“Power Rangers:” Same Cheese, Different Decade

dylyn-petersonBY DYLYN PETERSON
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong

Twenty-four years after the commercially successful television show, “Power Rangers” has been rebooted to a new continuity, but at the same level of quality as the originals.

At this point in our cultural history, it’d be difficult to go without a basic understanding of what “Power Rangers” is. But, given it’s been effectively out of the public eye for longer than it takes to go to high school, here’s the basics. Giant head Zordon and his annoying red robot, Alpha 5, recruit five teenagers with attitude to wear color-coded armor, fight an evil, magic woman named Rita Repulsa, and drive giant, dinosaur-themed robots named Zords. These combine together to create a bigger robot called the Megazord, which they use to fight giant monsters. Somewhere in the fighting and robot-combining, a power metal song with the lyrics, “Go, go, Power Rangers!” plays, and gets everybody pretty pumped.

The movie follows all of these conventions, although Zordon is now a pushpin face in a wall instead of a floating head in a jar, Alpha 5’s voice doesn’t make my ears bleed, and the song is now terrible techno instead of sweet, sweet metal. Oh, 1993. Where have you gone?

The film invests most of its energy into something familiar to fans of comic books: darkness and edginess. The teens are now troubled: either mute, homeless, or in Saturday school for misbehavior. Their leader, once a football quarterback, was involved in a car crash so bad it makes “Doctor Strange’s” collision look like a fender bender. Rita Repulsa, once an elderly woman in a dress five times her size is now sleek and sexy, and also murders homeless people for their gold teeth. Goldar isn’t a flying monkey, but a giant monster made out of molten gold, because his name is Goldar.

One would think that, with these elements, the tone would be consistently serious and dour, but no.

The ability for our heroes to morph into their power armor and fight off the bad guys depends entirely on their feelings of love and togetherness. It is about as cheesy as it can get away with, but without most of the fun the original show had in abundance.

In a bizarre and refreshing move, the film is primarily focused on character development and interaction. Of the nearly two-hour runtime, about ninety minutes is devoted to the edification of the characters. However, of the five main characters, only two get developed especially well (and these are, of course, the two white characters): Jason – the leader and former quarterback who is ludicrously bad driver, and Kimberly – former mean girl who somehow has nude photos of her former best friends.

The other leads are Trini – who doesn’t like to talk and has to be forced into the movie repeatedly and whose sexuality has been greatly exaggerated, Billy – who has both autism and every good line in the movie, and Zack – who camps on abandoned mining sites and supposedly takes care of his sick mother. As Entertainment Weekly put it, “Most movies like ‘Power Rangers’ get the first-half Y.A. character stuff wrong and the second-half smashy-smashy action stuff right. This one does just the reverse.”

While it’s become a cliché to compare bad movies to Transformers, it’s apt with regards to “Power Rangers.” The action scenes are ugly, quickly-edited, incoherent messes of CGI, and it’s telling that they were quarantined to the third act. They almost feel like an afterthought. And given how brief they are, they constitute another good comparison to the 2014 “Godzilla,” wherein the titular character was effectively a cameo role.

Also, for no discernible reason, the film repeatedly and emphatically becomes a music video for mediocre contemporary song after mediocre contemporary song. It is a baffling creative decision that only becomes more baffling every time it happens, which is exactly enough times to make one feel thoroughly disrespected.

Despite all of the vitriol I felt, however, my face hurt from smiling after I left the theater. The audience engagement I saw on opening night was the best I’ve seen in five years, even though none of the hilarity we laughed at was at all intended.

Judged purely on its artistic merit, I give “Power Rangers” 3 wholly-unnecessary-Power-Rangers-films-since-1995 out of 7, but judged for its entertainment (it’s absolute) value, it earns 6 films-planned-for-the-franchise out of 7.

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