Power Rangers (2017)
Directed by: Dean Israelite | 123 minutes | action, adventure, science fiction | Actors: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Matt Shively, Cody Kearsley, David Denman, Robert Moloney, Anjali Jay, Sarah Grey, Morgan Taylor Campbell, Caroline Cave, Kayden Magnuson, Lisa Berry, Wesley MacInnes, John Stewart, Fiona Fu, Clayton Chitty, Austin Obiajunwa, Kenneth Tynan
In the nineties, many kids were glued to the TV to see the latest episode of the ‘Power Rangers’. Trite dialogue and exaggerated fight scenes set the standard for half an hour of pure entertainment. The five (sometimes six) teenagers in the iconic colored uniforms battled a different hideous monster each episode. The climax of the episode was when the series’ villain, Rita Repulsa, grew her subject and the rangers were forced to bring in their huge prehistoric robot animals (Zords for those in the know). After another failed attempt to defeat the opponent, the Zords were gathered together to form one gigantic fighting machine. After the win, this robot took a really cool pose as the monster exploded in the background. It was a wonderful time to be young.
A plan to transform this fact into a modern blockbuster is therefore not so bad. Special effects have evolved in such a way that the action can splash off the screen. Director Dean Israelite makes an attempt to translate that aforementioned half-hour into a two-hour film, complete with all the elements that made the original so much fun. It soon becomes clear that the dialogues are of the well-known quality. A jumble of unfunny one-liners and “inspiring” quotes about collaboration and friendship are the main focus. Admittedly, that is largely the theme of the film (and this subject was also loved in the series). But Israelite spends way too much time on this, pushing the action back to the last twenty minutes.
Build-up is of course important, because it ensures that the viewer also cares about the characters who risk their lives to save the world. In this case, it’s five teens: the tough Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the independent Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the awkward Billy (RJ Cyler), the crazy Zack (Ludi Lin) and the rebellious Trini (Becky G.). They form the new generation of Power Rangers after the previous one failed to stop the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) 60 million years ago. The leader of this previous team, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), managed to put his ghost in the rangers headquarters just before he died. As a big face on the wall, he can still serve as a mentor for the young heroes. These are further aided by the robot Alpha 5 (Bill Hader), who helps them obtain their Power Rangers armor through intensive training to stop the returned Rita once and for all.
Although the whole world of the rangers is introduced remarkably quickly and effectively, the second act (in which the teenagers mainly get to know and train each other) takes an enormous amount of time. If the actors still managed to sell it, this was mainly a luxury problem, but unfortunately they all do not succeed. Even the more experienced actors cannot support it in such a way that the given setting works. Strangely enough, ‘Power Rangers’ relies on character moments while this was never the approach of the source material. In that regard, the team behind this film should have looked at genre contemporaries like ‘Pacific Rim’ or the recent ‘Kong: Skull Island’ and got some inspiration from that.
When finally the armor is obtained and the action can begin, the interest is already lost. The action scenes aren’t even really interesting to watch. Where the set-up succeeds reasonably well, the middle section fails magnificently. If the accumulated action is not convincing, it can be concluded that ‘Power Rangers’ is quite a disappointment. Of course there are a few nice references to the original series, but these are so lightning fast that they only make the viewer long for the movie it could have been.