I didn’t grow up with Power Rangers at all. My mom thought it was too violent for my brother to watch (I know), and I didn’t really care. But one of my best friends did, and she’s had me watch enough of both the original Mighty Morphin’ series and the various other incarnations that I get the idea. (The best/most hilarious is Jungle Fury.) I mostly came into this movie with the same ironic glee that I watched the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or GI Joe: Retaliation; I hoped it might be at least hilarious even it it was a bad movie and shat on somebody’s childhood. (Both of those movies are actually fine, though I watched them while drinking so it’s possible my judgment cannot be trusted.)
If you go in expecting a goofy teenage superhero flick, you’ll probably have a good time. My friend says they threw in a ton of references to the original series, though they have changed some things here and there (I’ll mention that in the spoiler section). My friend who grew up with the series was delighted with the references and didn’t mind the changes too much. I’m sure some of the hardcore fans will be displeased with them, but I think there’s enough there specifically for the fans to avoid Transformers syndrome. I think if you’re at all intrigued, it’s a fun popcorn flick. You should know, though, that the first car chase (after the cow scene) is shot in the weirdest way possible: there’s a few 360 camera rotation shots that made me and my friend dizzy and gave us mild motion sickness. This only lasts a minute or two, so if you don’t look at the screen it should be fine, but I imagine it’d be worse for someone who’s prone to motion sickness in the theater.
Also, they really pushed Trini/Yellow (Becky G) being a lesbian in the press, but the scene where they talk about it is weirdly vague? Like, I’ve worked with less but I wish that instead of dancing around it (one of them asks her “boyfriend troubles? …girlfriend troubles?” and she says something about not wanting to tell her parents “who I really am”) they would’ve just come out and said “lesbian.” Alas for studio pussyfooting, I guess. On a brighter note, Billy/Blue (RJ Cyler) is explicitly autistic, and they do work it into his character, and not in an overly stereotypical way. His special interest seems to be tinkering with and building things, as well as mapping and exploring the local mountain and quarries. He sets his colored pencils down in a particular order and corrects them if they are moved. He has trouble with sarcasm and is careful not to swear (except in one weird slip-up where he says “that was a weird-ass hologram”). He dislikes being touched and will politely ask people to stop if they touch him. He infodumps, but will stop and apologize if someone tells him to. I’m not 100% sure how to feel about a weird point where someone says he’s “pure of heart” but I do like that his autistic traits aren’t just brought up once and forgotten, but made part of his character. He’s also black, which I feel is an important detail to note because the overwhelming majority of autistic characters in the media are white boys and men. Autism is diagnosed most frequently in white boys, but autistic people can be any gender or race, and I really appreciated this movie’s choice to include a black autistic character. There could have been some other traits (I would’ve loved to have seen him stimming, for example), but this is still a really wonderful milestone.
Oh, and there’s an after-credits scene, though it won’t mean much to anybody who isn’t familiar with the original series. My friend lost her shit, though, she was so happy.
- My friend got spoiled the night before, and she semi-spoiled me this morning before we went, but I’m actually glad that happened so I was prepared. What she heard was “one of the Rangers dies,” and I wasn’t actively thinking about it during the movie, but it hung around in the back of my mind. So what actually happens is that Rita (Elizabeth Banks) visits Trini about three-quarters through to try to convince her to tell her where the McGuffin is, and when Trini refuses, Rita tells her to tell the others to meet her at the docks the next day for a showdown. They do, and she pretty much immediately wipes them out because none of them have been able to morph into their suits yet. She ties them up and threatens the others if Billy doesn’t tell him where the McGuffin is hidden, and Billy panics and tells her so she won’t hurt his friends. Then she’s like “lol I better just kill one of you anyway” and throws him into the water, then electrocutes the wires binding him, because I guess this movie needed some horrifying implications on top of everything else. I sat there horrified for ten minutes until an earlier plot thread came back and magically resurrected Billy (look, honestly, if you’ve gotten this far into the movie and this is what bothers you, you probably shouldn’t be here, sorry). But, like, I was so afraid for about ten minutes that I was seriously going to have to hate this movie forever, because I would have if it had killed the black autistic character. But nope, he’s fine. False alarm!
