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"Power Rangers" Was Actually Good Somehow

By Laura Brack in Arts & Culture - featured

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I love “Power Rangers.”

And I don’t just mean that in an “oh, wow, what a neat show I watched as a kid” sense; I mean it in an genuine sense. The good seasons are the perfect mix of camp, crazy martial arts antics, and characters that you can actually grow to care about; the bad ones...are completely skippable, because aside from a few occasional crossovers here and there, they don’t generally connect to one another. I spend my nights thinking about the team dynamics of “Time Force” versus “Dino Thunder”, and what the actual best ninja season is - “Mighty Morphin” season 3, “Ninja Storm”, or “Ninja Steel?”

So when I heard about 2017’s “Power Rangers” movie, I was skeptical. The whole thing just reeked of one of the worst Hollywood trends: taking a beloved childhood property and remaking it with flat characters and big explosions for the silver screen. The first trailer, which looked eerie and dull, didn’t do anything to ease my mind. (Plus, we already have a darker, edgier “Power Rangers” - it’s called “RPM”. It aired in 2009, and it was awesome. It’s also on Netflix. Check it out.)

I was definitely going to see it, regardless of quality, but I walked in expecting another “Transformers.” I was going to watch a movie that made a beautiful slice of 90s cheese into a sad, sad story about sad, unrealistic teenagers.

But - by some miracle - I was wrong.

Yes, that’s right - “Power Rangers” actually was good. Rather than being the “Transformers” that I feared, it was a beautiful mix between “Pacific Rim”, “The Breakfast Club”, and “Chronicle.” Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, and Elizabeth Banks absolutely brought it as Zordon, Alpha 5, and Rita Repulsa. The Megazord was a shining beacon of giant robot awesome, and the individual Zords got some pretty amazing moments, too. There were so many references to other seasons - like the Zeo Crystal being the movie’s MacGuffin, or Reefisde and Mariner Bay being mentioned as street names - that had me cheering in my seat. But the real star of the movie was the team, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

From this point on, this review contains spoilers, and also, a teenage girl getting really, really nerdy about “Power Rangers.”

It’s like somebody took the original five from “Mighty Morphin,” and made them actual characters! It’s wonderful.

Zack turns from the generic, 90s Black best friend into a kind of crazy daredevil who will absolutely break your heart with his backstory. Jason has more character traits than just “strong guy”, and yet, his fear of letting the team down still works perfectly today. Kimberly, rather being a shopping-obsessed valley girl, is absolutely perfect as the disgraced cheerleader who’s just trying to make friends again. Trini doesn’t have much character development yet - which, sadly, is definitely in line with “Mighty Morphin” - but her one big moment - one that I’m going to touch on a little more in a bit - is perfectly done.

The real standout, though, is Billy, who is absolutely the heart of the film. Billy was all the nerds in the audience, cheering at every morph and getting excited by the Zords. He gets the vast majority of the best lines. He’s the first of rangers to morph, because he’s just so friendly and nice from the get go! And when he dies - though it’s brief - I was honestly just pissed off, because he was already my favorite. (If they hadn’t brought him back, I would’ve left the theatre completely.)

And yeah, Billy’s on the spectrum, but it’s not a big deal. Trini’s questioning her sexuality, and while it’s a part of her character, it’s not what defines her. That’s kind of the magic of “Power Rangers” - it’s always had these great diverse casts, but aside from maybe a throwaway line here and there, nobody pays it much mind. I’m super glad to see that the movie is doing that, too.

The movie also has about a million sequel hooks, so should it perform well enough to get a sequel, there are a lot of places the story could go. The after credits scene seems to indicate that an adaptation of “Green With Evil” - the iconic 5-parter that introduced the world to Tommy Oliver, who’s probably the most iconic ranger of all time - is next. I’m fine with that, as long as Jason gets to keep being the team leader. Tommy as the sixth ranger was fine. Tommy as the leader...was considerably less fine.

There are also a ton of villains that could be adapted for the next movie. Lord Zedd is the obvious choice - and he could be totally menacing if he was done right - but seeing as the Zeo Crystal is in the movie, I think a cold, calculating Machine Empire could also be neat. Or why not go and adapt something from a completely different season, far outside the Zordon Era? That’s the thing about “Power Rangers” - there’s so much amazing-corny source material that the options are endless. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the film series next, and I’m so, so glad that they started off on the right foot.

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