Movie Review - Power Rangers (2017)

Based on a cheesy, children's TV series from 1993, the story from that show's first episode has been adapted into this feature. Without commercials, that first episode was only 20 minutes long, yet this feature is two hours. Essentially, writer John Gatins (Flight and Real Steel) has managed to stretch that 20 minutes into a thin 120, and it shows in various ways, and none of those ways is fun.

In the TV series, it only takes 10 minutes for the characters, five teenagers, to become the titular superheroes. This movie takes 100 minutes. I understand that taking extra time to develop the characters and flesh them out is important, but that's not really what Gatins does. He does sketch them out further than the TV series does and makes some different, perhaps less stereotypical choices, but most of that 100 minutes is padded with ridiculous and quite frankly unnecessary world-building. The pacing is incredibly slower. Instead of sped-up action scenes in the TV series, this movie drags the action by slowing it down.

I knew this movie was in trouble when it opened with a prologue set in the early part of the Cenozoic Era, about 65 million years ago. It's supposed to illustrate the origins of the Power Rangers, but it's just a waste of time. It's a waste, especially since the movie spins its wheels for so long on the steps that the characters take to become the Power Rangers. It basically spends too much time on setting up the team that it becomes boring. The movie is itself an origin story, so seeing an origin to the origin 65 million years in the past is too much.

When it comes to the characters themselves, Gatins or the other handful of writers who got story credit, including Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, come up with character differences from the TV series that are at once interesting yet unfulfilling. Starting with the tone, the whole thing is a bit unfulfilling.

The TV series was bright and colorful. It was light and fluffy, but it was always balanced with fun action. Directed by Dean Israelite (Project Almanac), this movie isn't bright and colorful. It's the opposite really. It fits in with the recent trend of movies being dark and gritty, not only in look like production design and in its music, but also in its characters. The five, so-called teenagers here are proof of that.

In the TV series, the five teens were all good kids. They had their issues, but nothing that diverted them from living normal lives. Here, Gatins and/or the other writers make all the teens riddled with angst. The teens are all moody or troubled in some way that lands all of them in detention. The writers go a long way to make the group supremely dark. There's this idea that the teens are supposed to be "worthy" of the powers they get, and I saw why they would be worthy in the TV series, but I don't see why these teens are worthy of anything here.

Dacre Montgomery, an Australian but low-rent version, wannabe Chris Pine, stars as Jason Scott, a former football star in the small town of Angel Grove, California. His father, a fishing boat captain, expected Jason to use his football star-status to go to college or something, but Jason blows it when a school prank goes horribly wrong and he goes on the run from the cops and gets into a terrible accident, which could have killed him, but instead puts him on house arrest. His mother doesn't appear to be in the picture, but it's never explained why.

RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) co-stars as Billy Cranston, an African-American who is somewhat autistic. He says he's on the spectrum, but he seems high-functioning and not really handicapped at all. His father worked in a nearby gold mine where Billy would often find himself. When bored, he likes to go the mines, tinker with his dad's machines or arrange pencils in various rows.

Naomi Scott (Terra Nova) also stars as Kimberly Hart, a girl who was a cheerleader until she does something to her ex-boyfriend, which causes her to be alienated. She cuts her long dark hair in response, and that's about the extent of her character. That, and she likes to take night swims in her underwear.

Becky G, a Hispanic music artist, plays Trini, a girl who has some issue with her sexuality but it's not really fleshed out completely. One brief scene by a campfire mentions it, but that's really all we get.

Ludi Lin plays Zack Taylor, a second or third-generation Asian-American who has to take care of his sick mom. He's a bit of a loner who doesn't attend school much, opting to hang out near the gold mine. He'll take any opportunity to make money, but his interests otherwise seem nil.

All of these teens have things about them that are interesting, but the movie only gives us glimpses of those interesting things. It hops back-and-forth and it never takes the time to dive deep into them. With the exception of Billy, the movie just has them all rendered as these dark millennials with not much passion. It's a stark contrast to the TV characters who were lively and not snarky. This gang is simply not as sweet.

Also, a staple of the TV series was the martial arts. All the teens had fight-scenes and performed them. There were probably stunt-doubles, but we got decent choreography from some of the actors like Austin St. John who played the original Red Ranger and Jason David Frank who played the original Green Ranger. St. John and Frank both were martial artists in real-life. That martial arts aspect is all but gone in this film.

The action is limited to car crashes. The first of which is the only thrilling one, mainly for the way it was filmed. The camera spins 360 degrees almost as if it was on a Lazy Susan and the spins coordinate with some great reveals. The only other real action is at the end, like the last 20 or 15 minutes. It's all CGI vomit for the most part, but it was something straight out of Michael Bay's Transformers or Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, if you liked those two films.

One minor note. Jason Scott, the football star and bad boy, becomes the leader of the group and I can't figure out why. Given the diversity choices the movie makes, to have a generic white guy as the leader felt really dull.

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, language and some crude humor.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 4 mins.

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