12A – 124mins – 2017
MORPHING THE MORPHERS
“Alpha, Rita’s escaped. Recruit a team of teenagers with attitude,” Zordon instructed at the beginning of every episode of Saban’s phenomenally successful mid-90s appropriation of footage from Japan’s Super Sentai series. But, if truth be told, the five Mighty Morphin’ teens lacked any kind of edge; they were clean-cut do-gooders who vanquished evil, taught bullies a lesson and saved the environment without a cross word, mood swing or cuss between them.
Project Almanac director Dean Israelite’s super-shiny big screen reboot has corrected this cultural inaccuracy by rewriting the dino-powered superhero’s origin story with spades of adolescent attitude. So now, rather than being bosom buddies, the Power Rangers of 2017 are rebellious strangers who meet either in detention or while playing hooky trespassing at a quarry.
Red Ranger and leader Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a successful jock in danger of sacrificing his potential for the sake of a childish prank. Pink Ranger and popular girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott) is frozen out of her clique because she made a very bitchy faux pa and fell out with her bestie. Gadget-maker Billy (RJ Cyler) is an anxious, autistic OCD-sufferer. Black Ranger Zack (Ludi Lin) is an ice-cool loner who looks after his bed-ridden mother. Finally, Yellow Ranger Trini (Becky G) is the outsider, distancing herself due to her family’s frequent relocating.
There are a lot of hormones, angst and even the occasional swear word flowing between these distinctive teens – and this is before they’ve even stumbled upon their colour-coded power coins and been introduced to morphing grid-trapped mentor Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his zippy robo-assistant Alpha 5 (Bill Hader)! You could accuse the film of feeling rather front-heavy, particularly as the in-training Rangers fail to “morph” until very late in the day – so it’s a good job that their early trials and tribulations are the film’s strongest suite.
As a childhood fanboy who has recently gone back and re-watched and reviewed both the 1995 spin-off movie and low-budget 1997 sequel, I was surprised to have zero qualms with any of the numerous changes screenwriter John Gatins has made to the franchise mythology. Revealing Zordon and fiendish foe Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) to be former Rangers makes a lot of sense and intensifies their rivalry, while Rita’s monkey henchman Goldar from the series is now a zord-sized kaiju Rita has to assemble by stock-piling gold before she attacks Angel Grove. Rita’s witchy new look is by no means as iconic as her original costume, but it’s the right side of vile and creepy.
Replacing cheese with sheen, Power Rangers is undoubtedly an upgrade to the long-running, ever-morphing franchise, giving plentiful nods and winks to iconic elements (“Ai, ai ai!”, “Make my monster GROW!”) and a couple of clap-worthy cameos to saga alumni. It is fun, leave-your-brain-at-the-foyer popcorn movie fun.
My only real gripe is with the grand finale, which feels a little… messy. With the sparkling, armoured power suits and giant zords saved to the third act, I just felt their impact was lessened by some over-eager editing. I don’t think we were granted one single shot of the majestic vehicles which lingered long enough to differentiate which majestic dinosaurs they were modelled after! It’s a shame that the film stumbles at the all-important final hurdle, but thankfully the strength of the story which precedes it sees Power Rangers through. With a mid-credits scene wryly hinting at more to come, I am confident the production team can iron out any faults in time for a super-sequel.
CR@B’s Claw Score: