‘Power Rangers’ a new era for ‘teens with attitude’

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 9:11 PM
‘Power Rangers’ a new era for ‘teens with attitude’ by Britton Rozzelle

Picture, if you will, a young, pudgy boy, no older than four, eagerly begging for a new “Power Rangers” toy, a “Zord.” He didn’t need it, not even a little bit, but he wanted to be a ranger, the red one, more than literally anything. He religiously watched his VHS of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.” He kept up with the latest series, which at the time were “In Space” and “Lost Galaxy,” clutching a replica of the swords used by the red ranger in the latter as he watched on in awe.

Needless to say, I’m incredibly biased when it comes to Saban’s “Power Rangers.”

This new movie, directed by Dean Israelite (“Project Almanac”), is exactly what that little kid has been waiting for years to see. And I’m proud to say that it stands out as not only a superhero origin story, but a champion for inclusiveness in a typically male-centric genre, with well-realized interpretations of the rangers including “Jason” (Dacre Montgomery), “Kimberly” (Naomi Scott), “Billy” (RJ Cyler), “Trini” (Becky G) and “Zack” (Ludi Lin).

As a series that has found what seems to be everlasting success due to campy, wacky and entirely child- oriented characters and scenarios, this “Power Rangers” is a much more grounded story, but it doesn’t entirely forget its source material, which has been a problem with most superhero films in recent memory. It’s campy, but it’s not ridiculous.

It’s over-the-top (particularly the performances of Elizabeth Banks as “Rita Repulsa,” the main antagonist, and Bill Hader as “Alpha 5,” a helpful robotic companion for the Rangers) but it’s not so much so that the story gets lost.

First and foremost, “Power Rangers” is a character-driven experience, laying out the backstories and inner workings of each ranger in an effective, mature and relatable way (though even still, Lin and Becky G don’t seem to get enough screentime as the black and yellow rangers respectively). If nothing else, the movie lays out the groundwork for a new generation of superhero idols for kids with three members of the team being asian, black and latina respectively- and one of those being the first big-budget LGBT superhero, while another is on the Autism Spectrum. Each character has drive and determination to find themselves in the context of the city of Angel Grove and within the group. These teens with attitude grow together over the two-hour-plus runtime, and the bond achieved therein is one of the shining accomplishments of the movie.

While the story is typical for a “Power Rangers” piece of media, it’s one that doesn’t feel as trite or cliche as it could have been, and I felt it would have still been a strong movie without previously being a fan of the primary-color-clad heroes.

That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its fair share of fan service, however, with scenes laced with the charisma of “Mighty Morphin,” to direct
visual call backs and cameos
former actors, to the world-famous catchphrase, “It’s morphin’ time,” which, while it doesn’t exactly fit the tone of the movie, brought on a powerful flood of nostalgia.

The soundtrack, as well, including songs from Phantogram, Fitz and the Tantrums, Kanye West and Explosions in the Sky, is decidedly modern, and really worked to drive each scene home, especially in the second half.

Be you a fan of the series from the start, or someone who is being forced to the theater, “Power Rangers” is a flawed gem that shows not all adaptations need to be gritty; sometimes they can prove to both be light-hearted and respectful to the source material while bringing it back to the modern era and ushering in a new period of relevance for a series.

If you look underneath the bombast and special effects boasted by “Power Rangers,” you would find a truly and genuinely fun film that can be enjoyed by all, but especially by those who have been fans or have grown up with the series. I hadn’t had that much fun in a theater in a long, long while, and I’m glad it was this movie that made that happen.

Britton Rozzelle is the executive editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com. 

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