(No) Go Power Rangers

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Photo courtesy Lionsgate

Better Than: Suicide Squad, which isn’t saying much

Not As Good As: The Avengers, or most other team-up superhero movies… other than Suicide Squad

You May Also Like: X-Men First Class

Superhero movies have taken two different paths since they began their (suspiciously supervillain-like) domination of the world in 2000. There have been the easy, breezy, and ridiculous (see Iron Man 3, Thor, The Wolverine) and the overly dramatic, meaning-of-life types (see Batman v Superman — actually, NEVER see Batman V Superman). Power Rangers, the 2017 revival of the franchise that many pretended to be on the schoolyard, doesn’t seem to know which of these paths to follow.

The plot points hit all of the mainstays for Power Rangers stories; five teenagers stumble upon an alien artifact from the Cenozoic Era that gives them poorly-defined superpowers. The Power Rangers, as they are known as from that point on, are tasked with protecting the world (or at least their small Pacific Northwest town) from the complete and utter destruction that the evil Rita Repulsa and her giant monsters threaten to bring. Enter ridiculousness.

When the movie attempts to do something more, it muddles the water with character drama and exposition, which is where it gets lost for most of its 124 minutes. Jason, Zack, Kim, Billy, and Trini all have scenes showing off their unique flaws, and all get more than enough monologue to inflate the run time. With a different name, the movie may have been solid enough on its own as a coming-of-age story, but branded as a Power Rangers movie, I was left very disappointed by a lack of action for too much of the movie.

In place of kung fu fighting and showering sparks, Power Rangers offers something that, credit where it is due, is wholly unique in the genre of diversity.

During a bonfire conversation ­— about life, I guess — one of the characters comes out to the rest of the group. Power Rangers seems to check off different boxes and categories of people for the sake of it. Featuring an Asian Black Ranger, a black Blue Ranger (who also has autism — double points), and a Hispanic Pink Ranger who has her own uniquely 2000s high school drama, the movie celebrates diversity instead of developing the characters with interesting plot points.

When the film gets exciting in the third act, it crosses abruptly into the absurd. The $100 million budget seems sunken entirely into the last half-hour, as power armor and rock monsters called Putties — seriously — fill the screen with fighting shot well-enough. When it shifts into a higher gear and busts out 150-foot tall gold monsters and the giant dinosaur robots, there is little to do but throw your hands up into the air and say “sure.” While it doesn’t make sense, the hard cut from a less monochromatic Breakfast Club to fight montages with retrofitted Power Rangers theme songs and Kanye West layered over top is very satisfying.

Largely a slow, somewhat stale, burn that only passingly resembles the original material, its gradual payoff comes in spades. There were several times I squealed in my seat as elements from my childhood were revisited, and the soundtrack is well pieced together throughout. If lacking a sense of any consistency to speak of, Power Rangers executes its individual elements well enough to be worth seeing, for the rainbow making up its lead cast alone.

 

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