Movie Review: Power Rangers

Power Rangers is a film which will appeal primarily to two very specific groups of people: current fans of the Power Rangers series (age notwithstanding) and ’90s kids who have become accustomed to seeing nostalgic series and films rebooted and reimagined. That’s not to say they’re the only ones who will get something out of it, though.

Power Rangers group photo
Power Rangers, Lionsgate/Saban

The film starts off with Jason (Dacre Montgomery) getting himself into some serious trouble and ending up in Saturday detention with Billy (R.J. Cyler) and Kimberly (Naomi Scott), among others. Billy enlists Jason’s help for a mysterious task, which leads to the three aforementioned teenagers serendipitously discovering strange coins in a mine along with Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G).

Things get weird from there, with the five developing superhuman abilities. They go back to the mine, naturally, and discover a spaceship within it. Inside, they meet Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who tell them that they’re Power Rangers. Training montages and superhero movie tropes ensue, with the group eventually facing off against big bad Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).

The movie’s pretty firmly within the realm of the first TV series in the franchise, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, complete with a tease for the arrival of Tommy Oliver, aka the Green Ranger. I’d put a spoiler tag on that, but there’s been enough open talk about it in the media (and it’s obvious enough for even passing fans) that it’s probably not necessary. Many of the other hallmarks of Power Rangers actually do show up in this film—including the Putty monsters and, of course, the Zords.

Most of that doesn’t happen until over an hour into the film, though, with the suits and Zords not truly showing up until Power Rangers moves into its CGI-fest third act. This is a film primarily concerned with getting its characters to become superheroes, with the actual heroics taking a backseat to their training and growth as individuals and as a team.

Power Rangers is stuck between worlds. It’s part coming of age story and part superhero action, and it eschews the zany campiness of its source material 75 percent of the time and goes all in on it the other 25. It tries to be The Breakfast Club, The Dark Knight, and The Avengers all at once and falls short on all counts. Much of its dialogue ranges from teen melodrama to mediocre action movie, and it teeters on the edge of ridiculousness for an hour and a half before finally diving into it.

But it’s so much fun it’s hard to care about its shortcomings.

Despite its problems, there’s plenty to like about Power Rangers, both before and after it decides what it wants to be. The five leads are all likable enough, though having a bit more time for character development would have been great. R.J. Cyler gives the lone standout performance among the Rangers, with development for most of the others occuring in rapid-fire fashion in a couple scenes spread throughout the film’s first and second acts. Cyler’s Billy is the most nuanced of the characters, but all five leads give enough energy and dedication to their performances to make them all worthwhile.

I’d be remiss to not mention that Power Rangers features the most diverse superhero cast ever put on screen—which is to say it’s a fairly accurate representation of humanity. Amid uproars over whitewashing in Marvel’s Iron Fist and the upcoming Ghost in the Shell, Power Rangers features White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic characters—not to mention the first LGBT superhero and another self-described as being on the spectrum. The major companies might not be willing or ready to move away from their characters exactly as established, but Power Rangers has no such qualms. These aren’t reflections on the film’s quality, but it’s nice to see such an inclusive group of characters.

There’s already talk of up to a half-dozen more films in the franchise. It may seem a little early to be planning out the next few years considering the movie just hit theaters, but Power Rangers provides a solid foundation for a lot of fun in however many entries Lionsgate wants to put out.

Is Power Rangers great? No. But it’s pretty good and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I don’t know about anybody else, but that’s enough for me.

6.5/10

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