Verdict: This movie is just about having a good time with a great cast of teen superheroes. Don’t think too much about it, don’t expect more than that, and have a fun time.
The Good: Fantastic team dynamics and delightful intimate character moments make the film worth watching
Power Rangers is Breakfast Club-meets-superheroes-lite. It has the fun teen dynamics of Breakfast Club, but without the deeper cultural commentary. It has the basic premise and action of a superhero movie, but without the huge blockbuster action. It’s a perfectly palatable two hour fun fest. And that’s just fine.
It doesn’t make you think. It isn’t “about” something, like Winter Soldier, nor does it try to build into some broader universal thematic like Dawn of Justice. Rangers is just about teens being teens, and then also Power Rangers and stuff. And to be honest, it’s refreshing.
Rangers is all about its main 5 cast members. This film would be so much worse if it wasn’t for their excellent dynamic. They feel like teens, having teen problems. Stupid stuff, like cow in locker room pranks, and big stuff, like taking care of your sick parent. But still teen stuff. And they come together and talk about that stuff. Just like we all did.
The absolute highlight of the film is one moment of the second act, during a campfire scene. It’s the moment of any good group flick, when the X number of strangers comes together to take a collective breath, and that moment, transitions to being a team. It’s like the beginning of Age of Ultron, when the Avengers are sitting around laughing, drinking, lifting Thor’s hammer, etc. Moments like these humanize the characters, making them recognizable people and not just personality checklists. In Rangers, this scene is intimate, and Israelite had the panache to let the scene play out without rushing things too much.
Of particular note from the cast is RJ Cyler (Blue Ranger) and Ludi Lin (Black Ranger). Both play more complex characters, and commit to them wholly. Cyler in particular stole every scene he was in; it’s almost worth seeing for his performance alone.
Oh, and Elizabeth Banks was delightful as Rita Repulsa. Please let’s see her again.
The Bad: The action is sub-par, the light filter is from the Snyderverse, and there’s not quite enough of each character
All that fun doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The film’s most prominent flaw is its lack of creative and impactful action sequences. Considering the film is adapting a franchise most known for its action, the lack thereof was surprising. Most of it comes in the third act, and even then it is relegated to quick cuts that make it clear the actors did not have martial arts backgrounds, nor extensive training. When their famous Zords arrive, the audience gets very little chance to take them in; I spent most of the final sequences trying to figure out what Yellow Ranger’s Zord was. Even one longer establishing shot would’ve solved this, and allowed us time to connect more with the new “characters.”
The final action sequences also came off as shocking because of the sudden color palette change. Right up until the final sequence, the color filter for the film seems to be taken straight from the Snyderverse. Remember how Superman’s red and blue always seemed sort of bland? The Rangers have the same problem. Everything is in muted grays and greens. This does allow the Rangers’ signature colors to pop when they wear certain accessories, but even this effect is too muted for be to believe that was the main intention. Power Rangers was always a bright, colorful, silly franchise with lots of action. Rangers lacks most of this.
However, the lack of color and action might be overlooked if the excellent team dynamic was supported by deeper dives into each character. Instead, it feels like the film is always scratching the surface. It’s never quite clear why Montgomery (Red Ranger) has the negative dynamic with himself and his father. We get three seconds of interaction with Scott’s (Pink Ranger) family, in what has to be a callback to Molly Ringwald’s conclusion in Breakfast Club, but that’s all we get. The movie never goes into why she has made her choices. Becky G (Yellow Ranger) has the least development of any of them; she is undoubtedly the victim of the cutting room floor. She is introduced somewhat haphazardly, and establishes some dynamics that are never explored further. Cyler is the only character who goes through a complete and fulfilling arc. Lin is given the least screen time, yet has a touching emotional arc that makes the disparity between he and his fellow Rangers even more confusing.
The Wonderful: Go Go Inclusion
Rangers was not made for older nostalgic fans. If it was, it would have more callbacks, more obvious cameos, etc. Instead, it feels like a film made for the audience its characters appeal to: middle and high schoolers, young kids, late Millennials and Gen Z’s. As a result, the cast reflects the diversity of that its audience both contains and demands. And it’s wonderful.
I cannot think of a single other film that has a character on the autism spectrum, or at the very least, has one so blatantly visible. Sure it has the white kid whose life isn’t as great as it seems (basically Emilio Estevez). But it also has the Indian woman with parents who are upset at her radical physical transformation. It has a queer Latina woman who struggles with being around others, with not being an outsider. It has a transient Asian man that is not obsessed with academics, and instead longs to be with his sick mother.
This is the kind of character diversity that any and all films should be striving for now. Not just diversity in race, gender, or sexuality, but also of character type and motivation. So, basically, go go Power Rangers.
Synopsis: “Five teenagers (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, and Ludi Lin) become superpowered warriors in this reboot of the long-running kids’ action franchise. The outcast teens are thrust into battle against the evil witch and former Ranger Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) in a fight for fate of the world. Dean Israelite directed this action adventure written by John Gatins.” –Rovi