I was shocked to learn just how many friends I have who are full grown adults and who are also incredibly excited for the Power Rangers reboot opening this week.
I was 13 years old when the TV show debuted in the U.S., thus just slightly too old to be taken in by bad production quality fights between fake looking monsters and even faker looking robots. My sister was eight, though, so she was all kinds of into it. I watched it with her most afternoons, because every TV in my house except the one in the den was off-limits to us on school days. So I do have a base of knowledge to work with here.
The show was known for its slightly insensitive diversity. Sure, all the kids didn’t look alike, but the lone Asian character was the Yellow Ranger. I mean, that is a special combination of racism and laziness.
The new Power Rangers are slightly more diverse. Now our Asian character is the Black Ranger, our black character is the Blue Ranger and there’s a Latina Yellow Ranger! It really is a small world after all.
Jason Scott (Stranger Things’ Darce Montgomery) is the quarterback of Angel Grove’s football team. He is set to lead the team to a championship and continue his career at the college level until a cow and a truck ruin his plans. He is sent to detention where he meets Billy (Me, Earl and the Dying Gearl’s RJ Tyler), an unpopular autistic kid who is constantly bullied and Kimberly, the once “it girl” whose scheming has landed her at the bottom of the social ladder.
Side note on Jason and high school quarterbacks in general in the movies. Hollywood always casts the most beautiful young man they can find as the quarterback. Has no one in LA ever seen Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger? People who look like they are in the middle of transforming into monsters can play quarterback too!
So Jason, Billy and Kimberly go to a quarry, which somehow also doubles as a gold mine in this town. There they meet Zack, a lone wolf type, and Trini, another lone wolf type, but, you know -- a girl lone wolf. Billy blows something up. A mountain collapses and somehow manages not to kill any of the kids despite a literal tone of stone falling on them.
The gang discovers a set of stones in five different colors. They notice over the next few days that they all have new powers. So they get together, jump over some canyons and end up discovering a spaceship where they learn from a video game version of Bryan Cranston (who long before playing Walter White or even Tim Whatley provided voices for the original Power Rangers series) that they’re now super heroes.
Meanwhile, Jason’s dad (David Denman, who you might remember as Pam’s first fiancee in The Office) works as a Deadliest Catch fisherman, but in warm, nonthreatening waters. He pulls up a net full of generic fish that happens to include the shriveled body of our villain, Rita (Elizabeth Bans). More on this later.
I know what you’re thinking. Rita is an awful name for the supreme villain in a world where our all knowing Cranston is named Zordon. One gets a name worth of a galactic overlord. The other is named after the sassiest waitress at the Iron Skillet off Route 9.
The Earth contains magic crystals.
Rita wants them and is forming a monster made of gold to rip them from the ground. Our feisty teens have to become super heroes to stop here, etc. Power Rangers!
Before I dive into my complaints (and brother, there are plenty) I need to know what Elizabeth Banks is doing in this movie. When this decade began she was on a real hot streak. I have spoken to her personally. She is genuinely funny and charming. I get that Cranston may have had a sentimental attachment to this project, but all I can figure is Elizabeth Banks is broke.
What Power Rangers does right, for the most part, is realize that it is the Power Rangers. There’s no Christopher Nolan Dark Knight-style gritty reality. The movie embraces the camp of the original series and mixes it with just enough “darkness” so as not to lose kids who have grown up with the Internet.
We get scenes of kids having heart-wrenching emotional conversations about sexting and being on the autism spectrum and general confusion about sex. It’s gross. Not because of anything being said, but because kids with feelings are idiots. If you were a kid and now are not, you get it. This is a tough one for adults to sit through without rolling their eyes.
The movie’s biggest problem is that, while things move along at a snappy pace, we don’t even see a Power Ranger or a robot dinosaur until over an hour into the movie. We don’t see them in action until over a half hour later. This is the same problem that Muppets Most Wanted suffered from a couple of years ago. Don’t make a Muppet movie and only give me 15 minutes of Kermit. Don’t make a Power Rangers movie and only give me 20 minutes of Power Rangers.
Also, something else I noticed and never thought of before -- is the Power Rangers’ backstory a Scientology allegory? All knowing beings come from space to protect Earth from a great evil, but they can’t, so instead they decide to kill everything on the planet?
The answer is probably no, but this scene at the beginning of the film involving a naked, blue Bryan Cranston makes it a question worth asking.
So look, Power Rangers isn’t for me. I knew it wasn’t for me going in, but I did take my five year old son. Saying “he loved it” is not enough to describe to you how much he loved it. The kid was literally on the edge of his seat. He looked at me and smiled multiple times with the glee that you only have before you realize that bad things happen in this world.
His reaction means I can’t not recommend this movie. How often do you get to see your kid react like that to a piece of (I can’t believe I’m using this word to describe Power Rangers) art? Look, if you didn’t grow up with the Power Rangers and, like me, barely know what they are, you’re gonna hate this movie. There’s just no way round it.
But if you have a kid, particularly a little boy who turns everything he finds into a sword, then take him to see Power Ranger. You’re gonna have a good time.
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network. He can be heard weekday mornings from 6-10 on "The Morning Show with Mike, Lauren and Demetri" on Buzz Sports Radio.