When I was a kid, I loved watching Power Rangers. No matter how many times the teams changed, one thing almost always remained the same: The rangers always have the will to fight and will always the right thing even when the odds are against them.This film, while not safe for the average five-year-old, is definitely the modern, grown-up Power Rangers that I could see my younger self watching.
I was really worried that the film might be similar to the Transformers franchise, but a better comparison would actually be The Breakfast Club meets the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like the iconic 80s movie, the Power Rangers team in this movie consists of an athlete (Jason Scott, played by Dacre Montgomery), a brainiac (Billy Cranston, played by RJ Cyler), a basketcase (Trini, played by Becky G), a princess (Kimberly Hart, played by Naomi Scott), and a “criminal” (Zack, played by Ludi Lin). Billy, Kimberly, and Jason first meet when they have to take Saturday detention together on a regular basis. Jason’s in detention due to a prank gone wrong. Kimberly and Billy’s reasons for being in detention get revealed later on.
When Jason defends Billy from the school bully (sadly not named Bulk or Skull), the two of them strike up a friendship that eventually leads them to the town quarry. There, they run into the three other teens. Billy often goes to the mining quarry to remind himself of his deceased father. The latest excavation leads the five teens to finding Zordon’s Power Coins. Around the same time, Jason’s dad pulls Rita’s body from the ocean, unwittingly setting the course of events in motion.
How is This Different From Every Other Origin Story?
Origin Story Movies these days are a dime a dozen, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I love Marvel, I understand the complaints behind how the movies are written. Doctor Strange may have trippy effects, but the story is essentially the same as Iron Man, especially considering how similar the protagonists are.
What makes Power Rangers different from the other Origin Story Movies is that first of all, it’s an ensemble origin story. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, all the rangers have a backstory and play an essential role in the movie. Jason leads the team, Billy is the heart, Kimberly keeps the team spirit, Zack is the first to try out the megazords, and Trini helps the team find Rita.
The process of them becoming Rangers also creates a bond between these five teenagers and in turn, they help Zordon find closure in regards to his past. In spite of the odds, this ragtag bunch of misfits become fire-forged friends.
The Importance of Representation
Some people would accuse this film of using “tokenism” or using different ethnicities and other “tokens” in the name of political correctness. First of all, Power Rangers was always diverse, even though they unintentionally cast an African-American as the Black Ranger and an Asian woman as the Yellow Ranger during the first season of Mighty Morphin. In this movie, there’s been press about Trini being gay and Billy being on the autism spectrum.
Billy’s portrayal of being autistic shows him as pretty high-functioning, since he goes to high school and is able to interact well with his friends. He doesn’t understand sarcasm or humor, but his quirks made him able to help the team out and it’s clear that he is the glue that holds the team together, even though he mostly interacted with Jason. He starts out being uncomfortable with being touched and scared to take risks beyond sneaking into the mine, but by the end of the film, it’s clear that he’s embraced his new role as a hero. Overall, Billy has become my favorite character in this film, especially since I’m on the autism spectrum myself.
Parents will probably more concerned about Trini being gay, but thankfully, she’s not a stereotype, either. She doesn’t dress like a butch or flirt with every girl. There is a scene where she playfully fights over the last doughnut with Kimberly, but it’s part of the “team bonding montage” and can be interpreted as just friendly playing. The most we ever see or hear about her sexuality is when she tells the rangers during a campfire scene about how she doesn’t feel like she’s conforming to her parents standards. She never says that she’s gay, but she’s definitely questioning her sexuality, which is actually very realistic.
Zack isn’t even the token Asian, either, as he isn’t the brainy dude or even wealthy. He lives in a trailer park with his sick mother and is scared of losing her.
Don’t Try This At Home!
One thing I need to address is that this film has CGI, but the command center is an actual set and there are scenes that show the rangers in their suits, so it’s obvious that they’re not wearing any capture-motion suits. That said, the teenagers get into a lot of dangerous situations even before they become Rangers. This isn’t a deterrent, it’s just something I want parents to think about.
I also like that Kimberly’s backstory involves a modern hot-button topic and it’s not something debated or central to the plot, but something that informs her character. She did something bad to one of her friends, but the fact that she’s trying to atone for that makes her worthy of being the Pink Ranger.
The humor in this film is definitely on par with the usual ridiculousness from the Power Rangers franchise, but it never crosses the line of being overly stupid. I only have two minor nitpicks with this film. One is that I wanted a Bulk and Skull archetype in this film. While the film has a bully, he’s not exactly the same as the bumbling buffoons from the original. The characters that come the closest to being the Bulk and Skull of the movie are Kimberly’s former friends from the cheerleading squad. I understand that the humor mostly comes from Billy, but given the more grown-up tone of the film, having a Bulk and Skull would’ve provided some much-needed levity in the scary situations.
The other minor nitpick I have is that while it was awesome to hear the original theme, I wanted to hear it two more times: during the Megazord fight and during the end credits. And I should also mention that they used the theme from the original 90s Mighty Morphin movie and not from the show. It would’ve been a total nostalgia trip to hear the entire original theme again.
While I don’t recommend this film to everyone, I still love it. I think that the film is good for kids who are ten and older and know that while they can’t get into the dangerous situations the Rangers do, they can learn to bond with people outside of the social norms and to never give up, even when the odds are against them.
For fans of the original franchise, I want to say that this film is thankfully not as dark as Daredevil nor as stupid as the Transformers series. And while the teenagers don’t get their suits until the third act, it’s clear that even before they morph, they are still worthy of becoming Power Rangers because the want to do the right thing and fight even when the odds are against them, even when they don’t have their armor. Having the courage to fight without armor? That’s what makes a hero.
St. Martin of Tours, pray for us.