A well-acted tonal mess that, despite playing off nostalgia, will only keep audiences engaged for so long.
Power Rangers is the first in a planned series of films that brings back the characters from the fondly remembered nineties television series. Despite strong performances though, the film’s problems with both plot and tone mean the Ranger’s big screen return is ultimately disappointing.
The film follows five teenagers, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Rebecca Gomez) on their path to becoming a group known as the Power Rangers, after finding mysterious coins at a mining site gives them super powers. With the help of former ranger Zordon (Bryan Cranston), the five train to become a team, in order to defeat the crazed Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) who plans to take over the world.
In terms of performances, the five rangers are surprisingly good considering they’re a group of young, relatively unknown actors. RJ Cyler in particular is very good and makes the character of Billy the most appealing out of an already very likeable group. Cranston also puts in a good performance as Zordon, despite being restricted to a head on the wall, and Elizabeth Banks’ over the top, crazy performance as Rita fits with the ridiculousness of the Power Rangers universe.
The film is well made from a visual standpoint, with most things from the fresh design of the Ranger’s suits and Zords (veichles), to Zordon and his ship being handled well. The action is also entertaining with the Ranger’s somewhat cheesy martial arts being both an improvement on and a throwback to 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.
Aside from the performances and visuals though, the film doesn’t have much else going for it. Tonal issues in particular hinder the film throughout and this is most noticeable in the finale. The film follows the more gritty, realistic version of the Power Rangers that was marketed for the first hour and half fairly consistently. The final half an hour however sees a complete tonal shift that pushes the film’s feel more towards that of the nineties series. The change to this over-the-top silliness disregards what the film had been building up to beforehand and makes it feel like a waste of time. There should have been a clear idea as to what kind of film this was going to be; a serious, gritty reboot, or a self-deprecating fun popcorn flick. The mix of the two does not work well.
The film is also littered with plot holes, and unexplained character motivations. Key events happen with little or no explanation behind them and this becomes more frequent as the film goes on. Also, characters will lash out at each other or do something unexpected, with no reason behind their actions. This is both confusing and distracting, and takes away from what is otherwise good character building in the first two acts.
It’s also confusing who this movie is aimed at. A Power Ranger’s movie would be aimed at children you’d think, and the action in the film’s finale would suggest that this is the case. However, a mix of adult jokes, dark turns and a 12A rating means the film is meant more for mature audience. This misaim combined with the tonal confusion leaves the film a mess in parts with it suiting neither young or adult audiences.
Power Rangers had a lot going for it and could have been one of the surprise action movies of the year. Unfortunately, despite its promising young cast and solid character introductions, it gets caught between taking itself too seriously and revisiting the ridiculousness of the original series, leaving the film to suffer as a result. Hopefully this can be improved upon in the inevitable sequel.
Power Rangers, directed by Dean Israelite, is distributed in the UK by Lionsgate. Certificate 12A.