I went to see the new Power Rangers film. It’s about as good as you could reasonably expect a Power Rangers film to be without drastic departures from the source material.
Hmm, that’s not really the stuff hot takes are made of. Bear with me while I try to dig a little deeper…
The trailer to the film indicated (or threatened?) that it would be a serious take on Power Rangers. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I decided to give the movie a shot. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was nowhere near as po-faced as it could have been: it toned down the silliest aspects of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but it still recognised that a good deal of silliness was necessary for it to work.
Take Alpha, the annoying comedy robot. Were this truly a serious-minded Power Rangers reboot, he would likely have been one of the first things on the chopping block. Instead, he’s present and correct, aside from one change: he’s still a comedy robot, but he’s nowhere near as annoying. Is he necessary? Well, probably not; I can’t remember a single line he spoke (unless you count “ai-ai-ai-ai-ai”) and I suspect that most of his dialogue could have been rewritten for other characters or snipped altogether. But he’s in the film nonetheless because, y’know, it’s Power Rangers, and Power Rangers has Alpha. They’ve just given us an Alpha who isn’t quite so insufferable.
On the whole, the filmmakers had a pretty good idea of when to spruce up their source material and when to leave alone. The biggest alteration is that the Rangers, originally characterised as the crudest high school stereotypes, now have proper backstories. Their personal problems have a rather sweet, socially conscious edge: Blue Ranger Billy doesn’t fit in at school because he’s autistic, Yellow Ranger Trini doesn’t get on with her parents because she’s questioning her sexual orientation, and so forth.
Their main struggle in the film is working out how to activate their powers, something which turns out to be tied to their roles as misfits. Billy is the first to become a full-fledged Ranger, when his powers manifest as he tries to stop an argument between his teammates. This leads into the final revelation that the group will only become Power Rangers when they learn to work as a team.
This would have been embarrassing had it been forced, but instead, it all flows naturally from the characters. The film is just so refreshingly nice – the mean-spirited streak running through Michael Bay’s Transformers movies is absent here.
The film reaches campy heights during the climax, when Elizabeth Banks hams things up as Rita Repulsa and the Rangers go into battle while their theme song plays in the background (I got a kick out of seeing the kids in the cinema jive along). In contrast to the traditional big city showdown, the final battle has a smalltown setting – something which perfectly underscores Power Rangers’ role as the cheerful little sibling in the superhero film family.