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The UnPopular Opinion: Power Rangers

12.14.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

The original iteration of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers became a pop culture hit at a time where I was too old to truly get into it. Still, I recall seeing it on television and enjoying the over-the-top Japanese fight sequences while groaning at the broad, wooden acting during the Americanized segments in between battles. Years later, the umpteenth season of the show is airing as a kid's show while slightly altering both the team and the powers the Rangers possess. But today's show cannot match the popularity in North America of the first team which itself spawned a couple of feature films. But, like anything in Hollywood, it became paramount that a gritty, live action reboot of the series be made into a potential franchise. While I was convinced that POWER RANGERS would be an abyssmal failure, my kids wanted to see it which meant I had to see it. But, sitting in the theater as the credits rolled, I found that I actually really enjoyed the film. When it hit Blu-ray, I watched it again and noticed my kids were uninterested outside of the fight scenes whereas I was engrossed in everything else. POWER RANGERS may be the best teen drama since THE BREAKFAST CLUB, even if the action scenes don't quite fit.

Using a cast of unknowns to portray the original line up of Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Zack, POWER RANGERS gets a boost by including recognized talent like Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks and Bill Hader to try and prove that this is not a lame retread of the original pulp television show. While there are some nostalgaic moments during the concluding battle scenes that call back to the 1993 version, most of Dean Israelite's film is spent on something studio tentpoles shy away from: character development. A lot of focus was put on the changes made to the Rangers that give one Autism Spectrum Disorder and another LBGTQ, but these are not blatantly called out to try and garner points for being an inclusive film. Instead, writer John Gatins manages to make all five members of the team into three dimensional characters who have flaws and weaknesses that they need to learn to overcome in order to grasp the powers being bestowed upon them. Yeah, I know that sounds preachy, but it works.

Power Rangers, Superhero, Action, Elizabeth Banks, bryan Cranston, The UnPopular Opinion

If POWER RANGERS had been any other film, it could have stayed away from the forced callbacks to the source material and instead have been just a good teen movie. The cast is all good looking but not to the point of being unbelievable. On top of that, they are actually good actors. Through the first two thirds of the film, I felt like this was in the same ballpark as CHRONICLE as a science fiction-centric superhero tale. I even enjoyed the updated looks for Zordon and Alpha-5. What doesn't quite click with POWER RANGERS is the pacing which zips from origin story in the beginning to quick montages of training and suiting up before we crash into the final fight sequence. That conclusive battle feels about fifteen minutes too short and carries with it an uneven style that tries at once to echo Marvel Studios formula and Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS editing. The end of the film is abrupt but left me wanting to revisit these characters and learn about their careers as burgeoning heroes.

In this era of the proto-origin story which aims to be gritty and raw as compared to pulpy and endearing, POWER RANGERS manages to bridge both in a way similar to Marc Webb's THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. There is some edginess here but it is not quite the PG-13 level we have been accustomed to from Marvel or DC. This film earns it's rating thanks to violence and mild profanity. There is some teen-centric material about dating, bullying and sexuality but it never crosses into a line that is inappropriate. In fact, there is a scene where Jason and Kimberly are in his bedroom and it never crosses beyond anything but two friends talking. There are some early trailers that show that this could have gone a very different way, but I am glad they didn't. POWER RANGERS is meant for kids and this film handles what it is like to be a 21st century tean better than the classic series did which was more akin to Saved By The Bell with martial arts.

As for Elizabeth Banks, I was completely unsure of what to expect from her in a role like this, but she is clearly hamming it up and takes the part of Rita Repulsa in a direction I did not anticipate. The brief origin scene that plays at the beginning and is Bryan Cranston's sole scene not as a giant digital talking head, gives the film some mythology to play with in later movies (should they ever get made). Plus, now that the origin is out of the way, they can jump directly into an action-oriented adventure story. What POWER RANGERS needs to be is closer to the dynamic of Stranger Things of THE BREAKFAST CLUB which it achieves in the beginning and tone down the action side to fit that style. Alongside SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, POWER RANGERS deserves recognition for portraying teens in a light that doesn't pander or treat them as idiots.

Grossing just $142 million globally, POWER RANGERS was far from the success that many were hoping for. Not even the international market grossed enough to save this film and earn it a sequel which is beyond a shame. Japan didn't even bother to show up at the theater to check out what a wholly American take on their Super Sentai series would look like and that is probably for the best. POWER RANGERS is a truly American concept and one that tries to generate a team of heroes not rooted in any familiar comic books. The film never strays too far from the format of today's blockbuster but tries to cram everything in that you would expect from one. That may be why so many people rolled their eyes at the Krispy Kreme marketing that felt shoe-horned in as a critical plot device. But should that really be a big deal in an era where every single studio film has that type of advertising? We can pretend other movies handle the marketing better but it is the nature of the beast. Aside from those moments, POWER RANGERS does have a core that recalls Amblin movies and even recent movies like SUPER 8 and EARTH TO ECHO. It is far from flawless but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.

Power Rangers, Superhero, Action, Elizabeth Banks, bryan Cranston, The UnPopular Opinion

POWER RANGERS should have been so much worse than this and based on the source material it has no right to be any good. But, in the end it can be recognized as a successful reinvention of a property that had no right to ever be as successful as it was. I would go as far as to say this is a good movie and one that deserves repeat viewings. If you are like my kids and want to skip to zords fighting giant alien robots, there is not much for you here. If you are looking for a superhero movie where you have a team that is fully developed, three dimensional, and earns your attention to the screen, this movie does a far better job than JUSTICE LEAGUE or SUICIDE SQUAD. In fact, POWER RANGERS feels like it should be a template for DC to model themselves after: a film that develops characters rather than trying to emulate the proven formula of Marvel. Take that suggestion, Warner Bros. If you haven't seen it, go go check out POWER RANGERS!

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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