The big-screen reboot of the hit '90s show opens in theaters on Friday
To any ’90s kid who raced home after school for morphin’ time: Put those L.A. Lights back on and get ready to run to a movie theater.
When candy-colored Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premiered on Fox in 1993, the TV show’s central characters were spandex-clad “teenagers with attitude” who — in addition to dealing with high school romances and bullies — were tapped by an alien life force to protect Earth from extraterrestrial evildoers.
That premise remains intact in the new big-screen reboot, but both the teens and the action have been upgraded inside and out.
Gone are the TV show’s low-budget fight scenes. (Executive producer Haim Saban used to use footage from a Japanese show.) In their place are special-effects-laden action sequences that could go toe-to-toe with any Transformers movie.
But Saban’s Power Rangers feels much more like a Marvel movie than anything by Michael Bay.
The cast is still diverse, but (thankfully!) the Yellow Ranger is no longer Asian and the Black Ranger is no longer black. Their spandex has been traded in for body armor akin to Iron Man’s. And their teenage angst is a result of modern millennial problems.
Pink Ranger Kimberly (Naomi Scott) is a former popular girl who is shunned by her clique after she shares compromising photos of a friend. Blue Ranger Billy (RJ Cyler) is “on the spectrum” and still dealing with the death of his father. Red Ranger Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a football star whose school-prank-gone-wrong gets him kicked off the team and earns him a police-issued ankle bracelet. Black Ranger Zack (Ludi Lin) is caring for his terminally ill mother. And Yellow Ranger Trini (“Shower” singer Becky G) is a transfer student whose sexual orientation has made family dinners very tense.
The moment when the Zords (the Power Ranger equivalent to the Batmobile) make their triumphant debut set to the TV show’s original theme song was designed to get hearts racing, but it’s the Rangers’ home lives that give the movie its heart.
At times the dialogue can be a bit heavy-handed as the teens navigate their civilian lives, but, for the most part, Power Rangers successfully avoids after-school special territory thanks to performances that are above action-film par — particularly by Cyler.
FROM COINAGE: Power Rangers Morphing Through the Years
Then there are the extraterrestrials: Pitch Perfect‘s Elizabeth Banks camps it up as villain Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston’s gruff baritone is put to good use as disembodied Rangers mentor Zordon. But Saturday Night Live‘s Bill Hader is woefully underused as the voice of Zordon’s robot assistant Alpha 5.
Those who buy tickets expecting nonstop action sequences may be disappointed: The major CGI moments are saved for the final 20 minutes of the movie. But fans of fleshed-out origin stories — and/or of the original Rangers (one or two of whom maaaaay just make an appearance in this reboot) — will be more than pleased with their purchase.
Saban’s Power Rangers is rated PG-13 and hits theaters on Friday.