Going into the new "Power Rangers" movie, are you hoping to see any of the main characters yell out the name of their corresponding dinosaur before morphing? Not going to happen. Hoping to see cheesy comic relief with high school bullies Bulk and Skull? They're not here. Do the new teens hang out together at a juice bar that doubles as a karate dojo? Not at all.
Even without those things, the movie unmistakably has the spirit of the Power Rangers. Five teens with attitude? Check. Unintentionally hilarious crazy villain? Check. Is it awesome to hear "It's morphin' time"? Heck yeah.
The Power Rangers universe is massive, spanning the still-running television series that kicked off in 1993, two feature films in the '90s, comics and toys. But throw out any expectations you have from the past when heading into the new film.
Director Dean Israelite, who helmed 2015's "Project Almanac," does throw in a few winks and nods to the TV series, especially for those who happened to stick with the show when it became "Power Rangers Zeo" in its fourth season. Still, for this reboot, he's started nearly from scratch.
Israelite's film dips into the fun of discovering one has suddenly become a superhero but doesn't shy away from the great responsibility that comes with great power.
Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin) are all here -- but only in name. The initial setup flows a lot like "The Breakfast Club" with superpowers, bringing together a group of teens with troubled family lives who are wrestling with the troubles of adolescence more than CGI monsters. There isn't a ton of time spent unfurling each character; more would likely have caused the film to drag (props to the movie for representing both autism and the LGBT community in the main cast).
Bryan Cranston brings depth to Zordon, the Rangers' mentor whom the teens are only able to see as a giant head on the wall. The movie represents a full circle in Cranston's career, as he did the voice-over for several villain characters during the original '90s show. Zordon is joined by his plucky Alpha 5 robot (voiced by Bill Hader) who, despite a new look, might just be the most faithful element to transition over from the TV show.
Elizabeth Banks has a psychopathic take on the villainous Rita Repulsa -- when she says she'll kill someone and like it, she means it. Banks clearly relishes hamming up Repulsa, and there isn't a piece of scenery left unchewed by her. At the same time, she brings an innocence to a character who's clearly not of this world, creating cheesy statements and partaking in some (particularly egregious and questionably timed) product placement.
Unfortunately, it takes a long time before the Rangers really become the Power Rangers, so if you're expecting a two-hour smorgasboard of giant robots and ruined buildings, wait for the next "Transformers." The delay is alleviated a bit by the teens being granted their powers early enough to squeeze some training montages and comedic spots in before you see them in costume.
The biggest fault of "Power Rangers" is that every dark moment is promptly followed with a stab at a laugh-out-loud gag. There are times when it joyously revels in the campy brilliance of the '90s show, and others when it aims for the intensity of modern superhero fiction. The result is that there are some standout moments, but in shooting for the best of both worlds, it never really gels.
But the bright moments ultimately win out for "Power Rangers." When the movie is fun, it's unapologetically so. And when the final battle gives audiences a blast from the Power Rangers' past, it delivers.
Do note that the movie's intensity is enough to deter taking young kids to the film. People die horribly. Good characters make bad choices. And whatever the profanity limit is for a PG-13 movie in the US, this movie hits it.
The big question is: Who is this reboot really for? It's going to shoot over the heads of some young kids, and it's not quite the nostalgic bull's-eye the young at heart would expect.
Still, for us, a longtime fan, hearing the classic theme song blare was enough to elicit a smile and a laugh. Should this be the start of a new "Power Rangers" movie franchise, we can't wait to see what happens when an inevitable Green Ranger appears.
"Power Rangers" opened Thursday in the UK and Australia, and opens Friday in the US.
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