Looking Back at 2017’s ‘Power Rangers’

(Originally written on February 1, 2018)

Growing up, there were many shows on television I found myself watching on a consistent basis whenever they came on. Though majority of them were cartoons, there was one live-action series in particular that grabbed my attention right from the start: Power Rangers. The basic premise of the show (and the subsequent seasons and continuations) mainly dealt with five to six individuals gaining extraordinary abilities in order to combat evil while still going through their own struggles outside of the costumes.

If this type of show sounds incredibly cheesy to you, then you’re correct. The series was never meant to be taken too seriously and always had a lighter tone. For all its corny moments, the cast was always diverse and what characters went through was at times relatable, but for my younger self the focus was always on when the heroes morphed and sprang into action. It still boggles my mind how the Power Rangers TV series is still going strong.

(Fun fact: The “Power Rangers” series of TV shows is actually based off of a Japanese show called Super Sentai)

I don’t keep up with the series as much anymore, nor have I watched its more current iterations, but when it was revealed back in 2014 that a movie based on the first Power Rangers series was in the works, my curiosity and nostalgia exploded. Several questions burned in my mind with the most important one being ‘How much will they change?’

Many old-school fans were skeptical about the film. Some expressed concern about how it could have an overly darker and serious tone. Others talked more about the ethnicity of each character and how they differed from the original show. In the end I think it’s safe to say the film found a comfortable balance, catering to both long-time fans and the average moviegoer. I can’t believe a year has passed by already, Power Rangers having been released in theaters in March of 2017.

At its core, Power Rangers is about a group of teenagers that stumble upon these mysterious fossilized coins (in five different colours!) that end up giving them superhuman abilities. However, they soon learn of an evil being that will threaten the very life of the planet if this villain’s plans come to fruition. With only a number of days to learn how to fight and eventually how to ‘morph’, our titular heroes train under the guidance of a mentor and his (for lack of a better term) assistant. Throughout this process they grow closer as friends and learn about each other on a more personal level. This last point is what I thoroughly enjoyed about the movie.

More than just looking forward to the action or hoping to feel nostalgia throughout, there is something to be said about a film where you genuinely care about its characters. It also helps how each of them have their own circumstances to deal with:

Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is on house arrest after pulling a prank and crashing his car during a police chase. Add to that an injured knee where he can’t play football anymore as the star quarterback, disappointing both his team and the town of Angel Grove.

Kimberly (Naomi Scott) has to deal with the consequences of a cyber bullying incident where she sent a rather scandalous picture of her friend around school.

Billy (RJ Cyler) has somewhat of a difficult time relating to others because he is on the spectrum.

Trini (Becky G) doesn’t want to be categorized or labelled as what she isn’t because her family seems to be very keen on living a certain way.

Zack (Ludi Lin) lives with his mother who is very ill, but he rarely spends the night at home fearing that he will find her not having woken up the next morning.

Yes, the movie has a specific run time, but it is such a treat when you are given considerable character development. They grow both as individuals and as a team. What better way to do that than share their most personal struggles with each other?

I have to give kudos to the cast here. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know who some of the main cast were before this movie came out. While some of them already had moderate success, I’m sure the film being well-received only helped them gain more exposure and more opportunities. Quite frankly, I was also very surprised they were able to get actors like Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks and Bill Hader.

While some of the dialogue may suffer from being too basic, the lines are delivered without any hint of the actors/actresses being unenthusiastic. I’m sure everyone knew what kind of movie this was going to be. And bonus fact: there is a cameo appearance by two actors from the original show!

While much of the anticipated action isn’t until near the end, you grow to like the characters enough before all that happens where you feel that in a way they earn their stripes (or suits). Also tie in the fact that in order to morph, they have to be of the same mindset of working together. It’s the classic story of a group of uncooperative people learning to work together, but with these teens comes much heart and empathy. In the middle is a fun and brief training montage for some progression, as well as both humour and drama throughout to keep things from becoming too boring. Also included is some silliness, but that is to be expected. Add in a musical score by Brian Tyler and you’re in for moments that will evoke both pathos and triumph.

Overall, Power Rangers is more than what it appears to be on the surface, much like the teenagers! I actually picked up on many of the characterizations while watching this movie a second time. If you haven’t watched this movie, I apologize for basically revealing some of the plot points, but get on Netflix (or any other legal way of watching this movie) and press that play button!

- A. Shin

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