The same weekend that “CHIPS” shows us exactly how not to remake an old TV show into a modern movie, this one gets it pretty right.
“Power Rangers” is a reboot of the famed 90s series of the same name, and features the colorful superhero team discovering their powers and teaming up to take on the evil witch, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Bryan Cranston stars as the team’s alien leader as Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin star as the Rangers. Dean Israelite directs.
Growing up I wasn’t big into the Power Rangers but my cousins were obsessed with them so I caught some episodes here and there. There’s been talk of a series reboot for years, with this rendition finally getting the greenlight in 2014. When the trailer came out I was a little skeptical, as it featured a seemingly out-of-place Kanye West song, conflicting tones and looked like “Chronicle,” “Fantastic Four” and “Transformers” had a love child. The finished product is a little bit like the trailers, because its tone is all over the place and the film never really separates itself from other blockbuster films, but it’s a pretty fun ride that does a decent job paying homage to the source material.
All five “kids” who portray the Power Rangers (they’re all 20-somethings playing high schoolers) do a great job and have solid chemistry together. The standouts are Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler, who portray the Pink and Blue Rangers, respectively. Scott is the pretty and misunderstood girl with a secret she wants to keep buried and just like the original Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson, I’m sure Scott is destined to become every boy’s crush from the series. Cyler’s Billy Cranston is autistic, marking the first superhero on the spectrum (if you don’t count Ben Affleck from “The Accountant”). Cyler has some great moments of awkward humor and provides the film with its greatest emotional scenes, too. The rest of the Rangers do a good job for what they have to, although Becky G and Ludi Lin (Yellow and Black) both feel like underdeveloped afterthoughts compared to the other three.
The film takes a lot of time training the Rangers and not having them actually in their colored spandex, and while this was a flaw in the painfully boring “Fantastic Four,” here it (usually) isn’t that bad. The group has some witty and organic banter and the training montages are entertaining enough, thanks in large part to the Bill Hader-voiced robot, Alpha-5. Bryan Cranston also adds gravitas as the leader of the Rangers, although he is a motion-captured face on the wall and surely did this for a relatively easy paycheck.
Which brings us to Elizabeth Banks as the film’s villain, Rita Repulsa (the name alone can’t be taken seriously). Banks is hamming it up so much, and giving such a scene-chewing, campy performance that every scene she is in comes across as awkward. Some may be willing and able to enjoy her intentionally bad performance, but when the rest of the film is going for a relatively grounded and somewhat dark and moody take on the Rangers, having her be a cartoon just doesn’t work. It’s also worth noting that every scene Rita is in is played out like a horror film (also tonally conflicting) and there were kids in my theater who were vocally telling their parents they were scared, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to entertain your children with this one.
The film also drags in some points and where they chose to implement the trademark “go go, Power Rangers!” song is very out-of-place (catching onto the trend?).
“Power Rangers” could’ve been a trainwreck but it manages to be better than a lot of TV-to-movie adaptions, even if it doesn’t break any new ground. Fans of the original series and average moviegoers alike should be entertained, and I’d say there’s enough fun here to be worth you to go go to a theater and check it out.
Critics Rating: 6/10