It’s finally MORPHIN TIME! The teenagers with attitude are back, and this time they are taking their adventures to the big screen in Saban’s Power Rangers. With over twenty seasons and two movies in their arsenal, it was only a matter of time before the multi-colored heroes were reimagined in a big budget feature film, and Saban and Lionsgate have definitely pulled out all the stops to take the fight against evil to the next level. Expectations for the film are high, and fans have been eagerly awaiting the impending release. Can Power Rangers hope to live up to expectations?
Beware of spoilers…
Millions of years ago, an alien known as Zordon led a team of Power Rangers to stop the villainous Rita Repulsa, a former Ranger gone rogue. With the fate of the Zeo Crystal (a source of unimaginable power) hanging in the balance, Zordon was forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to end Rita’s reign of terror. When the Power Coins, the source of the Rangers’ powers, are found in present day, five unsuspecting teenagers will soon find that they will be the last line of defense against the returning evil. This new team consists of Jason (the troubled former Quarterback), Kimberly (former Cheerleader), Trini (the new girl), Billy (the autistic and socially awkward genius), and Zack (the self-proclaimed “crazy one”). Can these kids overcome their identity issues and personal challenges to become the heroes that the world needs?
Power Rangers features Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Zordon, and Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) as Rita Repulsa, Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things – Season 2) as Jason, Naomi Scott (Tera Nova) as Kimberly, Ludi Lin (Marco Polo) as Zack, RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) as Billy, Becky G (Empire) as Trini, and Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) as the voice of Alpha 5. While all of the actors in the film did an amazing job, the VIP of Power Rangers is RJ Cyler. His portrayal of autism was extremely impressive, and his humor and charisma helped to make Billy into the most realistic character in the story. Elizabeth Banks seemed to have the most fun in the film, and her energy took Rita to a new level. I truly hope that she returns for future iterations. There were several points in the film where Naomi Scott seemed to channel Amy Jo Johnson (the original Pink Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), and I think her interpretation will resonate well with fans of the classic series. Ludi Lin as Zack managed to be the biggest wild card in the story, as he consistently pushed boundaries with crazy stunts to an impressive degree. Lin’s physical humor and comedic timing helped to create some of the film’s most memorable moments. Dacre Montgomery did a solid job as Jason, but there were times when I felt he hadn’t really embraced the insanity and fun of the situation. Becky G’s Trini is forced to deal with various personal identity issues throughout the story, and the piece that stood out to me personally was the grounded interaction with her family. There is a great conversation that happens towards the end of the film, and I loved her expressions as she spent time with her younger siblings. When Bill Hader was announced as the voice of Alpha 5, I wasn’t quite sure how to react. While I always enjoyed his time on SNL, this seemed to be an odd casting choice. Hader quickly changed my mind when Alpha made his entrance, and he took the corny little robot sidekick and made him into a strong character and ally for the new team. Finally, Bryan Cranston’s Zordon couldn’t have been more perfect. As many of you know, Cranston was involved in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a voice actor providing the voices for various monsters, and Billy’s character was actually named after the actor. His return to the franchise as the guiding force behind the Rangers was the perfect casting choice, and the level of emotion and dedication that he brought to the performance was definitely “morphinominal.”
Power Rangers managed to walk the fine line of being respectful to the original series while still taking the characters and franchise in an exciting new direction. There are countless callbacks and visual references to the 20+ years of Power Rangers history, and the pieces that were included were carefully selected and integrated organically. Fans are sure to love the prologue, as it adds an interesting twist to the mythology. The overall aesthetics and designs of the characters have received a modern update, but you can tell that the heart of the characters remains intact. The best redesign of the film was Zordon, who went from a holographic face in a tube, to a physically imposing being trapped in a wall with a pin-art style interface. While I didn’t love the addition of eye stalks to Alpha, they didn’t detract from the character once he was in motion. I also was very pleased with the cameos that were included in the film, and fans of the original series will surely be happy with the return of two key players and their strategically placed appearance.
Music has always played a big role in the Power Rangers franchise. The iconic “Power Rangers Theme Song” is thankfully present in the film, but instead of getting an update or a new recording, we get about six seconds (literally) of the version originally recorded for Power Rangers: The Movie (1995). While I am happy that was included at all, it felt extremely odd that it was featured for such an extremely short period of time, and the creative team missed a big opportunity to update and have the classic tune blazing in the background while the Rangers saved the world. Aside from the shortened theme, the overall score for the film felt out of place and forgettable. Composer Bryan Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron) took a Tron-like approach to the score, but the synth tones brought the overall energy level down instead of kicking things into gear for the climactic moments.
From a fan perspective, there were a few things that were somewhat disappointing about the film (these are minor nitpicks, not deal breakers by any means). While we do get to spend a lot of time with the Zords, the actual combination to become the Megazord (always the highlight of any episode), actually takes place off-screen. In fact, the new Megazord just looks like a Jaeger from Pacific Rim, and the distinct individual zords become unrecognizable once the powers are combined. The Megazord does look amazing in motion, but it felt like the creative team couldn’t find a way to combine the robots and took a major shortcut instead. Fans of the original series are well aware of the role that Goldar played in Rita’s quest for world domination, and I think that those viewers will be disappointed by the lack of characterization that this new iteration gives to the former evil lieutenant. Lastly, I felt that it was an odd decision to not give the Rangers actual morphers (the key piece of technology that helps them to transform). I understand the creative choice to have the teenagers overcome their personal issues to become Rangers (“find the power from within”), but there are toys and promotional materials featuring the morphers, so it felt like something was missing.
Rita might be the big threat to the Rangers on screen, but the bigger challenge for the Power Rangers comes in the form of editing. Many of the scenes drag on for a couple minutes too long, and it felt like the creative team didn’t want to cut any of the precious footage that they shot. Had some of the scenes been shortened and tightened up, Power Rangers could have gone from a good movie to a great movie.
Walking into Power Rangers, my biggest concern was that I would be faced with an interpretation that could have been a complete disregard to the memories of my favorite spandex-clad heroes in action. After several disappointing attempts to see big budget reboots of 80s and 90s properties on the big screen (Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or really anything with Michael Bay’s name on it…), I finally felt like a creative team managed to respect its source material and not disregard those of us who had previously been fans of the original production. My childhood memories remain untarnished, and Saban’sPower Rangers truly succeeds where other reboots have failed. To my surprise, I was extremely satisfied with the overall tone, writing, acting, and care put into the creation of the film. This new incarnation was handled in the most respectful way possible, and fans and general audiences alike are sure to find something to connect with. Power Rangersunquestionably lives up to the legacy that Haim Saban started in 1993, and I hope that we get to see more stories set in this modernized Power Rangers universe.
Make sure you stick around through the credits for an important sequence.
ComicsOnline gives Saban’s Power Rangers 4 out of 5 successful returns to the 90s.
Check out our exclusive interview with Dacre Montgomery (Jason), Ludi Lin (Zack), and Naomi Scott (Kimberly) below:
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Matt interviewed MacGyver once (true story), and was invited on a submarine to the Arctic. It hasn't happened yet, but Matt hopes that some day he will get the call and he and Richard Dean Anderson will go off and have a wacky adventure.