So, I went to see Power Rangers on Thursday night.
So, how was it? Let me say something real quick first.
The first Power Rangers movie was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, which came out in 1995 when the show as in its second season. (The show is currently in its 24th season.) I love MMPR:TM. I loved it then (it’s actually what got me into Power Rangers), and I love it now. I actually like the armor of MMPR:TM better than the armor of this movie, even though I’ll admit this movie’s Power Ranger armor is pretty sweet. (My objection is solely the helmets – they don’t look enough like their animals.) But, my point is this – MMPR:TM was a movie for the fans.
Power Rangers is a movie for anybody who likes superheroes.
I say that seriously. Yes, it has a little cheese, but not like what you would expect when you hear Power Rangers. I genuinely believe that if you like superhero films, you’ll like Power Rangers.
I’m not going to go too much into the depth of the plot in this review, but there are a few things I want to talk about. There will be spoilers ahead, so bail out now if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Firstly, I have always been a fan of the Blue Ranger. Billy was the Ranger that spoke to me from the original Power Rangers. This is original Billy, played by David Yost.
The new Billy Cranston is played by RJ Cyler.
I could care less that the new Billy is black. No one who is a Power Rangers fan cares about the race of the actors. Power Rangers is known for its diversity.
I will admit that I was a little nervous about RJ Cyler playing Billy, though. I felt he would be a better Jason or Zack, for this reason. In today’s world of celebrity social media, we often get to see actors in their daily lives, and it feels at times that we get to know them. RJ Cyler felt too cool to play Billy. Billy is a nerd; Billy is a geek. He’s a good guy, but he’s a little bit off. I had never seen RJ Cyler act in anything, so I was skeptical that he could bring the nerdiness of Billy to the character in the same way that David Yost did.
Well, I am happy to say this. RJ Cyler IS Billy. His Billy is a little different than Yost’s Billy, but I feel confident in saying that Billy is the character that is the most similar from the show to the movie.
RJ Cyler is, in my admittedly biased opinion as a fan of the Blue Ranger, the best Ranger actor in this film. Billy is the heart of this film, and RJ Cyler did an amazing job bringing him to life.
There has also been some chatter online about Power Rangers introducing an LGBT character and a character on the spectrum. Some people feel like this is lip service that Power Rangers is paying. I disagree. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, kiddie show that it was, was all about diversity. No matter what you looked like as a kid, at some point, there was a Power Ranger that looked like you.
Well, Billy Cranston was our character on the spectrum, and I’ll readily admit that I am not an expert on autism. But with Billy, it fit. Perfectly. It didn’t feel tacked on; it didn’t feel forced in. It felt like his character, and I know a lot of that is thanks to Cyler’s acting ability. I’ll get to the LGBT issue in just a moment.
Billy was the heart of the team. In this new movie, the Rangers can’t morph until they have learned to work as a team. Billy is the first to morph, accidentally at that, when he stops Zack and Jason from fighting. In his attempt to protect friendships, he has become part of the team. His friendship with Jason, forged early in the film, is amazing. I know of no other way to say it, as silly as this sounds, but it warmed my heart to see Billy so protective of his friendship, relationship, and trust with Jason.
Now, on to Trini. One thing to note – Trini was Trini Kwan in the original series, played by the late Thuy Trang.
In the series, Trini was responsible, level headed, and basically a model citizen. Oh, and she was also heterosexual.
The new Trini (last name omitted, for… reasons) is played by Becky G. So yeah, it wouldn’t make sense for a Latina to have a Vietnamese last name, I suppose. (For what it’s worth, I think they could have solved this by having her be adopted, but it’s not a big deal.) It’s just that Trini’s lack of a last name definitely stood out when the other four Rangers all had their original last names. Granted, Cranston wasn’t used in the show ever, but it’s still canonical, and I’m getting off track now. Back to Trini.