- I think probably this movie had about eight drafts where some of the plot threads were better resolved, and I kind of want to read those earlier drafts. Kimberly/Pink (Naomi Scott) has a weird ~secret~ that keeps being brought up and is the reason her old friends ostracized her, and I was so scared it was going to be sexual assault-y, but no, it wasn’t quite that, it was a weird revenge porn subplot that in my opinion served zero purpose and was pretty dumb. Zordon (Bryan Cranston) had a weird motivation: his consciousness had been uploaded into the ship’s matrix when he and his original Ranger team died millions of years before, and he wanted to be able to return to his body. He would only be able to do that when the morphing grid opened and all five Rangers had morphed. I thought this was going to lead into questions about whether Zordon was actually an antagonist, or at least have him lean into the self-centered mentor working for his own motivations thing – but that doesn’t really go anywhere and he ends up not using the morphing grid to bring himself back, instead revitalizing Billy. I feel like that emotional note was a little flat, all things considered. Jason/Red (Dacre Montgomery) sort of had an emotional arc about returning to his former glory and making his dad proud after fucking up royally at a football game, but they kept dropping that plot thread and then picking it up again and there wasn’t a ton of consistency to it. Anyway, I liked all the leads except Jason, who was boring, but I wish there had been a little more so some of their arcs.
- I’ve been making fun of the new suits and how they have boob cups on them, and in the movie they’re actually kind of part of their bodies. They’re sort of like an exoskeleton and they just kind of grow over their skin when they morph. So, okay, fine. It’s stupid, but I’ll allow it.
- Zack (Ludi Lin) is shown in multiple scenes to speak Mandarin with his ill mother, which I thought was very sweet. He also clearly loves her and is the only person around to take care of her, and I liked that that added some depth to his character, who is mostly just the goofy daredevil type.
- I think Red/Pink is a foregone conclusion because Jason and Kimberly is such an iconic pairing in the original series, but I really really really think they should go Pink/Yellow. There’s a scene that’s thrown in there where Kim and Trini are at breakfast or something and they start play-fighting over a pastry, and it’s pretty adorable. Kim is also the one who always goes after Trini when she runs off, and they often ended up paired together in fight scenes. There’s as many significant Looks between them as Kim shares with Jason. Again, I’ve done more with less. Put your money where your mouth is and let them kiss in the next movie, Saban.
- This movie did something I think was kinda cool where it made the legacy of the Rangers more explicit, by opening the movie with Zordon’s team dying alongside Rita millions of years before. Zordon was the original Red Ranger here, and Rita was once the Green Ranger, but was “corrupted” (how? Eh, they don’t say, but I kinda wanna watch that movie). This is sort of a cute little nod to the original show where Rita created the Green Ranger because, uh, reasons (this was explained to me but I don’t go here).
- That reminds me, I couldn’t tell if it was just my lesbian goggles on but I think they wanted to imply that Rita was an Evil Lesbian? Like, I feel like maybe in another movie they would have had the lady villain trying to seduce one of the boys but directly after the scene where Trini mentions she’s a lesbian, Rita shows up in her bedroom at night and there’s a weirdly sexually charged scene where she threatens her over the McGuffin? I dunno. Elizabeth Banks is sure having a damn fine time though.
- There’s a scene where she kills a homeless man (in silhouette but still) because of his gold fillings. Yes.
- The McGuffin is located under a Krispy Kreme, which is honestly one of the best uses of product placement I’ve seen in awhile. IMO, if you’re gonna do it, just go whole hog and lose all subtlety. We also got a hilarious scene of Rita just chilling on a table in there, eating a donut while her monsters wreak havoc outside.
- Also during one of the training montages they played “Hand Clap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, which is a nonsensical song anyway, and trying to make it make sense for this scene didn’t work at all and was very distracting.
- Along with the aforementioned 360 shots, the director or cinematographer apparently thought they were making a fucking Oscar contender because every now and then there were weird experimental shots or ways that they set up the shot that left me either scratching my head or laughing. Like, man, don’t get too ambitious. You’re making fucking Power Rangers.
- There were a random couple of masturbation jokes? Which I laughed at because I am 12. FOR KIDS!
- OH ALSO THEY PLAY THE ORIGINAL THEME WHILE THEY’RE GOING TO MEET RITA IN THEIR ZORDS AND PEOPLE IN MY THEATER CLAPPED AND CHEERED IT WAS SO GREAT
I hope everybody who is into this movie gets to see it with an audience with happy fans in it like I did because they were just having the best time and cheering at all the goofy fanservice bits. My theater wasn’t super full, but it loved this movie.