After a practical joke goes wrong, Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) has to come to detention every Saturday in order to graduate. There, he meets a prep-turned-punk Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and an “on the spectrum” nerd Billy (RJ Cyler).
When Billy helps Jason with his house arrest bracelet problem, Jason agrees to drive Billy to an abandoned quarry, which happens to be the site of an ancient battle of Power Rangers. It is in this quarry that Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Zack (Ludi Lin), and Trini (Becky G) find coins with the power of the rangers.
If the first act of Power Rangers proves that the film will do one thing well, it is car crash cinematography. There are multiple crashes in the film, and they are handled very well. The one that acts as the inciting incident in particular is enough to get the viewer intrigued by the film.
For an adaptation of a campy Japanese-American crossover children’s television show, Power Rangers tackles tone really well. It knows that it is a film that cannot possibly take itself seriously, yet the camp is not so high on the self-aware scale that it comes off as a farce. The comedy in the film works without disparaging the property. The humor is one of the high points of the film.
While the origin story half of the film is more engaging than the main narrative involving antagonist Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), the film provides a surprisingly entertaining adaptation. Building the Power Rangers world without coming off as overtly silly is a feat.
What is most lacking in the film is character and acting. Given that the property is based on the basic tenants of teamwork, the lack of personality in the group is starkly noticeable. The familial backstory of the group is somewhat impressive, established with efficiency and not as throwaway plot points, but it doesn’t make up for characters that aren’t distinguished from one another.
There is more personality in the pixelated Zardon (Bryan Cranston) and the CG robot Alpha-5 (Bill Hader) than the five human characters combined. The rangers with the most individual characteristics, Billy and Zack, are the two comic relief characters. It is no wonder then that the humor works well in the film. But without characters that we actually want to see succeed there is little point to the jokes.
Then there is Banks’ Repulsa. Pretty much every scene involving her gold-hungry antagonist is a gaudy mess of grotesque CG images played out in slow motion. Banks’ over-the-top acting, while fitting of the Power Rangers label, still feels out of place and cartoonish in the movie. As the main antagonist, her character acts more as a distraction than a point of interest in the narrative.
Aside from issues of style and storytelling, Power Rangers is still an entertaining experience. While the action pushes the limit of gaudiness—an apt jab at Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise during the film’s climax begs the comparison—there is something intriguing about the Breakfast Club style by which the rag tag team is assembled. The movie may have been better if the five teens spent the runtime lounging around in their suits discussing how much of a pain Zardon is.
Power Rangers: C+
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)