Hollywood has developed quite an annoying habit in the last few years – playing off the fact that we all love nostalgia. There are countless reboots, sequels and comebacks, and very rarely are they very successful, and sometimes they can be outright painful. Obviously some of them aren’t all bad, but the concepts “nostalgia” and “great success” hasn’t really been achieved by film and television (whereas the circles of music and comedy are seeing some truly extraordinary returns, such as by A Tribe Called Quest and the iconic Dave Chappelle, both entering into amazing new stages of their careers after being absent for far too long) – but one reboot that wasn’t all that bad was the recent re-imagining of Power Rangers.
Like many kids of the 1990s and early 2000s, I was utterly captivated by the Power Rangers, watching the television show religiously and having utter adoration for the adventures of the titular superheroes. However, like many other fans, I just grew up and Power Rangers, while far from being a negative memory, just seemed to fade into the backlog of nostalgic joy we kept from our childhoods. However, they were far from being forgotten, as the decision to reboot them was clearly evidently in the works – and I am actually glad that they did reboot the series, but that doesn’t mean I completely enjoyed this film, and I do recognize several glaring flaws – but for the most part, I found myself being a giddy child again while watching this film.
There is a rule I’ve come to theorize regarding this trend of popularizing nostalgia – even if we adore something from days of yore, it doesn’t mean that we necessarily want to see it again in the same way. It is exactly what many attempts at rebooting have completely failed to realize – if you want to bring something back to life, it cannot be exactly the same as the previous product – and obviously Power Rangers was playing with something so sensitive in terms of its tone. What I loved the most about the original Power Rangers was how utterly ridiculous and silly it was – and there was absolutely no chance that this new film would be able to capture that same campiness – and while I was originally skeptical of the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing the sheer ludicrous escapism that we loved about the original series, I realized that making it a bit more serious and gritty was the only way to do it, and it honestly (for the most part) succeeded.
We all know what Power Rangers is about – a group of youngsters is brought together to form the titular band of superheroes, who go around protecting the world from various malicious villains. This film doesn’t take too many liberties in revolutionizing the franchise – quite honestly, it keeps it as simple and true as possible, and with some added elements that bring it into our more socially-conscious era, it manages to be as similar as possible, but without being too dependant on the previous aspects of the franchise.
Now let’s talk about the cast – with the exception of RJ Cyler (who appeared in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), I didn’t really know who any of the actors in the main roles were, and maybe it was better that way, because being unfamiliar with them gave their performances just a little added nuance. Cyler, Dacre Montrogomery (who plays Jason Scott/The Red Ranger) and Naomi Scott (who played Kimberly Hart/The Pink Ranger) are excellent and commit exceptionally to their performances. They do a great job and if this film is successful, they’ll hopefully have a great ascent to a bigger level of stardom because they’re wonderful here.
However, that’s as far as the praises for the main cast go, because there were two performances in the central quintet that I found pretty bad. Ludi Linn (who plays Zack/The Black Ranger) is absolutely horrible – I don’t know how they managed to find someone without much acting talent to play the role, and surely someone who knew how to do something could have gotten the role? Or perhaps he was just the victim of a poorly-written character, because he didn’t have much to do, other than produce cheesy one-liners, but without the delivery, it just came out as far too forced. Becky G (who is apparently someone famous, according to my teenaged brother) isn’t bad but she is far too underwritten and deserved a bit more. Linn and Becky G were seemingly afterthoughts in this film, and that’s a disappointment.
A film like this does need some star-power to sell it, and they did manage to get two pretty famous actors to play supporting roles in this film. Bryan Cranston plays Zordon, in his much-anticipated return to the franchise after his memorable work Twinman and Snizard in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers over twenty years ago. What has he been up to since? Cranston plays Zordon here, and he actually does fit well into the role. It also helps that Bill Hader, one of the true comedic geniuses of the modern world, is backing him up as Alpha 5, in a very rare performance by a robot that isn’t absolutely annoying and shrill.
The other main selling point of this film was Elizabeth Banks – I am in no way an enormous fan of her, but there is no denying that she can be reliable when she commits to a role – and boy did she do that Power Rangers. She was clearly having so much fun playing Rita Repulsa, chewing scenery left-and-right and just taking every opportunity to be as dramatic and over-the-top as possible. It was the campiness this film needed – and she was able to bring out the camp without being terrible, which seems to be a trend these days. There’s a narrow line with a role like this, and Banks manages to overcome it and bring out a truly memorable performance. It isn’t a great performance, but Banks is just so hilarious and endearing and she is clearly having fun, which is sometimes the best kind of performance, where the actor is just having a ball doing it.
Power Rangers is a good film. It may not be the Power Rangers I grew up with, and with many, many flaws (such as poor performances from some castmembers and narrative issues throughout), it is still a solid entry. I don’t expect the sequels (of which there are apparently at least five still to come, which is quite daunting) will be the same – I doubt they’ll be much better, but if they can just keep to this level of blending the gritty and the campy, they’ll be guilty pleasures. Its certainly not a bad film by any means, and fans will get a kick out of it, undoubtedly.