Director – Dean Israelite
Writer – John Gatins
Cast – Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G., Ludi Lin, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader and others
Twenty years after the last Power Rangers theatrical release, the sci-fi series returns with an updated visual style and reconfigured storyline, as the Saban Entertainment property moves from 20th Century Fox to Lionsgate. It was only a matter of time before someone brought them back with a modern twist. Luckily, the reboot is a satisfying adventure that accomplishes most of what it sets out to do.
Power Rangers creatively reimagines the Power Rangers’ origins by establishing them as a team of intergalactic protectors, which certainly provides a high degree of flexibility for potential future iterations. An opening flashback reveals that the original Power Rangers were actually humanoid-like extraterrestrials, arriving on earth millions of years ago as Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his team of Rangers attempted to defend the planet from power-hungry alien invader Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).
More than 60 million years later, a decrepit gold mine outside the rural California town of Angel Grove attracts the attention of outcast teen tech-whiz Billy (RJ Cyler), who’s focused on a project started by his late father to unearth a mysterious energy source within the mountainside. Billy gets some unexpected assistance from disgraced football star Jason (Dacre Montgomery). It turns out that some other marginalized teens are also drawn to the mountain, including bad boy Zack (Ludi Lin), ostracized cheerleader Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and gay-questioning Trini (Becky G).
After Billy’s homemade explosive device blows away the wall of the mine, they discover the buried power coins and quickly begin developing unexpected super-abilities. As the kids struggle to control their newfound talents, the revival of Rita from deep beneath the ocean snaps their situation into sharp focus when she arrives in Angel Grove seeking Zordon and begins destroying the town.
Screenwriter John Gatins succeeds in effectively distilling the Power Rangers’ sprawling mythology into a manageable scope and dialing back the campy humor and martial arts fixations that characterized the TV series. The current version instead emphasizes more realistic dramatic situations by imbuing each Ranger with some type of personal issue.
That said, the way the movie transitions between its scenes dealing with modern high school issues/ concerns and its overtly cartoonish superhero origin story moments might leave some viewers experiencing a sense of emotional whiplash. The CGI is miles away from great, and most of the fight sequences in the latter half of the film look like video game cutscenes from a bygone generation of consoles. Less polished? Sure, but more well-choreographed and realistic. It’s not that the action is bad, but for how little of it there is in the film it should’ve been considerably better.
Power Rangers is probably not going to go down as the most beloved superhero movie of 2017, but it’s still a good origin story.