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“Power Rangers” Review

So, there’s a pet-peeve I often have in adaptations: creative compromise by a studio. What I mean by this, is when a studio actually looks forward to recreating a franchise to live-action and having a new IP, but they take so many cavalier changes, that you’re confused as to why they wanted it so badly. We’ve seen this for years in the X-Men movies(how many of your favorite X-Men’s storylines have been randomly distorted or taken away from them?). Or when your favorite superhero won’t wear a costume or the colors you like because they’re “too goofy/don’t see it as possible to pull off”. Or there are possibly entire character background changes for no other reason to make them “slightly edgier/realistic”(I’m looking at you, Man of Steel). Sometimes it works for properties you trust (Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Guardians of the Galaxy do not resemble their original comic book team which they are based in personality or theme) and you’re cool with it. It’s rare, but possible.

So, when I say that Power Rangers’ franchise needed every creative overhaul possible to succeed as well as this movie has, you know I’m not exaggerating when I say that I want to applaud every writer on this movie for somehow making it work.

So, as you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of the Power Rangers franchise. It’s not the fact that it’s a cheesy or unbelievable(accepting/loving those things are actually part of what makes us Fanbros). It’s because there’s no substance there in it’s story or logic. If the plot of the series was a coat hanger, it would immediately break the moment you thought about putting a too-heavy-hat on it. But, the work and thematic changes in this are strong enough for you to care about every hero individually and just want them to succeed as person. This elevates the scenes when they are powered in armor with their faces covered. You don’t need to see them in combat, because you’re now attached to them.

As far as changes goes, the theme of the movie immediately hits when you see a dark opening filled with death, loss, sexual jokes, innovative camerawork and a near-death experience for a young character. It’s obvious this is trying to set the “this-is-not-your-father’s” tone and somewhat succeeds. But, from there, we essentially get an updated version of Chronicle(2012) for the next 90 minutes as the writers are genuinely pulling off ballet to flesh out characters who have never had a microscope placed on their paper-thin stories in the past. It immediately removes these characters from their previous tropes and makes them all outsiders who aren’t sure how to grow up. You won’t get a plot about them winning the karate tournament to save the community center, because these are probably the kids who accidentally blew it up.

The team breaks down to Jason, Kimberly, Zach, Trini… and of course, Billy. I say this, because each of the other four characters are similar in having A) family issues B) outsider ostracism and C) the fear and need to have someone they need to care about. But, there’s Billy who has all of these things and a bit more that make him stand out as the most likable, useful and heart of the team/movie. Where the rest are reluctant, his character is obvious very happy to be in a Power Rangers movie. His reactions to gaining powers are those of a nerd and are made of endless joy. He is always the first to test their dangerous situations and scenarios. He’s always thinking ahead in the story and his subplot is the only one that pushes the entire plot forward. And to top it off, this is the best superhero since Drax to have either Asperger’s/high-functioning autism, because it only adds to how strong of a character he is. His journey steals the movie and walks away with it.

Meanwhile, the roles of Zordon(Bryan Cranston), Alpha 5(Bill Hader) and Rita Repulsa(Elizabeth Banks) are all adult characters that are angry, aggressive and feel like they’ve been experiencing a different story than the light-hearted one the main heroes seem to be experiencing. Whenever it seems to dip too deeply into teen drama, something from one of these characters happens to remind them(and the audience) that this is an adult war and death is a possibility. Making Rita a more intimate, on-the-ground villain is actually a smart move by increasing tension and showing that she’s a threat who rarely holds back unless she has a reason to. Banks is chewing on scenery and loving it.

As for the suits and Zords themselves(which are not heavily in the movie), they suffice as you would expect CGI heavy action scenes would in 2017. The alien design makes sense in context and the strange appendages and bodies of the mechanical dinosaurs are explained and add character. A major issue of the original series is that you essentially had the same plot every episode: 1) Monster Attacks 2) Fight puddies 3) Transform 4) Monster grows and they require Zords 5) Zords combine and defeat the monster. So, the fact that they add so much character personality to give these moments weight is necessary and I’m personally impressed.

While the movie may have it’s problems, this is genuinely a fun thrill-ride made for the Transformers audience that’s never had a solid story in a movie. It’s a strong entry and opens the door for a lot. While it takes it’s time getting to where it needs to be, remember that this is a franchise that absolutely needed it.

Stay for the mid-credits stinger.

Grade: B+

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