Director: Dean Israelite
Screenplay: John Gatins
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Runtime: 121 Minutes
There is one solitary moment in the new Power Rangers where it starts to work. The Rangers have assembled, and on their way to fight their nemesis on the dinosaur shaped Zords, the frame reproduces on a larger scale and budget the image of them riding into battle across an empty landscape as the classic Power Rangers theme blares in the background. For one moment, the full embrace of the utter silliness of the most nakedly commercial children’s television enterprise of the 1990s is taken in.
Sadly, its 90 minutes into a feature film that runs at almost two hours in length. The movie preceding it is one of the safest, most conventional and dullest supposed blockbusters of the year. This is what happens when the market for superhero pictures bleeds into those lesser than the original source materials, with an origin story as boring and by the numbers as one could possibly imagine.
Dean Israelite’s direction does little to endow the film with much life or colour, with an overly down to earth manner of shooting that aims for naturalism, but only makes the incredibly washed-out and flavourless designs of the alien technologies, the iffy CGI composites, dim lighting and ugly armour designs more depressing to look at. Everything is muted enough the match Nolan-ised tone of the whole film, that’s only ‘fun’ when it wants to be thanks to a screenplay that has clearly been passed between too many different hands, and moves with ridged compliance and structural coincidence. All of this unfolds as the five high school students discover their destinies to become the Power Rangers and banish the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) from their world.
But instead of facing any reasonable conflict in their journey to the third act recreation of the original series’ structure, the film squanders its runtime on training montages, bland mythology building and spending time with a group of outcasts with stiff characterisations and bafflingly little chemistry. How are the Rangers supposed to morph when they don’t possess the power of friendship? The film does little to justify this beyond just holding them in close proximity and hoping for the best.
The performances are okay from the five leads, if only because their characters allow for little manoeuvrability beyond their hurried backstories. Although, in fairness, the attempts to update some of the figures do allow for some bright points, such as an autistic Blue Ranger and a sexually confused Yellow Ranger. Bryan Cranston looks and sounds hideously bored as the alien mentor Zordon, while Bill Hader appears as robot sidekick Alpha 5 to do the comedy bits. Elizabeth Banks seems to be the only performer having anything near to fun in her role as the cackling villain, but it stinks of stunt casting on the part of the studio and the character is even less compelling than the leads.
All of this coalesces in the final act stretch, as the sub-Pacific Rim robot and monster fest take over in a barrage of CGI and poorly done action – with few thrills and seemingly fewer stakes. Power Rangers is a demo reel of the default setting of a genre when the minimum amount of interest is being paid to the production.