Power Rangers sits right in the Goldilocks zone
Following a prank related car accident, high school football star Jason Scott is kicked off the team, placed under house arrest and sentenced to Saturday detention where he stands up for autistic student Billy Cranston in an instance of bullying and encounters Kimberly Hart who is exiled from the cheerleading team after punching her ex-boyfriend.
Cranston hacks and inactivates Scott’s house arrest ankle bracelet in return for defending him, and inspired by his deceased archeologist father he takes Scott to an abandoned gold mine.
Scott abandons Cranston in confusion and stumbles across Hart swimming in a nearby lake. Cranston detonates explosives to blast some rock, causing Scott, Hart and fellow high school students/regular visitors of the mine Trini Kwan and Zack Taylor to assemble at the blast site where they discover five colored rocks, which they distribute evenly amongst themselves.
The next day they discover that they all have superhuman strength, which prompts the five teenagers to revisit the blast site. They discover an underground spaceship where they are greeted by Alpha 5, robot assistant to Zordon, the original leader “red ranger” of the Power Rangers, a group of superheroes who protected life on Earth and the energy-producing “Zeo Crystal” in prehistoric times.
Zordon communicates through an interface on a ship wall as his consciousness was uploaded to the ship following the betrayal of green ranger Rita Repulsa who killed the rest of the rangers for personal gain.
Zordon ordered Alpha 5 to cause a meteor strike, which killed him and the dinosaurs and sent Repulsa to the bottom of the sea. Repulsa’s body is found in a fishing net on Scott’s father’s boat and once revived she goes on a rampage looking for gold to fuel her massive underling Goldar in pursuit of the Zeo Crystal. The five high school students must train to become power rangers so as to stop Repulsa and save humanity.
The pacing in Power Rangers is ideal, with a functional, impactful use of suspense and a steady unfolding of events that keeps you engaged.
The special effects in this film are satisfying with believable explosions, stunning elaborate car crashes and realistic sci-fi Power Rangers technology. At the film’s climax, there is an epic battle which is head spinning and uncomfortable at times with rapid cutting between the interior and exteriors of Zords (giant biomechanical fighting robots manned by the rangers). However in all other ways, it is a satisfying fight with good choreography and an exciting progression.
The portrayal of high school is in some aspects laughably unrealistic and corny, specifically everything about the detention class. Though it evens out with some aspects being portrayed more realistically than one is used to, with students wearing the kinds of clothing that high school kids actually wear and Cranston’s friend group of outcasts looking and behaving in a realistic manner.
The portrayal of Cranston’s autism is commendable and dignified; his character is funny, likable, relatable and empowered. Unfortunately his character’s personality is completely built around symptoms of autism and thus comes across as two-dimensional, but RJ Cyler’s, who plays Cranston, performance is so dedicated and charming that this can often be ignored.
The acting in Power Rangers sits at a consistently decent level, though dialogue/performances are often corny, which is somewhat excusable considering the film’s young target audience, but will likely get in the way of full absorption for older nostalgic audiences. Elizabeth Banks plays Repulsa like an uncomfortable blend of Bellatrix Lestrange and a goofy cartoon witch. Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Bill Hader as Alpha 5 are excellent voice acting casting choices, bringing appropriate and lively personality to the characters and offering a pleasant sense of familiarity.