Film Review: Power Rangers (2017) Is A Missed Opportunity
By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
When you were a kid, what was something you had to have in your life? For those old-school readers, maybe it was Voltron. Or maybe it was Sesame Street or even Dora the Explorer. But I think it’s safe to say that, at some point, everyone had an experience with the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. As such, you should definitely remember said kids who gained the ability to turn into Power Rangers, piloting robot animals and battling the evils of Rita Repulsa. For some of you, this may have been a highlight of youth, and for others, it was something you couldn’t have cared less about. Well, love it or hate it, it has now been made into a motion picture, directed by Dean Isrealite. And, with a new release, comes a new review. Ladies and gentlemen: Power Rangers.
High school can be hard enough for a teenager. Whether you’re the nerd, outcast, or the jock, history proves it isn’t always smooth sailing. On one eventful night, a group of five teens – Dacre Montgomery (Jason Lee Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) and Trini (Becky G) – come together at a mining quarry. After detonating a side of a mountain, they come across glowing rocks, with each taking one home. The next day, they wake up to find they now have abilities they didn’t have before, and soon find their way to a hidden spaceship which is run by a face on a wall in Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and an in-house robot named Alpha 5 (Bill Hader). Zordon breaks the news to the group that they are now the Power Rangers, and with the title comes responsibilities, primary of which is fighting Rita Repulsa, who is back and looking to destroy the world. Thus, the group of five strangers must come together, create a bond, and become one fighting team in order to defeat the impending threat of Rita and her horde. The fate of the world is at hand. Oh, and class is tomorrow morning.
Lionsgate probably thought it would be a great idea to pick up a Power Rangers film, a franchise that has been around for probably close to two decades; has a fan base not only in the United States, but also in Japan; and would be something that might generate interest around the world. Unfortunately, they hadn’t seen a finished product before purchasing the rights to the film, and what they received was an extended television episode. The CGI looks slightly better than what you would see on TV, as it should, seeing as the budget was probably 200 times that of an individual TV episode, but unfortunately, the whole film is lackluster, and that is being kind. The CGI is bad, the costume design doesn’t translate well, and the monster design looks like something a child in 4th grade may make, and that’s being mean to the 4th grader.
Now, as we know with the Power Rangers, there are ample fight sequences. However, let’s be honest, the television actors looked as if they had never had any martial arts training in their entire lives. In the new film, that hasn’t changed a whole lot. It may be a little more fluid than the TV episodes, but I’m still on the edge of which fight sequences were less believable: those found in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or this Power Rangers. Even Keanu Reeves looked better in the original Matrix!
The story is very straightforward, melodramatic, and doesn’t make us feel for any particular character, the situations they are in individually, or the potential threat to the world. It is poorly written and the actors do not help the cause. As you know, I like to talk about individual actor performances, and give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, this time around, that is absolutely not necessary. For example, when casting Becky G, a musician who isn’t very well known in her own right, as a lead character, you’re going to have problems. And the fact that Bryan Cranston signed on for the film is a huge head scratcher to me. It must have been a lofty paycheck to have a quality actor like him come aboard for something this poor. The movie’s performances are cookie cutter, devoid of anything resembling real humans, and suited more for soap operas. The melodrama is at its peak and character development is minimal at best. It’s like the story is forcing the characters to grow before our eyes. It’s like taking a seed, peeling it yourself, and pulling out everything inside and calling it a plant. It doesn’t work. Really, there isn’t any redeeming performance to be found in this film.
Power Rangers, as mentioned earlier, is little better than a TV episode, and that may be saying a lot for the film. The performances are very lackluster, the story is very basic, the CGI is bad at best, and nothing is believable. Some may say, “Justin, it’s the Power Rangers, it’s sci-fi, and it isn’t going to happen in real life anyway, so why are you talking about believability?” Good sci-fi films like Aliens, Contact, Signs, Arrival, World War Z…all films done well, and all sci-fi. I understand taking something based on popularity and making a film version of it, but do it right. This is less than halfhearted, with a poor cast and poor visuals. For those who the producers and director were making this film for, you were failed, and for that, as a critic, I apologize, on their behalf, to you.