Even with the Iron Man upgrade and the noticeable lack of swoosh sounds at the nod of every head, I still wandered into a 10:00 PM showing of Power Rangers on a school night out of pure nostalgia. I’m typically more likely to venture out and see the movie if I recognize the franchise, but this time the opposite was true; this time the curiosity was stronger than the anticipation. My memories of grappling hook zip lines and the pink ranger tripping on air, as wistful as they are, made me about as excited for a Power Rangers revival as, say, a Michael Bay Teletubbies reimagining. If “Power Rangers” meant nothing to me when I saw the trailer, I might have been intrigued by a new rebellious action starring a discount Zac Efron and… Bryan Cranston?
The troubled teens (one of whom is actually 28) are far from model students. Their small town, overbearing parents, and one state-issued ankle bracelet make the football star, cheerleader, whiz kid, new girl, and reckless wanderer like anarchists in an ice cream store. For various reasons, all five are at the abandoned gold mine the night Billy (RJ Cyler) sets off a bomb for fun. The blast knocks a rock wall free and reveals curious, unearthly glass that wild child Zack (Luid Lin) can’t help but smash like Hulk. The five teens pull five colourful stones from the wall and wake up the next morning with amazing iPhone-crushing strength. Upon further inspection of the mine, Billy, Zack, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), and Trini (Becky G.) discover a buried spaceship inhabited by a sassy robot and a wall that looks, talks, and worries about the future like Bryan Cranston. The wall (Zordon) recognizes the five teens as the Power Rangers and, through the magic of montage, trains them to face the ancient and villainous Rita (Elizabeth Banks) who plans to raise her giant monster and turn the town to dust. It’s morphin’ time.
Through bickering, Saturday detention, training in the pit, and Kimberly’s ocean of regrets, we wait for the Power Rangers to figure out how to morph into their rainbow suits of armour. Zordon – who mastered English in a blink – can’t simply tell the frustrated group that the on button is next to the friendship lever. The result is that we slog through ¾ of Power Rangers waiting to see the red, blue, pink, black, and yellow Rangers in a 2017 upgrade but have to settle for one team strut, quick hand combat… and that’s it. No arm-waving, ninja nods, run-away backflips, or “hiya” war cries. Instead we get five minutes of magical arm-swords, a team-wide hero landing, and a lot of crumbled rock monsters – fabulous, but brief. Why so little? One should either deliver a textbook of new material kids can mimic on the playground, or go old school with some wooshes drunk adults can mimic in midnight parking lots.
Throughout, Power Rangers does a surprisingly good job of upgrading the basics. Rita the space witch is now a mummified sea goddess in power pumps with a butt like Elizabeth Banks. The more gold she gathers the more human she becomes (counter to what we teach our children), but there’s a new obsession in Rita’s life – Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Who can blame her? Banks, through the power of monologues, obviously had too much fun with this movie. More than once I laughed unashamedly at her ridiculous dialogue and a few jabs the Rangers slide in where they can, like, “I morph all the time… in the shower!” *Zack raises hand for high-five*. Some of the comedy is so very un-Power Rangers that I couldn’t help but laugh, which in the end raised my very low expectations to something I might actually say I enjoyed.
Power Rangers still isn’t quite on par with the Great Action Movies of today, however. Despite being the awkward Brainiac of the team, Billy is the most engaging character. Compared to the flat coin that is Zack, for example, Billy is funny, honest, brave, compassionate, scared, and ready to blow stuff up any time any place. Especially around an “abandoned mine” that’s crawling with teenagers, security guards, ancient artifacts, and a whopping amount of gold for a mine that’s abandoned. Thanks to Rita and her super awkward gold obsession, the residents of Angel Grove can retire early and in comfort, right after they rebuild the Krispy Kreme.
Power Ranges is not without its plot holes but fortunately tries to fill them with things like teenage mood swings and smoothly veiled flirtation. This isn’t a movie we’ll be looking back on five years from now, reciting dialogue and wishing there were two sequels, but it does fill the action-starved winter movie gap with heavy CGI and 20-something teens without fear glands. For an action that relies heavily on the wallets of 90’s kids, Power Rangers, it turns out, is kind of a fun watch. Among similar movies that shut your brain off for two hours, Power Rangers is a sturdy 6/10.