“Can Lionsgate deliver a modern-day superhero movie?”
“Will the re-imagined Power Rangers movie cater to more than kids?”
“Can the filmmakers stay true to the franchise fans have come to love for decades?”
When Lionsgate announced their intent to produce a Power Rangers movie nearly 3 years ago, these were all of the questions being asked – by critics, by hardcore Power Rangers fans, and by casual moviegoers alike. Those 3 years have passed, and the answers to each of those questions have been revealed.
Yes, yes, and yes.
While many dedicated fans who’ve followed the franchise since its inception in 1993 expressed concern if the movie would stay true to its predecessors, including 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, it was never those films that Lionsgate had to compete with. But rather the inevitable comparisons the new Power Rangers movie would draw to similar modern-day superhero universes ranging from Marvel, to DC, to Transformers. And as anyone would tell you – competing with those heavyweight superhero universes is no easy task. Much less with a cast of young actors new to Hollywood’s bright lights, a brand that’s battled the edge of irrelevancy for years, and a stark re-imagining of characters etched nearly 3 decades into pop culture’s hallways.
But the Power Rangers movie succeeds exactly where it has to in order to build a foundation where Lionsgate can begin to build Hollywood’s newest cinematic universe.
Beginning with the story, the origin of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has never been complex: five kids stumble into superpowers, interact with a floating head, and soon find themselves face to face with world-ending danger. It’s really as simple as that. And Lionsgate’s Power Rangers movie doesn’t deviate far from that basic premise – but it doesn’t have to. It takes that incredibly simple origin story that worked in the 1990’s, and fleshes it out with concepts and struggles relatable to the society of today’s world. Take the leader of the Power Rangers for example. Jason isn’t just a jock anymore. He’s now a fallen high school athlete struggling with carrying the weight of the city’s disappointments on his shoulders, all while balancing his newfound responsibility of leading a team of superheroes.
He’s true to the character mold the original TV show silo’d him into, but Lionsgate’s film adds layers of depth to his role that the original show never quite could, or would. And this same intensity of persona applies to each of the other four teens the movie centers around, all while staying true to their original characters: Billy’s still the nerd, Kimberly’s still the popular girl, Trini’s still more reserved, and Zack’s still more flamboyant, but they’re also so much more than that. And together, they need to put aside their differences to band together as the Power Rangers before it’s too late.
The point is: Zordon isn’t a floating head just because anymore. The Zords aren’t dinosaurs just because anymore. We’ll let you see the movie to figure those answers out for yourself. But this movie offers meaning, and substance, and story behind everything fans recognize as everyday Power Rangers concepts. And it’s a story that can cater to fans of all ages. You read that right – audiences of all ages will enjoy this movie. Make no mistake, Power Rangers has long been a brand aimed at pleasing young boys around the world, but this is a new Power Rangers – with an origin story that will satisfy the same audiences that can enjoy an Avengers or Transformers flick.
But while the story doesn’t stray too far from what fans will expect, some will argue that Lionsgate’s riskiest move was in its casting decision. Not Elizabeth Banks or Bryan Cranston, both of whom deliver as the perfect choices for their respective roles playing the film’s primary villain and mentor. But rather the five young actors Lionsgate tasked with helming their new franchise as the Power Rangers – some of whom literally had zero acting experience.
While Power Rangers is unique in the fact that it focuses on a team of superheroes, rather than just one ironclad billionaire or an Asgardian demigod, it also comes with the demanding undertaking of having to flesh out five individual characters. So it was to be expected that with five young actors, either one would be the identifiable weak link, or one would strongly outshine the others.
In the case of the Power Rangers movie, it’s the latter. With the award going to RJ Cyler, who absolutely steals the show for his performance as Billy Cranston the Blue Ranger. Make no mistake – this is RJ Cyler’s movie. The 21-year old actor and star of Me, Early, and the Dying Girl validates every decision made by Forbes to include him on their prestigious 30 Under 30 list, which aims to highlight some of the future’s best game changers. In a world where Lionsgate is constantly asking fans to pick their favorite Power Ranger color, moviegoers worldwide will leave the theater shouting “Blue! Bleu! Azul!”.
But don’t get it twisted – the other young actors don’t disappoint. They each bring life and energy to the table, depicting characters who are just as deep as they are relatable – some of whom charter new ground never tackled by Hollywood’s superhero genre before. If you’re concerned about this film’s acting – you can leave those worries at the door. The cast of the Power Rangers movie shines.
However, where some moviegoers may find themselves feeling disappointed is in the actual Ranger colors – or lack thereof. No, this movie isn’t overly gritty or dark, but at the end of the day, Power Rangers is a franchise focused on five brightly colored superheroes from all across the visible spectrum. And when Director Dean Israelite said that this movie would focus on its characters, with the spectacle of Power Rangers serving as a backdrop, he wasn’t kidding.
Because the spectacle of Power Rangers is merely a backdrop. While Lionsgate’s marketing has led audiences to believe they’ll be seeing bright explosions and gigantic Zord battles (which isn’t untrue), the bulk of the movie is still focused on five teens and their day-to-day personal issues, along with their inability to come together as a group. Audiences who walk in expecting predominantly “It’s Morphin Time” may walk away disappointed when they receive predominately “It’s Unmorphin Time”.
The film surely could have used a longer battle featuring our heroes morphed in their Power Ranger armor, but the bits of morphed footage and ass-kicking Zord action we do get? It’s everything you’d hope and dream for.
Yet even with colorful armored suits and larger-than-life robot dinosaurs, what many fans have long identified Power Rangers by was its incredibly catchy theme song. As a franchise with no shortage of slogans, Power Rangers can attribute much of that to its iconic “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song that’s left listeners humming for decades. So to re-deliver that distinguished tune, Lionsgate tasked Brian Tyler with developing the film’s score – known for doing the same work on franchises including Avengers, Fast & Furious, and more. But unlike those franchises – Tyler didn’t need to re-invent the wheel here. He had a layup, and was simply asked to modernize the theme song to fit this movie, and today’s music industry.
Which makes it all the more disappointing that the layup was missed. Rest assured, the “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song exists in this movie – barely. While the score is beautifully composed to match the scenes it coincides with, the franchise’s iconic theme song ultimately gets cast aside, feeling like a shoehorned puzzle piece rather than an anthem that can carry this franchise forward. And that has to account as a missed opportunity to make hardcore fans, casual fans, and nostalgic fans alike grin from ear to ear.
But the theme song is only a small cog in an entire framework that makes the Power Rangers movie what it is. And with a strong story that stays true to its origins while re-imagining it to a present day world, an energetic cast that brings newfound life to both their characters and the big screen, and a fresh take on a franchise in desperate need of a reboot – the Power Rangers movie walks away a winner. For kids, adults, dedicated fans, and everyone in between.
Lionsgate delivers. The Power Rangers are back.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
The Power Rangers movie stays true to its iconic roots, while fleshing in the story, characters, and traits needed to re-imagine the franchise to today’s audiences. With Easter eggs and world building aplenty, Saban’s Power Rangers does enough to leave moviegoers worldwide saying “Go Go Power Rangers”.