“Power Rangers” is a phenomenon that has been captivating kids for over 20 years now. With dozens of incarnations, two major motion pictures and a fan base growing wider and more diverse every year, these colored coated superheroes inspired by Japanese programming don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. I remember getting up early EVERY Saturday morning to watch “Power Rangers” when it first came on. Now, almost 30 years later, I finally get the chance to see something I loved as a kid becomes a sensation across the globe all over again. I can’t tell you how surreal it is seeing a TV show I watched as a child become relevant and dominating after all these years. After a dark, brilliantly made fan film of a grittier, more modern “Power Rangers” appeared on Youtube, Hollywood apparently thought this was an idea worth milking.
As I dive into this review, I can only hope director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) took the reins of a silly Saturday morning kids show seriously…as strange as that sounds. Five delinquents who meet in detention stumble across a spaceship and powerful coins; owned by a mysterious alien being called Zordon (Bryan Cranston). He informs the teens that Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), an evil sorceress, is coming to destroy their hometown in search of an ancient power that she will use to wipe out humanity. Now Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Billy (RJ Cycler), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G) must work together to become a super powered, super hero team known as the Power Rangers and stop Rita’s evil.
Being a longtime fan of the series gives me the unique pleasure of being able to rate this not only as a movie on its own merit, but also have intimate knowledge on just how accurately or how poorly this film follows the source material. “Power Rangers” is a rare gem of a film. This new take on the iconic heroes perfectly utilizes modern day takes on the characters and the material, while at the same time, includes nods, Easter eggs and a whole Megazord full of faithfulness that will please fans (like me) who watched them morph on screen for the first time back when we were kids. They even managed to slip the unforgettable theme song into the mix without it feeling out of place. Most of the cast are relative newbies; having very few roles prior to this but proving to be an incredibly well balanced and well developed team of fresh young talent.
Despite being an origin story, more time is spent on the kids and learning who they are, why they came together and what they’ve experienced rather than jump rushing them into dinosaur themed robots right away. The story allows for plenty of time for everyone to adjust to every motivation, even Rita and Zordon’s. This also works nicely for fans of the show that get to see and compare how the new characters have changed compared to the originals, so everyone’s getting something new and fresh out of this incarnation. While this is a kid aimed franchise, this film wisely knows it can’t rely on the corniness of the series to make the drama palpable. People die, personal issues are aired out and Elizabeth Banks turns a once ridiculous villain into a truly terrifying force to be reckoned with.
There are a few minor kinks in the armor though; one being an awkward understanding of the character of Zordon. He comes off as tough but fair but then makes some sudden changes that don’t get a lot of time to really understand because the teens take center stage. I understand it was a way to “humanize” the character and give him some more back story and relevance than just a squeaky clean giant head, but there just wasn’t enough time. The only other issue I had was the character of Goldar, which is a loose term because he wasn’t a character at all and is the only real blatant misfire the film had in representing its roots.
Still, overall “Power Rangers” is a triumphant blast from the past that truly satisfies old fans and new fans in an incredible, well written tribute to everything that made the show great in the past. The film uses its new talent exceedingly well, it’s veteran actors knock it out of the park and it easily leaves multiple doors open for countless sequels. This is the “Power Rangers” film everyone has been waiting for, whether you’ve seen the series or not.