Power Rangers (2017)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Overall Rating 59%
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Ranked #1,503
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When Earth is on the verge of an alien invasion, five teenagers, who are infused with superhuman abilities, must harness their newfound powers to battle this threat - as the Power Rangers. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: April 8, 2017
Lately, gritty takes on nostalgia has been Hollywood's bread and butter and the Power Ranger craze of the early 90s is the latest franchise to be given a darker re-imagining.

In the small California town of Angel Grove, high school quarterback Jason Scott is basically a celebrity. And he hates it. Despite having the adoration of the entire town and scouts lined up at the door for him, he's constantly getting into trouble and his latest prank has earned him an ankle bracelet and the rest of the year spending his Saturdays in detention. His first day, he earns the affection of Billy Cranston after protecting him from a bully, and being something of a tech wiz, he hacks Jason's ankle bracelet in exchange for a ride up to the quarry. Him and his dad used to mine up there, so he's wired an explosion to see what secrets the rocks hold. Meanwhile, Jason has set out on his own and ran into Kimberly, another student enjoying her Saturdays at school, and the pair rush back to Billy when they hear the detonation, along with two other loner teens who happened to be in the area, Zack and Trini. Turns out the mountain indeed held one of hell of a secret: five colored coins that have given the teens extraordinary strength and agility. Returning to the scene the following day for answers, they find them in the most unlikeliest of places. In a spaceship buried deep underground, the group meets Zordon and his robotic assistant Alpha 5, who tell them that they've been chosen to defend the earth as the Power Rangers, an armored band of superheroes. Just in time, as a former Ranger who betrayed her team, Rita Repulsa, has risen from the depths of the ocean and begun a mission to dig into the Earth's crust and steal the Zeo Crystal, the source of all life on the planet.

The thing to understand about Power Rangers is that it's very much an origin story. Judging by the trailers, we've been worried for awhile that the grand majority of the movie would be lacking some Ranger action until the third act. While this is true, I have to admit that it worked. You see, these five teenagers are not the saccharine group from the early 90s; while they're relatively good-hearted kids, they've all got their personal dysfunctions. It plays out very much like The Breakfast Club, and just like that classic film, watching these five work through their problems after being thrown together worked out brilliantly. To that end, I wouldn't call this remake gritty, it's just heavier. Some of the kids are dealing with losing parents, some are dealing with alienation, and when they finally address these issues, there are some very real emotions giving these scenes some weight. And yet, as often as this movie leans towards darker, more serious content, there's still plenty of humor in there to balance it out. To their credit, the filmmakers were able to marry the juxtaposition without the jokes feeling forced or cheapening the serious moments.

With all that said, there's still a decent amount of action in the second act. Interspersed with the time spent fleshing out our Rangers are training montages where they learn to fight off reproductions of Rita's Putty Patrol. Of course, we also get a few shots of the evil sorceress herself amassing her gold collection. Let me tell you, this Rita is nothing to take lightly. And once our teens finally get morphinominal, the fun really begins. Not only did they throw in a handful of throwbacks to the show's classic quotes and scenes, but they brought a very modern action feel to their war against the army of Putties. Plus, the Zord scenes were an absolute treat, especially seeing the creative ways they came up with double-team maneuvers. I would even go so far as to say I liked the individual Zords more than the Megazord. In fact, I'll take it a step further: the Megazord was something of a misstep. The combination scene was almost entirely obscured, and when it was revealed, not only was it ridiculously larger than the Zords that it's made of, but it was just a generic robot. There was no tell-tale features to tell you which Zord made up the arm or the leg. The only one visible was the entire pterodactyl Zord garishly curled up on its back to provide its weapons. I was pretty disappointed with Goldar as well. He was once a character all his own, a fierce warrior and Rita's second-in-command. Now he's been reduced to a mindless golem. While I'm perfectly OK with them breaking from the TV show, that was a bit much. Finally, I do have to admit that as much as I loved their bonding moments, I do wish there were more Power Ranger scenes spread throughout the running time. Fortunately, those complaints are relatively minor and that last complaint shouldn't be an issue come the sequels.

So, our team is entirely made up of mostly unknown actors, which makes their ability to carry this movie even that much more impressive. As Red Ranger and leader, Dacre Montgomery's Jason is something of the straight man of the group, but a teenager rebelling against the silver platters handed to him, his character has plenty to keep him from getting lost in the shuffle like the archetype usually does. Kimberly, played by Naomi Scott, has just been ousted from her Mean Girls clique and is coming to terms with some of the nasty things she's done in the past. Singer Becky G has perhaps the biggest spread to convey; Trini is an anti-social outcast who bounces from town to town due to her tumultuous relationship with her parents. Ludi Lin also had a particularly difficult role with Zack; his carefree, wild approach to life all a front to mask his fear of losing his ailing mother. And finally, there's Billy. The Blue Ranger was my favorite when I was six, and after seeing how RJ Cyler handled this version's struggle with autism and losing his father, that just might be true for this iteration as well. All five actors play both sides of their characters wonderfully, and I can definitely see this franchise being a launch pad for successful careers. Now that's something you've never heard said about the teenagers back in 1993. Even better than their individual performances was how well their chemistry gelled with each other. Much like The Avengers, an ensemble superhero movie hinges on the intergroup relationships, and these kids handled it without breaking a sweat.

So, in no way is this the show I grew up with, but I certainly enjoyed it. Truthfully, it's probably a better movie because of it; a few years ago I watched a handful of episodes on Netflix on a whim. Objectively speaking, it was not a good show. However, that can remain comfortably beloved in my childhood, because we now have a much more mature iteration to enjoy and I am definitely looking forward to the sequels. 8/10.
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