Reviews: Power Rangers 2017

A great throwback to the old TV series while still being original

Power Rangers is a good film overall. While it helps having grown up with the original, I think it's still enjoyable for everyone else.

Characterization is probably this film's strong suit. The characters are all new, so even old fans will have to get to know them. First and foremost, they all start off as delinquents - literally outcasts from society, which is weird because they are supposed to be role models. In the original, they were great friends and model students.

What I thought at first was an odd flaw in writing proved to be a strength. All the characters start off dysfunctional, but this means they have a lot of room to grow. And we see that development slowly build, at a realistic pace, through the course of the film.

And the pace is something else I want to praise. It manages to give us little hints and glimpses of their potential, but they have to work to achieve it. Super-strength is something they get early on, yet it's not nearly enough. The film doesn't blow its load early for the sake of spectacle or fanservice. When you finally see the team assemble as the Power Rangers, it feels well-earned.

That said, it's not a perfect film. The action is good, but not great. If you have any nostalgia for the cheesy spandex fights from the original, this film is a treat. If not... well, it might seem a little lame along with some obvious wire-fu, but still fun.

There are plot holes here and there, but very little to detract from the main themes of teamwork, friendship, and trust. While no masterpiece of writing - after all, the main plot is the villain is just evil and wants to kill everything - it also doesn't clutter itself too much or shoehorn in unnecessary plotlines.

It's a simple, fun film. That's all.

Great focus on characterization, only let down a bit by the combat-based finale

Basically in my opinion, great first 3/4, okay final 1/4.

It's an origin story, and very much so. I had a lot of fun watching these characters get to meet each other, end up with superhuman strength and agility, and eventually come into their role as essentially superheroes. I loved the movie when it was character-focused, as I really liked the characters.

Which is the last thing you'd expect me to say, considering how frigging cheesy the original TV shows were! They had lame characterization, being aimed squarely at elementary schoolers. But this movie feels like it's saying to an older audience, "Remember that show you liked as a kid? Would you like to see a more grown-up version of it?" This is basically that. Instead of "teens with attitude", we get actual convincing teens with actual attitude problems. They're flawed, and they even meet at a special school for at-risk youth.

It's a PG-13 movie, so the characters drop their share of S-bombs and "douchebag" and the like. Certain things are implied rather than shown, such as the implication that Kimberly bullied another student by showing a sexually revealing photo of her (we don't see the photo, but a savvy audience can piece together the implications).

While the first Power Rangers series had a lot of racial diversity in the cast, this movie oddly does a lot of race-swapping - Billy is now black (and mildly autistic), Trini is now Hispanic and Zack is now Asian. The personalities are changed too, so it makes me wonder, why keep the same names? Why not make them new characters?

The original show was full of Ham and Cheese, and this movie, despite taking itself much more seriously, does have some of that. The new Rita Repulsa is far more threatening than before and less hammy, but she still comes off as a bit campy. And the scenes where the Rangers are in their costumes and especially in their Zords felt like the cheesy action of the original show, with characters yelling out strategy and insults at the enemies. They were less hammy, with clear attempts to be serious and to try to portray both how the Rangers handled the heat of battle, and how they had difficulty controlling their Zords... at least at first, before they conveniently got the hang of it. Oh, and there's an absurd amount of Krispy Kreme Product Placement that's handled comedically, but it's still totally there.

That final 1/4 of the movie is where it got less fun for me. I enjoyed seeing the characterization still being visible in the battle, but the main appeal for me was everything that led up to that. Getting to know the characters, see their drama, see them struggle with their new power, that was the main appeal, and the movie handled that really well. When it got full-on Power Rangers, it went from "great" to "decent". Still enjoyable, but there probably was no really good way to top off the rest of the movie. Still, I'm very glad I saw it.
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