article by Connor Behrens for ArtsEarth
Director Dean Israelite’s latest film, “Power Rangers,” is a 2017 American superhero film based on the television series that started in 1993.
“Power Rangers” tells the story of a group of teenage outsiders who find an ancient alien vessel, where the team obtain superhuman abilities and are labeled the Power Rangers. Discovering that a longstanding opponent of the preceding group of Power Rangers has come back to exact revenge on the world, the teenaged group must receive guidance from Zordon and connect their powers to fight to save the planet from destruction.
The biggest weakness of “Power Rangers” is its failure to embrace a solid and singular tone until the final act. There are moments in the film that are executed in a serious tone (the campfire scene is legitimately compelling). Yet… there are also moments of pure cheese. This constant switch between serious and campy never fully works because the film feels unbalanced in what it wants to accomplish.
The serious side of the film is surprisingly touching. Director Israelite shoots some truly emotional scenes with the new team of Rangers. The movie’s first three quarters play like a homage to “The Breakfast Club,” but with superpowers added. The film focuses on the angst and struggles that these teenagers have gone through – and it works for the most part. The standout from this team is RJ Cyler as the Blue Ranger. His character brings some much needed heart and pathos to the film.
However, the real star of the film is Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa. Banks completely goes for it in her deliciously campy portrayal. The actress chews up the scenery in every sequence she’s in. Banks ends up making the film feel more like a classic episode of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” by the final act. Her delivery, her posture, her dramatics – it all comes together in a cheesefest that’s strangely mesmerizing.
But aside from Banks’ Repulsa, the campy side of the film is a mixed bag. “Power Rangers” is a film with an identity crisis. Make no mistake, the film is secure in what it wants to be by the bombastic final act. But the journey to get there will be a bit rough for certain fans.
The movie makes you wait for classic moments that call back to the original TV series. For some, that will be frustrating. However, I relatively enjoyed what the filmmakers gave us in its place. The film’s initial focus is more on the team and less on the costumes and giant robots. The film takes bold choices in character design and plot implementation. And for that, it’s commendable. It’s just a shame that the film switches back and forth from a serious focus on the Rangers team to campy alien effects.
Overall, some classic fans of the original series might feel underwhelmed. But “Power Rangers” should work for general audiences. Tone issues aside, the film is successful at modernizing its source material for a new generation. Hollywood may have found a new franchise.