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Published March 26th 2017
The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Are Back
In a year full of throwbacks to the past, the Power Rangers is the next iconic property to make their silver screen return. While the latest Power Rangers film may not rival the other superhero entries from both Marvel and DC, it is able to recreate the original series with a darker tone than the campy original roots. Though the more realistic nature of the new Rangers film doesn't always hit the mark, the new entry in the long-running franchise produces a strong origin story that could propel the series into current relevance once more.
If for some reason you are unaware of the Power Rangers origin, it involves the coming together of five teenagers to work as one and save the world from imminent danger. Like the original TV series the five main characters of the film have the same names – Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Zach and Trini – but this is where their similarities end. While the original incarnations were essentially perfect students, these new five are actually teenagers who are not perfect and these characters are more relatable because of it.
The three main leads of Jason, Kimberly and Billy are explored thoroughly and all three become instantly relatable. Kimberly has made mistakes in her life she regrets, while Jason has become in trouble with the law, and Billy manages with social issues. While Zach's backstory is glossed over his reasons for becoming a Ranger are sound and emotional, while Trini is left without much exploration or reasoning at all. Despite providing some funny quips throughout the film, Trini is left obviously lacking. The same goes for the robotic Alpha 5, who simply seems to be included for the occasional repetition of dialogue and small instances of comedy.
The realistic tone of Power Rangers fits well for the majority of the film, creating an interesting origin story and characters that become emotionally relatable. Everyone can understand being a teenager and making dumb decisions, and the evolution of these characters from their troubled beginnings into Power Rangers is a solid journey. The darker tone is occasionally thrown out the window for cheesy throwbacks to the original source material, and while it's completely understandable why these instances were included they feel totally out of place. Power Rangers certainly has some light-hearted moments that work well, but the campy throwbacks to the original TV series and motion picture work at odds with the realistic tone Power Rangers hopes to achieve. While fans of the franchise will certainly enjoy these moments, their inclusion feels odd and unnecessary.
The main villain of the film is of course the Power Rangers first major threat, Rita Repulsa played by Elizabeth Banks. Rita is genuinely terrifying and this reincarnation of the character fits the dark tone of the film well, with Rita's initial scenes feeling almost reminiscent of a horror film. While Rita is a strong threat to the Power Rangers, her generic goal of 'ultimate power' and the hunt for the Zeo Crystal feels like your typical movie McGuffin. Rita's reasoning is barely explained and her history with Zordon and the rangers is explained within a few throwaway lines.
The film doesn't go full Power Rangers until the final act, and while it does have some cool action moments, the final battle feels all too brief and lacklustre. The final round itself only lasts a couple of minutes and doesn't do a good job of emphasising the real threat Rita and her towering monster Goldar produced. While Rita's worldwide threat are constantly badgered home throughout the films running time, her eventual defeat felt all too easy for five individuals who only essentially had a few weeks of training.
Some of the biggest controversies leading into the release of the new Power Rangers film surrounded the new designs. While most of the new designs fit the realistic tone better than what the original TV series could deliver, they are far from perfect. The newly designed Zords are passable with a few standouts, while some barely represent the iconic beasts they are meant to imitate. While Alpha 5's design is ridiculous and made me wonder if this was why the character seemed to be forgotten for most of the film; while the newly designed version of Goldar fits the mythos of the new film, it still looks pretty absurd by big action blockbuster standards.
Lastly, the newly designed Power Ranger suits themselves are serviceable. They throw away the iconic leotard look and now represent suits of armour rather than a skin tight morph suit. Hopefully if there is a potential sequel in the future these suits can receive an upgrade along the way to find the perfect balance in style.
The new Power Rangers film is not a perfect superhero blockbuster, but it successfully produces the best origin series the franchise has ever seen and with it, creating the best line-up of Rangers yet. While the new designs are hit and miss and the climactic battle lacks the threatening nature the film continued to tell us it would, the new entry in the franchise is certainly worth the price of admission.
If the series is able to flourish going forward to truly find its perfect combination of light-hearted entertainment and realistic tones, it could become a strong cinematic franchise over the next few years.