The Classic TV Series Grows Up. Or Does It?
DIRECTED BY DEAN ISRAELITE/2017
I remember with perfect clarity the moment I realized that I could not actually become a Power Ranger when I grew up, because it was a fictional occupation and I was– not unlike Pinocchio– a real boy. That formative and heartbreaking realization became the gaping, open wound through which all manner of existential dread would flow. Having been unable to pinpoint any truly traumatic incident in my childhood, realizing I could never be a real Power Ranger is in all likelihood the birthplace of all of my problems; as soon as I realized that was off the table, my life went to shit. I couldn’t form a megazord or develop meaningful relationships with a ragtag bunch of other teenagers with attitude, so I settled for developing clinical depression. #morphintime
The new Power Rangers movie offers everything you would expect from a Power Rangers movie– guitar riffs, kung-fu, and suspension of disbelief in extremely bizarre moments for the sake of advancing the plot. The dialogue can be a bit clunky and the young actors, who all show tremendous promise, come off a little awkward and wooden on the rare occasion. Again, these are the hallmarks of the franchise.
It also delivers in surprising ways, and I say that without a hint of irony or sarcasm. Despite a seemingly cliched white male lead (who actually carries more dimension than most we see these days), this is one of the most diverse and inclusive casts seen in a blockbuster production in quite some time. The ethnicity-jumpsuit-color-coordinating has been rearranged so as to avoid the usual eye-rolling from the adults, but for those still unwilling to forget that casting choice from over twenty years ago, don’t worry… The characters themselves lampshade it a bit. Looking beyond race, the team is also diverse and inclusive to minorities of all stripes. The movie gives us both an autistic superhero and an LGBT hispanic female superhero, neither of whom are defined exclusively by their identities.
This movie only actively suffers on three counts, a few of which may be qualitative enough to be deemed a minor flaws. First, the desaturated color palette required for CGI rendering sucks a bit of the life out of the costuming, which remains stellar despite looking a little washed out; Pacific Rim spoiled me with its vibrance. Second, there’s some egregious product placement turned into a story element… and if a movie based on a show made to sell action figures has a decidedly obtrusive product placement element that draws more attention than the aforementioned movie/show/action-figure-ad, that’s jarring.
Third, the movie struggles with tone in a few places. While in some places this movie is clearly a coming of age story aimed at a slightly older audience or even at the original fans who are now desperate for nostalgia, it sacrifices a few opportunities for emotionally substantive moments for… not really anything. It just doesn’t go all the way with it. The movie is caught between exploring some fairly substantial themes and elements and staying surface level enough to entertain a younger demographic.
Ultimately, the only real problem with the new Power Rangers movie is one I relate to on a deep personal level: it cannot seem to figure out whether it is an adult or a child. Which, in a way, makes this movie perfectly applicable for yours truly.
All in all, this movie is way better than it has any business being. It works on too many levels to say that it’s a bad movie. If you want to see a group of attractive teenagers with attitude getting their Breakfast Club on before turning into sci-fi superwarriors, go see it. For the uninitiated, it’s a solid popcorn flick. For the nostalgic, it’s about two hours of goofy smiling. Watching the megazord climb out of a molten crater was a balm to my wounded soul. And I have a crush on the pink ranger all over again.