If you were a kid growing up in the nineties and early 2000s, it’s probably a 50/50 guess that you were a fan of Haim Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Every Saturday morning, I remember sitting in front of the television to watch five teenagers team up in various “zords” to take on giant monsters and we even got a movie version in 1995, another one I can distinctly recall lining up for. Now, after years of silence, the property has been revamped by Lionsgate in an attempt to create a brand new franchise and, in my opinion, it has three goals to hit. It needs to be a worthy film for the fandom that it created, it needs to modernize the story in the right way and it needs to set up a story to build on in subsequent movies. This is tricky and if one of those goals aren’t met, it could doom this cult pop culture hit forever.
For those who don’t know what this story is about, the film centers around five ordinary teenagers, although there’s a little twist this time. Instead of being the sweet and cookie cutter characters we saw in the television series, we get a more angsty bunch that meet each other in detention, kind of like the Breakfast Club. After one of the teens named Billy, a geology enthusiast, unearths an underground cave, the five of them discover colored stone medallions that give them new strengths and abilities. They soon find out that this is the first piece in their path to becoming the Power Rangers, under the guidance of the former Red Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston). The team is put in place to be the protectors of a crystal that powers the Earth from the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), who is bent on the destruction of every living thing.
So, that little checklist of goals that this film had in front of it. Well, I think director Dean Israelite succeeded in knocking them down. Power Rangers is full of nods to its original source material, with the terms “It’s morphing time!”, the iconic theme song making an appearance and even Rita’s well-known line “Make my monsters grow!” We also get the modernizing but this is where it might lose new viewers, as the human interactions come off like an episode of a CW television show – but if you know the original show… great acting wasn’t their strongest suit. As for franchise building, this first film is actually a really stable set up, one that others could really learn from. It’s crazy but it’s true.
I felt like this was a great origin story: overlying theme of the film is, the forming and cohesion of a group of people who are essentially strangers. A couple of the main Rangers feel like very throwaway characters but the top three, Jason, Kimberly and Billy are where our focus is supposed to be, with the latter being the absolute heart of the movie. Of course, the emotional depth to this movie will make your eyes roll and feel like it’s trying hard to manipulate you and fails but this isn’t what it’s about. Power Rangers is an exciting and action-packed two hours of updated nostalgia that breezes by without a lull point. My biggest surprise of the whole movie was getting to the end and feeling like I’d like to see another sequel or two. Even if you can’t really feel these Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the special effects are dazzling, the production design works well and you may have a hankering for Krispy Kreme when all is said and done. 3.5/5