Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Power Rangers Morphs Less than it is Mighty

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If you had to place me somewhere on a “Power Rangers fan scale,” I’d probably fall squarely between die-hard fan and totally ignorant. You’d never catch me cosplaying as a ranger, but I still hold a decent amount of knowledge about the show.

With that said, I still had a great deal of hope for Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers, released March 24th. While the film delivers a strong cast of newcomers, an awesomely unhinged performance from Elizabeth Banks, and some impressive visuals, it takes itself a bit seriously at times.

In a dramatic departure from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, these five teenagers with attitude are chosen to take up the mantle of the Power Rangers – a millennia old group of alien warriors who defend all life in the universe.

Elizabeth Banks plays Rita Repulsa. (Source: Screen Rant)
Elizabeth Banks plays Rita Repulsa. (Source: Screen Rant)

Zordon, the rangers’ mentor in Mighty Morphin’, and Rita Repulsa, their arch nemesis, were members of this elite force, the red and green rangers respectively. Sometime in the Cenozoic Era Rita betrays Zordon and the other rangers, leaving the two trapped on Earth after a pitched battle.

Unfortunately, little of Power Rangers actually focuses on the team – Jason, Trini, Kimberley, Billy and Zach – and their time as rangers. Instead it follows their journey to become power rangers and how they overcome their hardships in life.

This is a smart move, as the film’s cast of young heroes is one of its strengths. Dacre Montgomery delivers a powerfully emotional performance as Jason Scott, the red ranger and a former football star whose choices brought an end to his college career. RJ Cyler also stands out as Billy Cranston, the blue ranger. Cranston’s character is unique in that he is depicted as being on the autism spectrum, a first for the character. This is done with taste and elevates the character above others.

Bryan Cranston plays the new version of Zordon, the rangers’ mentor. (Source: Vanity Fair)Bryan Cranston plays the new version of Zordon, the rangers’ mentor. (Source: Vanity Fair)
Bryan Cranston plays the new version of Zordon, the rangers’ mentor. (Source: Vanity Fair)

Power Rangers also sets itself apart in that its version of the yellow ranger, Trini Kwan, portrayed by Becky G in the film, is portrayed as being LGBTQ.  This is also handled tastefully, though mentioned only in passing.

I went into this film thinking Bryan Cranston’s performance as Zordon would be one of my favorite parts. Cranston is known for his role as Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad. But instead, Elizabeth Banks’ take on Rita Repulsa completely stole the show.

Banks drums up the right amount of crazy and creepy that should be a prerequisite for any Power Rangers villain. She’s legitimately evil but her entire scheme revolves around collecting and swallowing large quantities of gold, something I can’t help but laugh at in a good way.

As is usually the case with movies like this, Power Rangers certainly doesn’t skimp out on the visuals. The monsters and suits all look wildly alien, with bizarre textures and metallic sheens. All of the zords and the iconic megazord look larger-than-life. With CGI-heavy flicks, there’s always the possibility that the visuals end up looking too nice and come off fake; that is certainly not the case here.

The biggest and possibly most egregious mistake the film makes, though, is taking itself far too seriously.  There are some overly dark and dramatic plot beats that feel out of place in a franchise centered on bright-colorful jumpsuits and giant-combining mecca. Are they realistic circumstances for five teenagers asked to don alien battle armor and defend the planet? Sure, but no one is going to this movie for grounded realism.

bjbyrd@mail.umkc.edu

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