First, before this really gets rolling, I want to thank Fletch for taking the time to write a review for our website. I’ve known Fletch for a few years, he’s a very smart, funny guy and an entertaining writer/Twitter account. He’s an alum of Western Kentucky and writes for SBN/Fansided (@TheTowelRackWKU), and can be followed on the Twitters at @FletchTopper. Thanks again for writing this Fletch. – Ryan
Howdy there, KWC readers. My name is Fletcher Keel, and Ryan and Ron were kind enough to let me pen a guest-post for the website about the Power Rangers reboot/reimagining film that was officially released this weekend.
I’m a kid of the 90’s – I was born in 1993 and do not remember a time where I was not completely engrossed by the property. I completely ran out the tape on my VHS tapes as a kid and scheduled my Saturday’s around being able to view new episodes.
While I haven’t been nearly as dedicated to the newer seasons (in this instance, I’m counting anything past Wild Force as a “newer” season), I cannot deny how huge a role the show played on my life, and I’m guilty of going back and rewatching those seasons I grew up with (I’m actually doing an, albeit slow, personal rewatch through Netflix, in which I’d love to actually see every season).
I’ve always put it this way – folks have attachments all throughout their life to Batman, Superman, Spiderman, hell even the Ninja Turtles, so why can’t the Power Rangers be my Batman?
This film has been a long time coming for me, personally. I remember sitting in my Presidential History class in college when I heard that the film had been green lit. I remember standing in my kitchen when I lived in Altoona, PA last year when the suits were released. I remember hearing about the casting of Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston. Like I said, it’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad it’s finally here.
Throughout all of the promo material (especially the first trailer that dropped last October), the thing I kept thinking about was how on Earth will the film balance the origin story of the powers, the coming together of five vastly different teenagers AND all the action that Power Rangers is known, loved and reviled for?
The answer is surprisingly simple, and should come as not much of a shocker – a little of the former, a little of the latter, and a whole lot of the middle.
Right off the bat, two huge fan theories that spawned from film promotion are confirmed – Banks’ Rita Repulsa (the original Big Bad of the TV show and the flagship Big Bad of the film) was, in fact, a former Green Ranger, and the team’s leader, Cranston’s Zordon, was at one point in the past a Red Ranger (potentially the original Red Ranger) but died after Rita’s heel turn, and buried the Power Coins into the Earth for safe keeping.
It had been rumored for a long while that the film would start with some sort of backstory, hinged on Zordon, and this is probably the smartest way for the film to have done it. It confirms both theories immediately, leaving you no longer worried about if Rita is, in fact, a former Ranger and allows you to enjoy the journey of meeting and learning our new teen team. It also leaves (and my goodness I hope we get it) the potential open for spin-off films – what did this Ranger team do leading up to this battle with Rita 65 million years ago? How did they accumulate the powers? What turned Rita? It’s all ripe for the taking. You know what Star Wars is doing with movies like Rouge One? Yeah, think of a Power Ranger version of that.
A good chunk of the movie is the middle act, where our heroes – Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini Kwan (Becky G) and Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin) – all meet, discover the powers, learn how to harness the powers, and eventually morph in the the colorfully cladded armored fighting machines.
This is probably where you’ll find the most amount of surprise among fans of the property and critics alike – this film hinges on not the final battle scene with Rita’s Goldar monster (a far different foe from what Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers fans are used to) or with the unveiling of the Zords (you know, those robot Dinosaur machines they drive), but on the Rangers ability to morph in and of itself.
It’s actually a bit of a brilliant story writing – in the show (at least in MMPR) the Rangers acquire the powers, yell out that infamous phrase, and boom. They’re heroes.
But this film takes the long walk through. The teens have to not only train to learn to fight, but have to train to learn to trust and love one another.
They finally do – following the death (and subsequent resurrection) of Cyler’s Billy, the team finally morphs and the third and final act of the film kicks in – the battle.
The Rangers pound some putties (in the show, used as a warning of danger, but in the film, appear to simply act as a buffer between Rita & Goldar and the Rangers), then hop in their Zords to do battle downtown with the giant molten-gold monster.
This entire battle plays out as fans of the show would expect – it even includes the only scene in the actual movie that includes the iconic “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song (the version heard in the film is actually the one used in the 1995 film, the first time the Rangers graced the big screen), along with a shot of the Zords running into action in some sort of side-by-side formation (another shot that fans of the show would be able to discribe to you in their sleep).
