If you’re a ’90s kid then you’ll remember Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Love them or hate them, the Rangers ruled Saturday mornings for three years. Indeed, the Power Rangers brand has continued with new iterations created every year since. But the original (and the best) has now been rebooted for 2017. But is it a high kick or as lousy as one of Rita Repulsa‘s evil schemes?
Ever since a Power Rangers reboot was announced, it’s fair to say that expectations have been middling at best. In truth as much of a phenomenon as the show was, it would never easily translate into 2017 due to the way in which the show was stitched together from the dubbed Japanese Super Sentai series and newly filmed American material. The villains were varying degrees of ludicrous and the high-school teenagers “with attitude” were as squeaky clean as they come.
Surprisingly then, Power Rangers actually manages to re-invent the source material in a way that feels right for 2017 but also holds onto the elements of the show that ’90s kids will remember. The faces have changed but the names remain the same, the villains are now bloodthirsty murderers but Rita still uses her staff “make my monster grow”, Zordon is now confined to a wall but can move all the way around the Command Centre but even Alpha 5 – now a robot alien with extendable arms – still mumbles “Ai-yi-yi” every now and then. Heck, the original theme tune even makes an appearance in a moment that almost made me punch my fist into the air.
Indeed, Power Rangers‘ loyalty to its source material at times verges on being detrimental – the Putties are back as Rita‘s army of minions, but are now towering stone-like creatures (albeit as useless in battle as ever) who don’t really fit their squishy name. Equally Rita Repulsa sounds terribly daft when Elizabeth Banks puts in such a sterling performance to bring the villain to life with an at times genuinely scary presence.
Power Rangers succeeds in avoiding the trap that the TV show fell into of making it all about Jason, Kimberly and later Tommy. The remainder of the characters felt at times like glorified extras. Here, all five characters are well rounded and if anything it is Billy who becomes the core of the group. Sure, the movie is awash with stereotypical angsty back-stories (promising sports star gone bad; terminally ill mother; alienated from family, etc.) but when the team finally bond enough to be able to morph for the first time, it feels significant. The original Power Rangers had no such challenge, essentially being five characters with the same personality traits thrust together.
As a standalone movie, Power Rangers does drag around two thirds of the way in when you realise you’ve been watching for 90 minutes and the team still hasn’t donned its iconic suits. When the action does finally kick-off, the movie doesn’t give the audience nearly enough time to bask in the nostalgic glow of seeing the Rangers on the big screen. And whilst the Zords look incredible, you rarely get to see them in a full shot – the movie is full of intense close-ups rather than the long shots of the TV series that allowed the Megazord to become as recognisable as the Rangers themselves.
If, as planned, this is the first in a series of Power Rangers movies, then the groundwork has been laid for sequels to kick right into the action. And over the course of its three seasons, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers did pull off some killer episode arcs that would provide adequate material. Indeed the mid-credits teaser hints that one of the show’s very best plots involving a certain Green Ranger might be just around the corner…