Power Rangers (2017)
When a movie is titled ‘Power Rangers’ the audience has a reasonable expectation of actually watching Power Rangers in action. For any fans of past incarnations of this long-running franchise, there is also an implied promise of observing some morphing. Unfortunately, in the latest resurfacing on the color-coded heroes, transforming the ragtag cadre of teenagers into the promised living action figures be patient, have plenty of snacks at hand. In a movie with a running time of just over two hours, you have ninety minutes of buildup, backstory, and exposition to endure. This opus directed by Dean Israelite and written by John Gatins is the third attempt at turning the half hour children’s action series into a feature length film. The one advantage this outing has over its predecessor's undoubtedly utilized technology unimaginable to anyone involved with the original TV shows. As this movie was planned to serve as a reboot, it appears that the filmmaker did not feel too much of an obligation to adhere to the details of the original mythos. In recent years the trend to reimagine childhood favorites has escalated with mixed results. Often it depends on how adamantly determined to remain true to the canon they fondly remember. The Power Rangers began their infiltration of children’s television programming in 1993 with a mixture of Japanese live action adventure with the scenes depicting their normal lives undertaken by American actors. The fact that the costumes occluded the faces, including the mouths, making dubbing into the local language a very simple procedure. The action was a light version of the low-end martial arts flicks. For most fans of the franchise, it was the campy nature of the battle sequences and the almost comically excessively involved. While most of the details were displaced in translation, the broad strokes provided sufficient connection to the Power Ranger concept to justify using the name, even the long form of the title which ties the production even closer to its roots. ‘Saban's Power Rangers.'
When it comes to flashbacks providing a setup for the main story this movie goes back in time further than usual. The opening scene takes place in the Cenozoic-era some 65 million years before the common era. A group of six extraterrestrial warriors, the Power Rangers, were performing their primary function of protecting the still burgeoning life on planet Earth. The most important aspect of the ranger’s mission was the protection of the Zeo Crystal, integrally connected to the existence of life on earth. The leader of the team was the Red Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who was shocked when his team betrayed by his Green Ranger, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). With a name like R plus a poor girl was doomed to be a villain. The only way to stop Repulsa from obtaining the crucial crystal was to annihilate the area. After burying the five ‘coins, Zordon orders his robotic assistant, Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader), waiting back on the ship to send in the meteor. It crashed into the ground sending Rita deep in the ocean and ruining the reign of the dinosaurs. Do not try to comprehend how she survived being at ground zero during an extinction level impact; it will awaken the logical areas of your mind which are hand out in a recess of your mind waiting for the movie to end.
Quickly Moving through the eons, the audience meets Jason (Dacre Montgomery), in the act of perpetrating a felony, grand theft bovine, stealing the mascot of their school’s rival, the Steers. A car chase ensues, followed by a crash that blows out Jason’s knee ending his career as team captain and placing under house arrest complete with a fashionable ankle monitor. Adding insult to injury Jason ends up in detention where he meets Bill (RJ Cyler), who is highly intelligent and diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Also in detention is one of the pretty, popular girls, Kimberly ( Naomi Scott). A piece of trivia, Ms. Scott played another character meeting life changing friends in the Disney movie musical, Lemonade Mouth. Jason rescues Billy from a bully establishing him as a decent young man and alpha male. Billy has never had a friend and attaches to Jason needing friendship. To demonstrate Billy’s extraordinary intelligence, he can circumvent Jason’s ankle monitor in seconds. They go to a quarry site where Billy used to dig for artifacts with his late father, moving along aa pace quicker than usual for this story they are joined by Kimberly, who clears her head walking through the area. This place appears to have the designation of official brooding teen Zen retreat. Completing the request quintet are Zack (Ludi Lin) taking a break from tending to his housebound mother and Trini (Becky G.) also on a walkabout initially watching from a distance.
The checklist of necessary plot contrivances is slowly addressed with the group locating a huge formation of some glass. Upon breaking it open, they discover five discs each a different color. A specific color calls out to each of the five, Red to Jason, Pink to Kimberly, Blue to Billy, Black to Zack and finally Yellow to Trini. Drive home their car is hit by a train seemingly killing them all. The next morning each awakens in their bed. The next checkpoint is discovering they have been healed, Jason no longer needs his knee brace, and Billy becomes adapted to speaking to his classmates. Billy’s change comes after he discovers his strength and endurance have been greatly enhanced allowing him to vanquish the bully humiliating him in front of the entire school. They meet up again to exchange stories and test their new abilities.
After falling into a crevasse, the five teenagers encounter Alpha 5 who introduces them to an AI construct of the late Zordon and after explaining the Power Ranger purpose and responsibility informs them they are the latest in a long line of Rangers. All they must do is morph, allow an energy field to bring out their Power Ranger armor. For the next portion of the movie, a repetitive training montage is brought out from nearly every sport, or martial arts flick ever made. Meanwhile, Rita awakens hungry for all the gold she can find. Vast quantities are necessary to build her monster, Goldar, a creature about thirty feet tall made from pure gold. At one point Rita attacks an excavation site, and molten gold pours up out of the ground into the rapidly growing creature. There had to be several tons of gold waiting beneath angle Grove; the town appears to depend on fishing as a significant source of revenue rather than every citizen working their gold claim.
Finally, the hour and a half are up, and the kids finally morph but only after a poignant sacrifice that is undone minutes after everyone has a good cry.
The remaining minutes contains s much fighting as possible. First, the nascent Power Rangers must defeat an endless stream of rock creatures still called Putties, despite no longer being played by extras in gray leotards. Once several of waves of creatures were dispatched, they finally came time to face Rita and her golden creature. Billy determined that the Zeo crystal is located under the town’s Krispy Kreme, setting Rita on a destructive quest to find a donut shop. I did enjoy one battle that took place under water between the Rangers and Putties. It looked like Hong Kong wire work in slow motion. Some side comments and objects in the background relate back to the original with two of the first American cast members in cameos at the very end. There is a mid-credit scene setting up a Green Ranger in a future movie but considering the lackluster box office returns and less than favorable critical response the franchise reboot may have to wait.