HOLLYWOOD—I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret, when I was a kid I lived for the hit TV series “The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” It was part of my childhood, and I was a big collector of all things related to the franchise. The popularity of that series spawned two big screen versions of the movie, both which didn’t really do much justice in terms of narrative or entertainment.
Fast-forward to 2017, and those who grew up with the franchise is getting a reboot that in my personal opinion does a bit of justice by delivering a movie with some great characters, an enthralling narrative and special effects that actually work without the gimmick of feeling cheap. “Power Rangers” might not have the A-list actors or names we expect to play some of those iconic teenagers who stumble upon an alien aircraft, but the characters have so much substance.
The level of substance is a vital element to film. Per the TV series, the film echoes those same strands of DNA with our five teens united to battle an alien determined to unleash terror on Earth. At the forefront we have Jason (Dacre Montgomery), start football quarterback at Angel Grove High School. There is also Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the popular cheerleader who participated in a bit of cyberbullying. We have the perennial nerd Billy (RJ Cyler), who suffers from autism and is a loner who faces constant bullying in school. And rounding out the five is Trini (Becky G), who is questioning her sexuality, and Zack (Ludi Lin), who is worried about his sick mother dying.
This is where I think the writers of “Power Rangers” do a stellar job of connecting with audience; the idea of navigating the stressful ins and outs of being in high school is something everyone can connect with, and it also works for those dealing with troubling times in middle school. The idea of fitting in, lack of friends, or being popular and not really wanting all the popularity is something most humans can connect with in some sort of fashion.
So the viewer, is not just seeing these teens already in action, we’re getting their backstory, which further shapes the importance of them being chosen as the five to save Earth from Rita Repulsa, a villainous and absolutely entertaining performance by actress Elizabeth Banks. The character on TV was such a goofball, but this movie makes her downright vicious, terrifying and a thrill to watch as she unleashes her madness on the Power Rangers, Zordon (voice of Bryan Cranston) and Alpha 5 (voice of Bill Hader). We see an evolution of these characters as the story moves along, and it works so well because the pacing is evenly staggered. In most cases I would be upset with the slow movement, however, it works here because when the action starts to escalate it’s a ton of fun to see unfold on the screen.
Some of the visuals work, some of the visuals in my opinion are not as realistic as I would have hoped, but that moment when the teens finally earn the right to transform into those iconic suits is amazing. “Power Rangers” absolutely runs circles around the TV series, and the predecessors of the franchise that hit the big screen in the 90s. For those who grew up on the series, it’s fun to reflect on your childhood, for those not aware of the franchise, the movie will make you a fan.