Millions of years ago Rita Repulsa betrayed Zordon and the rest of her fellow Power Rangers. Driven by a thirst for universal dominance, she battled her former teammates on Earth. At stake was possession of a mighty artefact, dubbed the Zeo Crystal. The conflict ended in a stalemate, with both sides perishing when a comet dropped on their heads. Said blast eradicated the dinosaurs too. How sad. If praying flower girls existed back then perhaps our reptilian ancestors could have been saved from a meteor-instigated extinction? Anyways, fast forward to modern day Angel Grove. Rita is resurrected when a fishing trawler uncovers her corpse. The ex-Green Ranger resumes her plan to acquire the Zeo Crystal, even if it means destroying the globe in the process.
I must confess that I never was a big Power Rangers fan. Back in the nineties I would watch the occasional episode, whilst waiting for the latest X-Men cartoon to begin, but that was about it. Many other kids were however obsessed with the show. After the Ninja Turtles craze had died down there was evidently still hunger for martial art superheroes. Given that Hollywood is on a mission to resurrect anything nostalgic it’s no surprise to see a cinematic rebirth of America’s take on Super Sentai. These new Power Rangers have a budget so gone are the cheesy costumes, replaced instead with Iron Man style armour and CG enemies. Political correctness also means that the casting has undergone a shuffle. The yellow ranger is no longer Asian!
What we have here is an origin tale. Five teenagers stumble upon Zordon’s lair, where they locate medallions that morph them into the titular heroes. After assuming the Power Rangers mantle they are tasked with foiling Rita’s scheme, but first they need to train and learn the virtues of friendship. Despite a lack of recognizable names, the actors who were hired to play the Rangers all did a commendable job. These versions of the characters have much more depth than their TV counterparts. Jason is the prankster who is given the responsibility of leadership. Kimberly is dealing with the guilt of hurting friends. Autistic genius Billy is vilified by a “replace the I in his name with a U.” Zack makes wisecracks to mask the pain of living with a terminally ill mother. Trini meanwhile is unable to communicate to her family that she is a lesbian.
My rating for Saban’s Power Rangers is two and a half stars. For the most part the movie was okay, but it began to lose me towards the end of its two-hour running time. I liked the early scenes, which are rich in character development. The finale was too juvenile for my taste though. A golden creature battling against a mech may sound cool on paper; in actuality however it felt like a kid friendly Pacific Rim. That would be fine if the movie was marketed exclusively at children, but it isn’t. Some of the raunchier gags are suitable for teens or older only. Then there is also the small matter of Rita’s violent murders. She kills a cop and also liberates a hobo of his false teeth, in a most gruesome manner. Parents who have offspring that fear the dentist will not approve.
Given that I don’t class myself as a Power Rangers fan it’s tough to evaluate how aficionados of the franchise will regard this movie. Viewers that watched the TV series, back when it aired, are now adults who may well appreciate the film’s more mature tone. On the flip side it could be argued that the movie falls into the 1998 Lost in Space trap. Replacing the campy humour/effects with a more sombre script and lavish CGI removes the essence of what Power Rangers originally was. I for one think that the guys in rubber suits have more charm than the sterile CG monsters found in this flick. Like a teenager with attitude, the Power Rangers have morphed into something different. Whether the change is good or bad will come down to your own personal taste.