tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Power Rangers’ Struggles to Find the Middle Ground

Torn between two extremes, this reboot never fully realizes its potential.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsFollowing a quick prologue, Power Rangers doesn’t waste too much time contriving the circumstances that would lead five mismatched teens (Dacre Montgomery, RJ Cyler, Naomi Scott, Becky G, and Ludi Lin) to acquire mysterious alien coins that somehow give them enhanced abilities. It turns out that the five were chosen to fight a war that was put on hold 65 million years ago by the heroic sacrifice of Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who is now confined to being an image on a wall of a spaceships. Zordon trains these five so that they may unleash their full potential and unlock powerful armor that will help them fight off the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.41.59 AMThe film actually takes on the structure of an episode of The Power Rangers, with most of the runtime taken up by stuff that doesn’t involve costumes or fighting. That structure tends to work better in a 22-minute format. The film really flags in the middle as the lack of action really becomes felt. The movie is really mostly about these Rangers earning the right to don the armor, which is really all about them becoming friends and learning to trust each other. To this end, at least, the movie’s kind of okay. It is, at least, something that the movie fully embraces with little irony.Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.44.04 AMThis is the larger problem with the movie. At points, it just feels like the movie is ashamed of its source material, and it’s actively making fun of the tropes rather than committing to them at the same level that it approaches the teenage drama. Elements end up clashing all over the place, the whole project feeling unsteady as it plants its feet in two tonal extremes. It is a serious movie about teenage angst that is also one big, strange advertisement for a popular doughnut chain. Neither side benefits from being in such close proximity to the other.Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.43.09 AMBut there are just moments where the film feels okay. The movie comes alive as it shows these teens having some fun with their newfound abilities, and finding something meaningful in sharing a secret. This is the rare middle ground of the film, where it finds a tenuous balance between the heightened emotional state of these teens and the goofy elements inherent to the premise. In between training to become defenders of the Earth, these kids are secretly passing notes in detention, or using their abilities to fight over the last piece of a doughnut (from the aforementioned popular doughnut chain).Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.43.47 AMThe good will engendered by those scenes can’t be sustained through the lengthy runtime. And in the end, the film has to deliver on the promise of superhero action. And that stuff is not great. Too much of it is just CGI elements banging into each other. And the costumes, vehicles, monsters and robots are overdesigned to the point of being devoid of any real personality. If there is a design philosophy to this film, it was stolen wholesale from the Transformers. The acting is generally okay, with some of these kids elevating the clunky writing at points.Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 11.47.19 AMPower Rangers is kind of okay when all is said and done. It doesn’t exactly rise above the growing crop of CGI-heavy property-driven franchise out there, but it isn’t any worse than any of them, either. It occasionally delivers a genuinely nice moment, just a minute or two at a time when the film feels completely sure of what it wants to be. It just doesn’t last, though. The costumes come on, the CGI reigns, and the movie kind of becomes a visual effect abstraction, with aesthetics that don’t even feel unique to the film. There’s a spark of something in here that could have been great. People will have to settle for okay.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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