If I had a pound for every time someone said they wanted a live-action Power Rangers reboot, I’d have exactly… nothing. The popular television series isn’t the first franchise that comes to mind when imagining films that’ll draw in the crowds, especially considering its era was very much the 90s.
Nevertheless, production company Lionsgate has taken the chance and given the plucky superheroes their first film in 20 years. But does this classic brand have what it takes to excited 21st Century audiences?
Five ordinary teenagers must band together to become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by the villainous Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Chosen by destiny, the new heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome the issues blighting their real lives and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.
Director Dean Israelite in his second feature film crafts a gritty, modern-day reimagining of the series that manages to lose nearly all the campy fun in the process. It’s such a shame that a film as progressive as Power Rangers gets bogged down in poor pacing, expositional dialogue, messy action sequences and hilariously obvious product placement for Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
“How is it progressive” I hear you say. Well, this is the first film to feature an autistic superhero and a female protagonist who appears to be questioning her sexuality and for that Power Rangers should be given huge applause.
There is also an impressive cast. Bryan Cranston playing wise former Ranger Zordon is one of the most bizarre casting choices in recent memory. He’s certainly very good, though why he would choose a project of this nature is beyond me. The new Rangers are all fine with RJ Cyler probably coming across best as the autistic Billy Cranston.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth Banks is the only person who seems to grasp the camp, cheesy nature of the original television series. Her completely over-the-top performance is one of the best parts of the film, but it feels at odds with the darker tone that’s been set.
Pacing is also not a strong point. At 124 minutes, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s time to pop in an origins story, a nice training montage and a climactic battle. It’s there in some form, but our heroes don’t “suit up” until the final 20 minutes which then becomes a mess of brash CGI as the film-makers try to tie up all the loose ends.
Overall, Power Rangers isn’t the royal mess it could have been. It’s stylish, progressive and well-acted with a decent storyline that desperately tries to bring this 90s pop-culture phenomena very much into the 21st Century.
Unfortunately, Lionsgate haven’t realised that retro is all the rage and in updating Power Rangers for a modern audience, they’ve lost what made the series and its films so endearing in the first place. It’s definitely better than 2015’s Fantastic Four, but Guardians of the Galaxy it isn’t.
Anyone fancy a doughnut?