This Trini is reckless, a bit of a wild child, and literally nothing like the old Trini. That’s okay; this version of Power Rangers is clearly supposed to be different. A lot of the characters (mostly Zack and Trini) are wildly different from the originals.
And she may be bisexual or lesbian. The director has said that was his intention, and it’s a pretty mellow example, but hey, it’s a start, right? While the Rangers are trying to bond as friends, sitting around a campfire, Trini mentions she’s having problems, Zack asks if it is boyfriend problems, and then follows up with, “Girlfriend problems?” And she alludes with her answer that she isn’t who her parents want her to be. Again, it’s not like Trini was crushing on Kimberly (something I am actually grateful did not happen), but if you wanted to perceive her as gay or straight, the film is not that clear. Maybe things will be different in a future film.
Zack is a wildly different Zack. I actually feel like Zack got the shortest end of the character development stick in this film. Jason and Kimberly (save for a little bit of actual teenage attitude) are not that wildly different from the original Jason and Kimberly. Zack is such a different character, he and the original Zack Taylor share only a name. I didn’t feel a ton of connection with Zack’s character, although he does have a conversation with the gang about his relationship with his dying mother, which was definitely not in the show, and that gave him some real development.
Alpha Five was very different from the show Alpha Five, but he was fun. Bill Hader did a great job with him.
Bryan Cranston as Zordon… Man, that was #notmyZordon at first, but he grew on me. Zordon on the show was a wise, kindly, father figure. This Zordon was straight up a jerk. He was looking at the bigger picture, of course, in trying to save the world, but he also was using the Rangers for his own needs so that he could come back to life. Don’t worry; Zordon doesn’t stay a jerk, but he sure started out as one.
What on Earth can I possibly say about Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa? She was amazing. She was scary. She was just fun. And creepy. And again, I go back to scary. This movie is rated PG-13 for a reason, and while some of it is the Rangers swearing a little (nothing worse than PG), I think most of it is Rita. She straight up kills people. Jason attends the funeral for one of her victims at one point. She attacks Trini in her room at night in a scene that I can see being little kid nightmare fuel.
There were some Easter Eggs for fans.
First of all, the original Power Ranger score from the 1995 movie is used to great effect when the Zords come out as a team for the first time. I got goosebumps. I wanted to stand up and cheer. Seriously, as a fanboy, it was perfect.
There is a reference to two Power Rangers series, Lightspeed Rescue and Dino Thunder, when Jason’s dad mentions being between Mariner’s Bay and Reefside while driving.
The original Tommy and Kimberly have a cameo at the end. They’re two in the crowd taking photos of the MegaZord with their cameras after the big fight. I would have liked to see all of the original gang, including Karan Ashley (who played Aisha, Trini’s replacement) as the fill-in for Thuy Trang. But alas, they didn’t ask me. Or pretty much anyone else in the fandom who would have said the same thing.
Trini delivered the final impact with the MegaZord that defeated Rita. In MMPR:TM, Yellow Ranger Aisha delivered the final… ugh, knee to the groin with the MegaZord that defeated Ivan Ooze.
So, what did I not like?
I wish the Rangers helmets were more like the original. I’m not sure that I liked that the Rangers’ helmets were open-faced during the Zord Battles. I didn’t like that the MastodonZord did not look like a Mastodon. It looked like if a machine gun, a spider, and a tank had a weird baby. The other Zords were fine; just that one. I didn’t like that there wasn’t a shared cockpit for the MegaZord. I think that one may be my biggest dislike of all. The whole movie is about teamwork; let us see them working as a team in the same cockpit rather than communicating via radio.
What did I like? Everything else.
Oh, and one more nice little Easter Egg, when Trini morphs for the first time, she is wearing a shirt with the year 1973 on it, the year that Thuy Trang was born. Coincidence? I really don’t think it is.
There’s a mid-credits scene, but no ending credits scene. The mid-credits scene is a nice teaser for the second film.
I really hope this does well enough to earn a second film. Saban has said he has a planned six film arc. Yes, please.