I must confess before I go on, I grew up with the Power Rangers. As a child of 5 I would play the cassette with the original theme and the Green Ranger theme as loud as I could. I would run around and pretend to fight invisible enemies sent from the Moon (trust me, it doesn’t sound as ridiculous as you think). And while my familiarity with the franchise waned as I grew older, the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers era remains close to my heart as a reminder of those care free days.
The announcement of a reboot film initially filled me with dread. With the release of the likes of Man of Steel (2013) and Batman Vs. Superman (2016) in previous years, it became apparent that there was a high possibility that the original camp concept, was about to get an unnecessary grim and gritty stand-in that would simply borrow the branding. In many ways, this initial fear was met in surprising ways. It’s surprisingly unclear just who the film is made for. The tone shifts from juvenile and playful, to serious and over the top at the drop of a hat, creating an unfocussed experience at times. Frequent references to the original series are made for the older fans, but the original tone that made the franchise easy to grasp and provided such fun for children, create a sense of ‘what could have been’.
The reinterpretation of these characters comes off as flat, with only a few noticeable details to distinguish each character from the other. Luckily, this doesn’t stray too far from the initial portrayals. The appeal of the show in the 90s was rarely based on its stellar character drama. When time was devoted to exploring a character, such as the introduction and change of heart of the Green Ranger, they were there usually to compensate for changes in the original Super Sentai footage. Playing in the films favour however, the inclusion of both a Ranger on the autism spectrum, and an openly gay Ranger, blends in well with the desired goal of an all-inclusive cast. The idea that anyone could be a Ranger. The true stars of the film you’ll find, are the films supporting cast, Bryan Cranston as Zordon, Bill Hader as Alpha, and the films villain, Elizabeth Banks as Rita Ripulsa. Cranston brings a humanity to Zordon we rarely see, a character burdened by his past that now must task human teenagers to carry on the mission he died trying to complete. The new interpretation of Alpha is frankly adorable in design, and brings a genuine humour to the situation, unable to understand the Rangers initial terror at having stumbled upon alien beings. Elizabeth Banks channels pure insanity with her portrayal of Rita. At times calm and collective, before releasing her inner demon to provide a, while sometimes over the top, malicious and driven killer. Banks portrayal is both overly serious, fitting with the darker tone, and bordering on camp. Something overly welcome in a Power Rangers property.
A source of great disappointment, comes largely from the films colour palette and costume design. The Ranger suits provide the films only real source of vibrant colour, though still muted, however we are only fully graced with their presents, during the closing 20 minutes of the film. Leading to a fair amount of build-up and a weak pay off. The suits themselves contain a strange moulded and static mouth piece, that thankfully moves away to reveal the actors face. While the white diamond design of the classic costumes are greatly missed, the update fits this new, slightly darker setting. The design of the Zords works well alongside the new suit designs, however the redesign of the Megazord pales in comparison. Appearing more as a generic transformer rip off, rather than a combination of the Ranger’s power and Zords. In a moment of pure fan service however, the inclusion of the original theme, though brief, blasts through the speakers, in a moment that is bound to make the original fans roar with appreciation, laughter or both.
While the film is clearly made for those of us that grew up with the classic series, the film mixes serious elements with childish jokes to create an odd concoction that will have you cheering during the action, and groaning when humour attempts to strike. Approach with caution, while these are not the Rangers we once knew, it stands as a property that, if they take note of their short comings, could provide a welcome addition to the legacy of The Power Rangers.
Power Rangers (2017) is in Cinemas now.