“Saban’s Power Rangers” directed by Dean Israelite revolves around five teenagers with attitude: Jason(Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly(Naomi Scott), Billy(RJ Cyler), Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky Gomez) who find five coloured “Power Coins” that imbue them with extraterrestrial superpowers and eventually high tech battle armour as well as colossal robotic animals called “Zords”. Aided by former Red Power Ranger turned mentor Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his assistant Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) the teenagers must utilise their given arsenal and new found martial arts skills against the evil villainous witch and former Green Ranger Rita Repulsa(Elizabeth Banks) and her rock soldiers called “Putties” as well as her golden monster “Goldar” who all collectively intend to obtain the Zeo Crystal, a source of all life for a planet by any means necessary even by destroying their town of Angel Grove.
The biggest pro that make this movie work is the cast themselves. The movie takes the time to flesh out characters and create a believable chemistry between them as well as creating fleshed out story arcs for each character. An example would be Kimberly’s cyberbullying arc as well as Zack’s story arc dealing with his sick mother. One fear I had going into this was that the off-screen chemistry I’ve seen among the cast during interviews would not be seen on-screen. Thankfully that isn’t the case. Most often I found myself enjoying the performance of RJ Cyler’s Billy who through his portrayal of an autistic teenager made himself the most endearing of the bunch. It especially shone through whenever Billy interacted with Jason as well as giving hilarious one-liners as the climax approached as well as making the Megazord dance toward the end. When Billy died temporarily within the movie, it injected the movie with a lot of heart and I once again found myself captivated at their collective group performance and somber attitudes as they carried him toward Zordon. It made their collective catalysis to becoming Power Rangers very believable. It somewhat reminded me of the purpose Coulson’s death served in “The Avengers”.
The other performance I found myself enjoying and was most looking forward to was Dacre Montgomery’s portrayal as Jason Lee Scott who in this iteration is described as the fallen football star. Jason represents the typical teenage son who is of the alpha-male type who is at odds with his father figure be it his father Sam(David Denman) or his surrogate one in the form of Cranston’s Zordon. The back and forth dynamics felt real and you can feel for him at different instances. I particularly enjoyed his performance during the many interactions he had with Cyler’s Billy and how those interactions and friendship influenced his character development as a hero with those around him, especially with Cranston’s Zordon. More on that later. The other prominent relationship Jason has within the movie would be that of his time with Kimberly. We see a believable growth as these kindred spirits interact and a hint of romantic chemistry between both of these leads as both deal with respective redemption arcs. This does not pay itself off as the trailers would lead you to believe and perhaps it may have been the best as it could be more of a bigger focus for a movie featuring Tommy Oliver, the traditional love interest for Kimberly Hart as was seen in the classic TV show.
Both Ludi Lin’s version of Zack and Becky G’s version of Trini did not get that big of a spotlight compared to the others but were entertaining
nonetheless. Like the other Rangers, we see glimpses of the home lives and have story arcs. I enjoyed Zack’s bravado and his rebellious attitude and it was cool seeing him challenge Jason for a little while as it helped service new fan favourite Billy. It was also nice that the movie tried to make him not so one dimensional compared to the others. I also liked the way Trini was handled in the movie and I liked how the controversies about her character were played off as no big deal. Both of their characters among others really shone through best at the campfire scene where they in Breakfast Club fashion, developed their characters further.
Bryan Cranston’s Zordon was also of noteworthy importance. Like the Rangers he mentors, he himself has a fleshed out and interesting story arc something that wasn’t done in the TV series. From the first 5 minutes we are thrust into a sci-fi setting which some have compared to something you’d see in “Guardians of the Galaxy” almost. It also leaves us the instant impression of why Zordon acts a little more gruff than we are used to seeing him. It was also a real novelty to see Bryan Cranston as an alien conversing in a made up new language with Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa as well as the fact that he was also a Power Ranger too. When his ulterior motive of returning to life was revealed, it gave him a personality and like the others, another redemption story that’s very different from the others as he sacrificed his chance to return to life by saving Billy’s. This one results in a renewed faith in this group of teenagers all thanks to Jason. Zordon also gives Jason a line about leadership and responsibility in the movie, it makes me wonder if Jason himself one day would give those same lines.
Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of Rita Repulsa also generated some interest for me. Unlike her role in the television show, she has more to do in terms of doing the dirty work in fighting the Rangers. It was a real treat seeing the novelty that the big bad of a Power Rangers story do more than just sit around. Many criticisms I’ve read kept pointing out that this specific iteration of the character seems lifted from the Television Show. I did not find that to be the case at all. She packed enough craziness to differ herself from that. In fact, she more or less reminds me of a villain from the TV series “Gotham” which more or less packs the right amount of PG-13. It especially shone through during her scenes with Trini, the Yellow Ranger. I for one also cannot wait for what is next for the sequel. The movie leaves her floating up towards the moon after the climactic fight, hinting at something similar to her story in the TV show where her base was set up on the moon. It also nicely sets up Lord Zedd, the “Thanos” of the Power Rangers franchise where he could resurrect Rita from her frozen status and could wreck havoc on the Earth.
The visual effects and action placed in weren’t as bad as one would expect from something many were expecting to think would be another “Transformers clone”. Bill Hader’s Alpha 5 could have made itself into the Jar Jar Binks of the movie however he was just toned right in terms of both acting by Bill Hader and final rendering. When it came to the final climatic fight, it was a real treat seeing the Rangers fight in their suits against the Putties and was definitely something a die-hard fan has wanted to see for at least 20 years. Yes it was minimal but hopefully a sequel can show us more when it comes to the action. When the Zords were unleashed, I certainly thought the CGI looked better here than I expected and I appreciated the time given to each individual Zord in action, a shortcoming the TV series had. The Megazord’s introduction was a bit of a cop-out as we don’t really see much of the transformation in detail like we do on the TV show and the CGI that went into Goldar didn’t look as real as I would like. Hopefully we get something better in a sequel. It was rather funny to see the Megazord slap Rita into space and call back to another moment in the movie where Jason slaps a bully. The music that went with the movie was also good for the most part. One part that had me cheering although, it was pretty brief was the insertion of the classic “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song.
Overall, I had a good time with “Saban’s Power Rangers”. There were some really cool moments in the movie and this cast both supporting and main can work brilliantly together. The action and look of the movie was pretty cool to see for the fans and can have plenty of room for improvement for a sequel. The Easter eggs and mid-credits scene excited me enough where I will be eagerly anticipating a sequel which I hope would feature the iconic Green Ranger Tommy Oliver and plenty more action.
Review by Thanura Ravindra