It’s hard to imagine taking a Power Rangers movie seriously, but the trailers for the 1990s TV series reboot kind of demanded it. Buzz around the film insinuated this installment would deliver on the grit, and from the opening sequence it tries to. But Power Rangers quickly devolves into a knockoff CW show, teeming with teen angst, and relying on nostalgia to support it. The result leaves fans wondering: Who is this movie for?
Power Rangers takes us on the journey of five teenage outcasts after they discover strange amulets that give them superpowers. As they transition into the titular Earth-protecting saviors, they’re guided by Zordon (Bryan Cranston) on a mission to stop the villainous Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Action-wise, Power Rangers hits all the right notes: Camera angles are sharp, sound effects connect hard and there’s a decent sprinkling of combat throughout. Cranston evokes the wisdom you expect from Zordon, Banks fully embraces Rita’s witchlike demeanor, and Bill Hader is quite enjoyable as the quirky robot Alpha 5. But the characters would’ve benefited from additional backstory.
The audience learns the teens’ backstories through a predictable Hollywood storytelling device: the campfire of confessions. Unfortunately, none of the stories go too deep. At one point, likable Ranger Kimberly is reduced to a one-dimensional mean girl who leaked her friend’s nude photos, with no further explanation of the incident. And the fact that nudes are discussed in what’s always been billed as a family-friendly franchise is strange. Is Power Rangers relating to fans of the ’90s show, small children or teens who were born past the show’s prime? It doesn’t really know.
But by the time we see the teens finally morph, Power Rangers is nothing short of a nostalgic trip. The fight scenes that follow embody the vibe of that era, and while they might be rushed, they’re also enjoyable to watch. The CGI falters in some of those scenes, and the film ends up shamelessly running with a very obvious Transformers style. Again, the audience is left wondering what kind of movie it’s watching. On the surface, Power Rangers feels very much like the TV show many grew up with. But deep down, it’s got some reflecting to do before its next installment.