Goldar wins the first battle – pushing the individual Zords into a pit – but the Rangers win the war as the Zords combine into the Megazord. The film ends with each Ranger refinding purpose in their life – Zack no longer feels burdened by keeping his sick (and I suppose slowly dying?) mother alive and keeping her company, Billy doesn’t miss his deceased father quite as much now that he has a friendship with the other four that rivals no other, and Kimberly is alright with her new social group after being outcast from her cheerleading squad (which, I don’t understand why the film couldn’t have just kept her as a gymnast).
Overall, this film works as what it’s supposed to work as – it’s a superhero movie (remember when those were supposed to be just two and a half hours of fun, and weren’t supposed to reinvent the movie genre? Guess we can thank Mr. Nolan for changing that) that is a true origin story for, if Haim Saban gets his way, will be a six-movie franchise. And I’m here to say I’m ready for the long haul.
The star of the film is definitely Cyler. Billy was always a stand-out character in the show, but for different reasons. He was the smart one – the “geek,” if I dare say – but that was about it. But you still knew him from the others because of that trait. He used words no one else understood and was, for a majority of the first season, was the one who struggled with being a Ranger the most because he had little – if any – athletic coordination.
Cyler’s Billy flips all of that on its head. He’s the heart and soul of the film. It’s because of him the Rangers are able to morph. He’s the one who ultimately finds the coins. He seems genuinely excited to be a super hero and, at least in this universe, he coins the term “Megazord.”
Critics have pounded the film for “not knowing what it wants to be,” which I’m not so sure about. Sure, it doesn’t fully explain several things – there’s a lot to explore with Zordon for example; the fallen Red Ranger who has his conscious awakened by his robot assistant, Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) as the head on the wall in the new spaceship command center. There’s a lot to explore with Rita – she wants to bring back Goldar, and literally kills people to do so, but what was her connection with Goldar to begin with?
But, for all intents and purposes, it works. You know who these Rangers are. You know the stakes right away. And, while the “purpose” of the film is the first 90 or so minutes (the origin story, the teens coming together and ultimately finding it in them to morph), the final fight scene is one truly for the fans. If you grew up waiting for that Megazord combination montage? This is the scene for you.
The problems I have with the movie are small, and don’t even matter much when I take into consideration that one day I’ll be able to watch two or three of these movies in a row to get all I want. Having said that, here’s my official wishlist for the second film:
1.) More Morphin’: I would love to see two, hell even three, scenes of morphed fights. I also want an actual morphing sequence. I want to see the morphers. I want to see them be standing in the streets and call out “IT’S MORPHIN TIME” followed by whatever transformation sequence or graphics the film comes up with. Just give me more suits. We know the teens now, and the second film should be able to explore that.
2.) Show me the Megazord combining: A theory I had heard from several folks before the film was, based on the look of the Megazord, was the Zords didn’t necessarily connect to each other as much as they were formed based on each other. The Zords in this film were basically destroyed, only to come back together as a bigger fighter. Alpha is smart – have him fix the Zords, then show me how everything connects to make the combiner Megazord.
3.) Give me a female Tommy Oliver: Ah yes. That mid-credits scene everyone is losing their mind over. If you know anything about the property, you know that it had to bring in Tommy Oliver – the Green, White and eventual Zeo/Turbo Red and Dino Thunder Black Rangers – in some form or capacity, and the coda scene does just that, as he, supposedly, is to join the teens in Saturday detention. But, hear me out on this one, what if Tommy is actually a girl. Rita, the original Green Ranger, was female, so why not a modern day? It would be so cool guys I can’t even express.
That’s my initial wish list for the second film, but for now, I’ll go see it again probably one more time, then purchase the DVD and wear that sucker out too. It’s a fun film, a fun study in character development and team building, and if you want a fun two-plus hours, I cannot recommend the film enough. It has a little bit for every kind of fan – the never-haves, the “it was cool when I was five”, and the folks like me who can still, to this day, quote the original film from start to finish.
I’m always open to further discuss the movie, so if you wanna drop me a line, give me a follow on twitter @FletchTopper. This movie was a lot of fun, even if it isn’t the next reincarnation of The Dark Knight. All I ask is that you don’t write it off because of the name. Yippee Ki Yay Mother F…you know what, Mother is good.