they die. It’s a beautifully handled opener, our first introduction to Zordon and Rita and a valuable snippet of backstory.
Now, make no mistake, this movie is a deliberate set up to a franchise. The following 90 minutes are spent making sure we know who our characters are, what their faults are and why we’re supposed to root for them to come together. There’s a lot of ground to cover but it’s necessary. I completely understand why this wouldn’t be the movie some people might expect, but it’s all the better for it.
Our new Power Rangers don’t know each other. Some of them don’t know themselves all that well. They can’t fight, they don’t want to fight, and a couple of them aren’t particularly nice people. Spending so much time fleshing out each character, showing their struggles and allowing us to watch them become something bigger and better together is rewarding, and makes the upcoming pay-off all that sweeter.
Our 5 leads do a good job. None of them are big names and some of them are new to the game, but save for a couple of clunky moments, the acting is decent. They’re engaging and they sell it well. It’s in our villain that the most interesting acting choices are seen.
Elizabeth Banks is an unusual choice to play Rita Repulsa. She hasn’t played a part like it before and she’s certainly not the name I’d have at the top of my list. She’s really something here though. There’s some major scenery chewing happening whenever she’s on screen and it’s absolutely fabulous. She loves every moment and is deliciously over the top. Rita’s a surprisingly nasty character for much of this movie though. Far darker than I thought she’d be, and probably quite scary for younger viewers. She’s vicious and very dangerous.
Casting Bryan Cranston as Zordon was a great move too. Having voiced some of the villains in the original series, he came on board knowing exactly what he was getting involved with. I think he’s just about everything anybody could want from him to be honest. Without getting into spoiler territory, this Zordon has motives that aren’t revealed at first, and he’s not an instantly likeable character, but a choice he makes at a pivotal moment about halfway through the film is a game changer.
The last 30 minutes is where the action is at. When the team suits up and takes on Rita’s army of Putties, it’s gloriously fun. The new suits look great, and the hand to hand combat scenes are brilliant. Rita’s been busy raiding the town for all the gold she can find to resurrect her old monster chum, Goldar, so by the time the Rangers get suited and booted, he’s 100 foot tall and stomping towards Angel Grove to dig up the Zeo Crystal. That’s the item that will give Rita the power to create and destroy worlds by the way, and it’s hidden under a certain famous doughnut brand’s store. Cue some of the most ridiculous product placement I’ve ever seen.
When the zords make their first appearance, roaring into action together to that theme tune, I cannot lie, my inner 10 year old self was giddy with excitement. The final battle should be seen and enjoyed without being spoiled, so I’ll say no more about it, other than there are definitely choices made by our new storytellers that will divide opinions. I can’t wait to discuss some of them with someone else who has seen the movie and remembers the original source material.
Power Rangers is not a masterpiece. Some of the writing is clumsy - their inclusion of an LGBT character and another who is on the spectrum is admirable but feels shoehorned in, simply so they could advocate diversity. They’re also handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. And for those looking for 2 hours of action, it will be a massive disappointment, so set your expectations.
There’s a lot to love though. It’s not all dark and gloomy. There’s a lot of humour. I’d bet my right arm that nobody would have expected a Powers Rangers movie to feature a scene about pleasuring a cow in the first 10 minutes, and there’s a real heart to the movie. This doesn’t feel like a cash-grab. This movie wasn’t just made for the 30-somethings looking to relive their childhood. They’ve started to introduce some exciting new characters and stories to those who are brand new to it all. It’s pure escapism and I honestly can’t wait to watch it again.
My mum did get me the Megazord incidentally. She’s definitely a keeper.
4* - It’s Morphin’ time all over again!