Saturday Streaming: Power Rangers

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Power Rangers is the bad version of a movie that I have wanted to see for a while now. The movie’s heart is in the right place and I can respect that it takes time developing its characters before getting to the big superhero action finale. Its just a shame that the characters don’t really warrant an hour and a half of development in a two hour film. Despite the welcomed diversity of Power Rangers, which features a racially diverse team that included both a queer member and a member who is on the spectrum, there isn’t a single memorable character amongst the super heroic breakfast club that we spend so much time getting to know.

Dacre Montgomary has the lead as Jason, the red ranger and team leader. Montgomary definitely has charisma but, curiously, he is the team member that we come to know least well. He throws his football career away in favor of a prank at the beginning of the movie (in a sequence that contains a noticeably out of place joke about “milking” a male cow) and yet we have no greater sense of why he did this at the end of the film than we do at the beginning. The rest of the team fairs better, with Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and Trini (Becky G.) making the strongest impressions. Kimberly remains sympathetic even when we come to learn that her character is the most flawed of the bunch and Becky G. does a great job of selling Trini’s introverted nature through her physical performance. Its not that RJ Cyler and Ludi Lin are bad as Billy (the blue ranger) and Zack (the black ranger), respectively. It’s just that Cyler is shackled with too many comedic lines and Lin gets the least amount of attention. Overall, this is a good cast that could have flourished if the material that they were working with wasn’t so weak.

Surprisingly, it is the big name actors in the film all flounder. Bryan Cranston is mostly digitally imposed on a big wall for most the film and he acts with all the enthusiasm that that suggests. Admittedly, some unintentional comedy does come from hearing Walter White loudly lament that he is trapped in a giant wall but realistically, the filmmakers could have gotten anyone to play this part. Elizabeth Banks is next level bad in the movie, shutting up anyone who tried to justify the whitewashing of Rita Repulsa by saying that they had to give the job to “the best actress”. She goes for a level of camp that would surprise Uma Thurman’s Posion Ivy and feels like she’s in a completely different film than everyone else. It is hard to blame her when she spends 95% of the movie separated from everyone else, essentially doing an embarrassing and lengthy one woman show.

The movie definitely has its moments, most of which come when the team is getting to know each other. We’re five years out from The Avengers and apparently we still can’t think of anything more interesting than “friendship is good” to make super team origin movies about but the main cast is able to make some of the trite material spark. Its a pity that Dean Israelite can’t think of many ways to visualize the team coming to learn the value of cooperation and friendship. Remember the iconic shots in Avengers that actually had team members playing off of each other (Iron Man banks shots off Captain America’s shield, Thor and Hulk kill the big space alien together etc). Those weren’t just cool looking shots, they were instances of the film’s theme being communicated visually. We get very little of that in Power Rangers. Instead, the 3rd act action scene is a visual mess of ugly CGI and footage that could be reshuffled in the editing room without losing story cohesion.

I really wanted to like Power Rangers but this film fails to live up to the standard set by even mediocre super team movies. It is a boring teen drama at best and a spectacular superhero failure at worst. If you are really fixing for Power Rangers, you would be better off just throwing on an episode of one of the many, many different Rangers TV shows that you can currently find on Netflix.

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