Tuesday, April 4, 2017

REVIEW: "Power Rangers" is a shot of nostalgic awesome!

Power Rangers Review

I was a big fan of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" growing up. I had toys, I never missed an episode of it on TV. I had my first crush on Kimberly, the pink ranger. I had a Power Rangers story on cassette tape. I had all sorts of Power Ranger related stuff, so they were definitely a big deal to me growing up. Working at a daycare every day, it lifts my spirits to know that these characters aren't going anywhere anytime soon. It puts the biggest smile on my face, when children know all the words to the original Power Rangers theme song, and I can jump in and sing it with them. I know the shows have expanded the mythology and changed things over the years, but the original line-up will always hold a special place in my heart. 

Which makes a remake of it a little wary to me.

We are living in a weird world of nostalgia these days. As much as I try to fight it personally, we see more and more people holding onto their pasts, judging things that aren't just like what they grew up with, a world refusing to let anything new or unique in. Perhaps that is why I feel movies in particular are taking a dip. Everything is all the same, everything is just a remake of a remake of a homage of something else. Its enough to make my brain hurt. There is very small pockets of originality anymore, and you really got to work for it to find it. As much as I am baffled by this new world of cinematic entertainment, I am just as baffled seeing that movies smothered in nostalgia still sell tickets. 

Living in a world of nearly non-stop nostalgia, the new "Power Rangers" movie is something of a miracle. "Power Rangers" isn't just a shining example of how to deal with nostalgic material in the twenty-first century, its a shining example of what is missing in movies today. I didn't know what to expect walking in to see this last night, but one thing I didn't expect was to be blindsided by just how wonderful of an experience it was going to be. I am not trying to say that "Power Rangers" is the Second Coming of Christ, because its certainly not. But its a movie that's packed with fun, its a movie that will honor lifelong fans of this material, while also giving it an update for new fans. No matter where you fall on the Power Ranger fandom, you will most likely find something to enjoy watching this movie in the theater. 

What blew my mind was that it wasn't set up at all like I expected. When I walked into this movie, I didn't expect to compare it to something like "The Breakfast Club." But honestly, if in the 1980's, had those kids in detention gone home that Saturday, found some alien technology, then suddenly became superheroes. Well, that's basically "Power Rangers." The movie takes its time introducing us to Jason Scott (Darce Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini Kwan (Becky G) and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin). These kids aren't just types, filled with ticks and mannerisms and no character development. These kids really don't speak in cheesy dialogue. These kids are kids. They have their own problems, they have their own insecurities, their hopes and dreams. They are young, they are desperate for a buzz. They are easily relatable. The movie spends much of its time making sure the audience gets to know them. The movie refuses to rush, it doesn't take character development with any half-measures. By the time our heroes have suited up and are fighting to save the day, its immensely powerful when they are put in a life-or-death situation. The audience feels it, because we care.

The movie also spends some considerable time setting up Bryan Cranston's Zordon, Elizabeth Banks' Rita Repulsa and even Bill Hader's Alpha 5. We learn why its so important that Zordon sets up the Power Rangers on Earth. The movie creates real stakes, the good guys don't clash with the bad guys simply because the movie calls for it in the third act. The movie earns that third act battle. Everybody does great work acting. Elizabeth Banks is hammy at times, and also downright creepy in others and I was shocked by just how absorbed I was watching her in her scenes. Bill Hader's comedic timing couldn't be better suited for his voice work in this movie. Bryan Cranston, even though we never really see his physical body, acts volumes merely by using his voice. 

How are the kids, they are all excellent. Its clear that there is some genuine personality on the pages of the script, and each of the kids translates those traits beautifully. Yes, there are some awkward and cornball dialogue at parts, but the kids roll with it easily. It seems so simple doesn't it? Simply putting character first in a movie like this. But after being burned year after year by "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" and these other nostalgic spectacles, it's mind-boggling that something so simple would be so hard to do. Not here, though. These kids throw themselves at their roles. I also love that the value of teamwork is a major theme in this movie, and nobody really outshines anybody else in the big fight at the end. I think children will have a difficult time picking a favorite Power Ranger when this is all said and done.

There are some missteps. Some of the dialogue is corny. While the end-battle is thrilling, I think they got Goldar completely wrong. Yes, Goldar does appear, but he's nothing like his TV counter-part, in fact, I am not sure I can even call "him" a "he." I don't want to spoil anything for you, but the handling of this iconic villain is a little too stupid. I hate bringing up my personal baggage discussing this type of movie. I hate being the guy that says "well, in the [insert material here] they did this, and in [insert material here] they did that" But this is one of the drawbacks of being a huge fan of something, how you feel something should look like can be aggravating if it isn't like that in a finished product. I do try to avoid it at all costs, but I think there was some potential in Goldar that the filmmakers refused to eradicate, and its a little frustrating. However, if you've never seen a single episode of "Power Rangers" ever in your life, the Goldar debacle will sail clean over your head.

I am begging Hollywood right now, we need more movies like this. We need to be more willing to put character and story first over the notion of blowing things up. There is a mid-credit scene attached to the ending of this movie, and its a clear indication that these Power Rangers aren't going anywhere anytime soon. I am actually excited to see what's next. I am curious to see where these characters go from here. In any new franchise, that's all I can ask for. If you've ever enjoyed this story, this is a mostly fun ride to take.


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