Against all rational expectation, this film does not suck. I don't wish to oversell it. There's legitimate reasons to dislike the movie, like product placement, and it hovers around competency rather than greatness, but it does not suck. We certainly had every reason to think it would suck in the run up to its release. It seemed to be aping the Michael Bay Transformers films, which suck. It seemed to be a dark and gritty reboot of children's TV show, which tend to suck. Its another movie that assumes a sequel, which is cheeky and usually sucks. It was was gonna be an origin story, which don't automatically suck, are so over done as a concept it often results in suck anyway. And its source material, while I would not say it sucks, its not exactly starting from a position of high art. The Power Rangers brand, long-story-short, is a toy advert cobbled together from Japanese stock footage, which equates to suck in most formal review styles. There was no reason to assume that the result would be tolerable, and despite the content of this blog, I have no nostalgia goggles to apply. However, the film ends up working, to the point where I was honestly surprised at the amount of fun I was having with it.
I say again, Power Rangers, somehow, does not suck.
It has a shaky start. There's some obnoxious camera-work, and a red flag in the form of a“bull milking” joke. Fortunately this is brief, as the film moves into teen drama territory. It does not rush into morphing time, and a majority of the movie is characterisation first. This bears unexpected yet admirable fruit in that one ranger is autistic and another of the LGBT persuasion, facts which are treated as just part of life with little fanfare. Its not the earth-shattering leap forward that some have made this out to be, but diversity matters, so have a brownie point. The tone is initially serious, but lightens into a sense of wonder and fun by the films end when the rangers armour up and start promoting toys. While the design aesthetic is butt ugly, seeing the Zords in action is an undeniable high point, with a sprinkling of fan service and being easy to follow. Even the alien designs for Zordon and Alpha 5 grow on you, something undoubtedly help by a subplot involving Zordon's actual existence, and Bill Hader's vocal performance. The plot has its contrivances, and its influences are worn on its sleeve, but Power Rangers earns its high points and doesn't make any overt mistakes. That's faint praise I know, but the film does seem to have been made by people whom took pride in their work and weren't embarrassed by what they were adapting. As long as Batman V Superman exists, and Michael Bay keeps doing Transformers films(1), that's something.
Perhaps the nicest thing about the film however is Elisabeth Bank's depiction of Rita Replusa. While another visual departure from the TV series in that she looks like something Elven out of Warcraft, Rita matches the changing tone of this film. After being made a definite threat by killing people personally, not being at full power and scrabbling for resources, she becomes increasingly flamboyant as the story progresses in her favour. The result is an actress wallowing in the ham a role provides her, going full panto by the end of it, chewing the scenery like she hasn't ate in days. Whatever you feel about the film, you will remember this performance. Especially, if you have a phobia about teeth.
All-in-all, Saban's Power Rangers is not a film that will stand out in the crowd, but one that as a pleasant surprise. Low expectations probably play a big part with this, but its nice to be wrong about something. Its not great, but it doesn't mess things up either. It is what it is. If you end up watching this with your kids, you won't have a bad time.
As mentioned, it does not suck.
1) The creators seem to have been of a similar mind, there's a joke/FU in this film worth the price of entry.
Image Copyright Saban, used under fair use provisions.