REVIEW: ‘Power Rangers’ delivers on nostalgia and action


Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

Michael Nied

It’s morphin’ time, and the beloved Power Rangers are ready for action.

March has truly shaped up as a month of nostalgic releases harkening back to the ‘90s. As “Beauty and the Beast” continues to enchant viewers in theaters across the globe, the popular superhero series that took America by storm is gearing up for a renaissance of its own.

With Dean Israelite in the director’s chair and production from Haim Saban (whose company, Saban Entertainment, launched the original series in America), Brian Casentini, Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, the film brings the beloved television series to life for a new generation of fans.

“Power Rangers” opens with a new origin story for the superhero group that traces back through the millennia. It’s a fight to the death as the original team of Rangers faces off against a former friend — Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) — to save Earth from utter destruction.

Zordon (Bryan Cranston), team leader and former Red Ranger, buries his team’s power coins — the source of their supernatural abilities — for a future group of worthy heroes, and he sacrifices himself to end the battle.

Unfortunately for Zordon, evil is not always that easily vanquished.

Millions of years later, the ancient threat to mankind reawakens, and a group of teens (up-and-comers Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin) discover the power coins in Angel Grove, giving birth to a new era of earthly defenders. 

This iteration of Rangers is perhaps the most diverse group of superheroes in a feature film to date.

Cyler in the role of Blue Ranger Billy Cranston identifies as being on the autism spectrum, while Becky G portrays Yellow Ranger Trini Kwan as queer, and delivers a stirring speech about struggling with her identity. Lin in the role of Black Ranger Zack Taylor is shown as bilingual and represents one of the first Asian heroes to star on the big screen.

These casting decisions represent a step toward more inclusive representation in the superhero genre, a move other films have been slower to adapt. It’s especially nice to see coming from a series that was previously plagued with stereotypical casting decisions.

This group of heroes is also potentially the most humanized ever, as they battle evident personal flaws and unite to better themselves and overcome evil. It is only by working together that the new team can access their armor and reach their full potential, and they’re brought together in a perfectly teenager way: detention.

Red Ranger and team leader Jason Scott (Montgomery) plays the disgraced golden boy of Angel Grove, and he is sentenced to detention and placed on house arrest after a prank goes wrong. It’s there that he befriends Cranston, who lands himself in detention after blowing up his lunchbox.

Potentially the most tortured by her past misdeeds is Pink Ranger Kimberly Hart (Scott). Formerly a popular cheerleader, Hart is abandoned by the team after betraying a friend. She struggles to forgive herself and blames herself when the team seems incapable of coming together.

Taylor and Kwan don’t meet the team in detention; however, they also battle personal demons and struggle with loneliness before being united by a common goal.

Although Montgomery’s portrayal of Scott calls the shots for the Rangers, Cyler’s persona of Cranston is the heart and soul of the team and brings the most energy with his portrayal of the Blue Ranger.

He’s the one to discover the power coins, the first of the group to access his armor and is the force that ultimately unites the group in the face of evil. Brilliant and funny, Cyler is a breakout star and could easily assume an even greater position in the series over time.  

“Power Rangers” features a group of relative newcomers in starring roles; however, some bigger names were called in for supporting characters.

Banks delivers a laudable performance in the role of Rita Repulsa, a character that received one of the most dramatic updates from her original portrayal.

Doing away with her more traditionally witchy costume and her castle on the moon, Rita takes on the role of the power-hungry Green Ranger. Banks balances Rita’s evildoing with a wicked sense of humor and delivers a haunting take on the classic character.

Cranston and Bill Hader lend their voices to portrayals of Zordon and his robotic henchman Alpha 5, and Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson, two of the original Power Rangers,  offer a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the final battle scene.

In a market that is flooded with superhero film after superhero film, it is essential that every new series differentiate itself from its competition.

“Power Rangers” manages to stand apart from previous releases and utilizes witty commentary, gritty action and an already beloved storyline to appeal to both new and old fans.

One area where “Power Rangers” floundered though was in bringing action-packed fight scenes to life. Although the original television series featured tightly choreographed fight scenes complete with now-hilarious grunts and “hiyahs,” the movie focuses more on character evolution and special effects to bring battle scenes to life.

Even the final battle relied on CGI effects as the Rangers battled Rita’s monster with their zords (robotic machines).

The fight scenes paled in comparison to the gruesome battles depicted in the recently released “Logan,” and they were too driven by effects and larger-than-life weapons to compete with other established series like “The Avengers.”

Even still, “Power Rangers” managed to harness the nostalgia of the series of old and transform it into something equally compelling. It’s a difficult task to bring such a storied series to life; however, these perfectly flawed characters managed to breathe new life into the series.

With a mid-credits scene that hints at a sequel and Saban alluding to a six-film storyline , it’s clear that the Power Rangers will be morphin’ back into action again, and their big screen debut hints at good things to come.

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer, contact him at [email protected]