Film in review: ‘Power Rangers’

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Nathaniel Nelson / Winonan

To be completely honest, “Power Rangers” is an objectively bad film. The dialogue is shoddy and forced, the plot is a nonsensical corporate sponsored ad for donuts and the teen heroes are as angsty as you can get. This isn’t just an adaptation of a campy kids TV show from the 90’s, but it’s essentially a two hour episode. Compared to most other blockbusters, “Power Rangers” should be critically ravaged, but there’s one little caveat: it makes for a blast of a time at the theater.

“Power Rangers” is based on the show “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” by Saban, which itself was based on the Japanese show “Super Sentai,” both of which were made for kids. Both series follow the same premise: a group of five (eventually six) teenagers gain superpowers and suits and fight monsters to protect their hometown and the world. The shows were dumb, silly fun, with preachy morals and obnoxious teens fighting in rubber suits. When you went into them, you wouldn’t expect to find anything challenging or dense. They were about entertainment.

Now, film is a different medium. The kind of thing a person can let slide in a TV show can’t be given the same leeway in a movie, especially not a huge blockbuster. What can pad out 23 minutes on a Saturday morning will probably not have the same effect in a film. That said, “Power Rangers” isn’t trying to be anything that it’s not. It’s the ultimate teen movie, irreverent of any auteurist tendencies and wholly self-aware. They know that what people liked about the original “Power Rangers” was goofy fun, and this new film is no different.

There is definite sense of modernity in “Power Rangers,” and the characters are the most obvious in that regard. They’re still absolute the teenagers with attitude from the first film, but now with real problems. Dead parents, relationship issues, mental problems, violent tendencies, etc. However, these are delivered with a self-aware smirk that brings them down to Earth. The new characters are silly and charismatic, and luckily don’t resemble the gritty, dark reboots of recent years (looking at you, Michael Bay). Plus, there are some surprisingly progressive ideas in there, including the first gay superhero. It’s a version of Power Rangers for the 21st Century, with the same bombast audiences come to expect from multi-million dollar productions.

The story, in expected fashion, is completely bonkers. This is the kind of film where they can have brutal killings in one scene and, in the next, try to stop Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) from getting to the Krispy Kreme. That’s not an exaggeration: The final act of the film, when the action finally gets going, literally revolves around Krispy Kreme. It’s the least subtle product placement I’ve ever seen in a film, but in all honesty, it doesn’t hurt the film. In fact, it helps. The nonstop talk of donuts make what could have been an overly dark and serious final act seem nonsensical, and every mention of Krispy Kreme pushes it further and further.

Of course, there are some major problems with the film. The dialogue can be cringy and uncomfortable, with a heaping dose of preachy banter about friendship. I’m fairly sure the design team looked at “Transformers” and decided that Bay was onto something, with all the added alien details and edges. Overdesigned would be too weak of a term. The biggest problem, though, is the fact that the rangers are only in their suits for the last 30 minutes of the film. For a movie about superhero action, that’s not nearly enough. I mean, when there is action, it’s wonderful. The team dynamics are great and you can’t help but grin like an idiot. But 15 minutes of choreography and 15 of giant robots only goes so far.

But, “Power Rangers” saving grace is in its mediocrity. It’s fan service that understands the source material and the audience. It doesn’t care if the story is mindless or campy, or if the characters are so quintessentially teenagers or that half the film is about donuts. The only thing “Power Rangers” cares about is being fun. And trust me, it is a ton of fun. 3/5

By Nathaniel Nelson

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