The first sign that the new Power Rangers film might irk fans of the '90s live-action series — and the many toys that followed it — was almost a year ago, when the new suits for the eponymous rangers were revealed.
The Twitter backlash for the Iron Man-esque knockoffs was swift, much like the initial reaction to Elizabeth Banks' appearance as the franchise's iconic villain, Rita Repulsa. However, if the biggest problems with Power Rangers hearkened back to the characters' sleek, modernized outfits, it wouldn't be a total failure — Netflix's Daredevil might look absurd in costume, but it doesn't take away from a pretty good series.
Unfortunately, Power Rangers has a laundry list of problems that go beyond the nightmarish suits (which are more unsettling on-screen, be warned) that regrettably feels like some convoluted mashup of Michael Bay's Transformers and The Breakfast Club. I wish I were kidding.
Power Rangers acts as a franchise reboot, where the five rangers share the name of the characters from the original series. They first meet at school detention on a Saturday; they're all there for different reasons, and comprise different high school cliques. There's the jock, Jason Scott, the bookish Billy Cranston and the Mean Girl-adjacent Kimberly Hart — The Breakfast Club parallels aren't particularly subtle.
The group first attains their ranger gifts when they're all conveniently at Angel Grove's local mine at the same time, and Billy sets off some explosives at the rocks (this curious choice relates to Billy's deceased father, who was a miner and bonded with his son at the site). They eventually stumble upon the crystal-like objects that give each character enhanced powers, realizing something is amiss when they leave a harrowing, potentially fatal accident unscathed.
One thing leads to another, and the group learns that they are the next generation of Power Rangers, thanks to some timely exposition from Bryan Cranston's Zordon and Bill Hader as the sassy robot Alpha 5. Surprisingly, the Cranston-Hader tandem is the weakest part of the film. Cranston has an entertaining history with the Power Rangers — which is obviously a big reason why he was chosen for the role — and has been effective with previous voiceover work, but his take on Zordon brings as much charisma as you might expect from someone who's remained dormant for 65 million years. Meanwhile, Hader's Alpha 5 is intended as the comic relief of the film, but nearly all of his punchlines fall flat. Alpha 5 is basically the antithesis of another Hader-voiced robot: Star Wars: The Force Awakens' BB-8, who gives that droid more personality without a single line of articulate dialogue.
The only person in the cast who seems to be having any fun is Banks' Rita Repulsa. The actress got the memo that the original Power Rangers series was at its best when it basked in the campiness of its premise. In turn, she gives viewers an entertainingly unhinged Repulsa with a clamoring for gold so she can create her golden monster, Goldar (the franchise was never good with names). She kind of rocks her outfit, too.
Power Rangers also features some of the most on-the-nose product placement in recent memory for, of all things, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Without giving too much away, Angel Grove's Krispy Kreme is inadvertently the center of an integral part of the plot, which at one point leads to a race between the Power Rangers and Repulsa to make it to the Krispy Kreme — and you bet your ass someone takes a bite into a donut, too. Unnecessary as hell? Yes. Do I currently crave Krispy Kreme donuts? Yes.
If there could be one saving grace for Power Rangers, it'd be the action. The series has a martial arts-focused mythology thanks to its original cast. The recent success of films like John Wick have proven that audiences are willing to pay for really great action set pieces and not much else. But here's where the Transformers comparison rears its ugly head.
The gawky outfits of the rangers wouldn't seem to lend themselves to any martial arts-based fighting — and they don't. The CGI-heavy action sequences feature a lot of frenetic quick-cuts, and if it wasn't for the color schemes of the individual rangers, there'd be no way to differentiate between any of the characters fighting their way through hordes of Repulsa's minions. When it comes to the rangers' most extravagant fight sequences, it's not unlike Michael Bay's clunky alien robots ungracefully plowing their way through inconsequential cityscapes.
Power Rangers is by no means the worst franchise reboot in recent memory; that inglorious mantle will likely be held by 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four for the foreseeable future. However, in a month where arguably the best X-Men movie ever made, a critically acclaimed King Kong reboot and several Oscar winners are still at the box office, Power Rangers feels particularly irrelevant. There's better options at the theater — and better ways to fuel your childhood nostalgia.
Power Rangers arrives in theaters March 24.
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