The world of the Power Rangers is not one I am familiar with by background, but one I was very able to grasp the concept of throughout the new film, directed by Dean Israelite. If that stands as a testament to the effectiveness of this film, let it, because not much else will.
Power Rangers is the story of five teens from the wrong side of the tracks who accidentally discover crystals that give them superpowers and help them fight off a witch who can control gold. Tackier premises for films have worked in the past. This one doesn’t. The five rangers are all different kinds of breakfast club era teens, a failed jock, a supernerd, a quiet girl, a cyberbullying cheerleader, and a real punk rock type, oh boy! This is new isn’t it! The actors playing these roles have varying levels of charisma, with the most engaging easily being RJ Cyler (Earl from Me Earl and the Dying Girl) as the Blue Ranger. Whilst none of the performances are bad per se (though Ludi Lin as the Black Ranger is just a really tired impression of a bad boy), the script and film surrounding them refuses to give them any dignity as human teenagers, and refuses to acknowledge that they might be more than two dimensional cutouts of what we expect from our youth. The performances and relationships between the actors are at a constant struggle with the film’s constant desire to paint them all as the lowest common denominators of rebellious teenage tropes, and the film never quite recovers.
The film takes its time getting to it’s more iconic moments (“it’s morphing time!” immediately springs to mind), but again these moments are not dealt with with enough clarity or honesty to involve the audience in them, and we feel like outsiders who just don’t understand what’s so exciting about these moments in these children’s lives. The most engaging performance of the movie is that of Bill Hader as Alpha 5, a chirpy robot who helps the rangers train for their battle, and even he struggles against the film’s tired sense of humour.
The choppy editing, which only becomes more prominent in the emotionally slower moments of the film, once again riles against us coming to an understanding of where the teenagers are in life, insisting we only see them as plot devices in the ensuing explosions and fight scenes they have with ancient rogue ranger Rita Repulsa. Israelite has the temerity to try and extract a moral from the story, and it ends up being so intrinsically useless and insulting to the intelligence that the film would be much better without it. I left the film wanting to know the stories of each of the children in the weeks leading up to the events depicted in the film, who they were, how they got to the lows the movie finds them in. We barely hear them talk about their lives, and when they do, it is not honest or compelling.
Young adults are rounded and compelling human beings, with flaws, insights, goals, and fears. To put them in a suit and tell them they’re invincible convinces nobody and is ultimately an extremely uninteresting and shallow way to frame a film. They demand dignity, and this film does not give it to them. Fans of the franchise may be interested to see their favourite characters with cutting edge CGI (which isn’t too well done, either), but otherwise I’d stay well away from this lifeless and tired film.