Approaching a big-budget Power Rangers reboot was never going to be a simple task: to take such a revered and beloved franchise and translate it to the big-screen without alienating its audience is no mean feat. And although this year’s Power Rangers reboot doesn’t pull this off seamlessly, it certainly does its best – and in some areas, improves on the legendary Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV series.
Power Rangers is undoubtedly going to alienate some of its hardcore fanbase – from the teen-drama approach to the changing of some elements of the mythos, the Rangers that we first saw in 1993 isn’t exactly the same here. Some changes work – John Gatins’ screenplay does a good job of fleshing out its characters, most successfully with RJ Cyler’s Blue Ranger, who is the most endearing of the posse by a long run – but it’s perhaps the fundamental changes that don’t have such success. The design of the Rangers’ costumes is far too akin to generic CGI armour that audiences have seen a million times over, and lacks the charm and personality that the original series pulled off.
But speaking of the Rangers, that’s where another issue lies – the actual Power Rangers, in their costumes fighting villains, aren’t in the film for nearly long enough. This boils down to an issue of pacing. We get plenty of time to get to know the new cast, which works excellently, but this leaves far too little time to see them show off their new powers. When the climatic battle does manifest itself, it’s an enjoyable and nostalgia-inducing watch, but for a Power Rangers film, not enough screentime is dedicated to the Rangers actually fighting evil.
That said, it’s testament to the cast and their performances that we don’t get bored without seeing the Rangers in action. The entire group of teens are terrifically-cast and all give strong performances, although some – most glaringly Becky G’s Yellow Ranger – are somewhat neglected by the script, and it’s harder to attach to said characters in comparison to, for example, Ludi Lin’s Black Ranger. The only serious mishap here – at least in this reviewer’s opinion – is Bill Hader’s portrayal of Alpha 5. Normally, the robot helper would be shown as being bumbling, clumsy but ultimately loveable, but here Hader plays him as smarmy and abrasive – an unwelcome change.
The most inventive and interesting change is the tone of Power Rangers. Of course, the same upbeat, cheesy tone of the 1990s series could never have been retained, and the grittier feel of this film is executed brilliantly. It grounds the action, making it easier to root for the Rangers, and makes the extended lore of the world more believable. This is best exemplified in the movie’s opening scene, which feels similar in tone to Adi Shankar’s excellent Power/Rangers short film. Although a feature-length adventure of such an adult tone would be truly astonishing, 2017’s Power Rangers is probably the closest we’ll ever get to something that dark – but that isn’t a problem, because tone here is handled excellently.
It’s understandable why fans of the original Rangers would want to shun this reboot – there are some massive changes to the canon of the show, not all of which are successful – but for those willing to give it a chance, there’s plenty of good to find in Power Rangers. The new roster are likeable and convincing, the tone is refreshing, the admittedly sparse action is very enjoyable, and there are some moments of goosebumps-inducing nostalgia. The movie’s let down by some poor creative direction and unbalanced pacing, but on the whole, this is a reboot done right.