Saturday, April 1, 2017

Power Rangers

3/4

Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, and the voice of Bill Hader

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Violence, Action and Destruction, Language, and for Some Crude Humor

Nostalgia is certainly big money these days.  Every non-superhero movie is based on a childhood favorite of some kind, from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (the less said about those movies, the better) to live action updates of Disney animated classics.  "Power Rangers," based on the hit kids show from the early 90's, is the latest to get an update.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of the Power Rangers.  I was never all that in to TV as a kid (I'm still not, actually).  So forgive me if I don't geek out and instead review the movie on its own terms.  I don't know how fans of the TV show will react, but I liked it.

Fallen sports stud Jason (Montgomery), ex-Queen Bee Kimberly (Scott), nerdy Billy (Cyler), truant Zack (Lin) and new girl Trini (Becky G) go to the same school, but they don't know each other.  That is, until one night when they all end up at an abandoned quarry and make a shocking discovery.  A mysterious rock is embedded in the stone, and inside it are five different colored orbs.  The quintet soon finds out that they are now Power Rangers, extraterrestrial heroes who must team up to defend the planet.  There's a very real threat, in the form of Rita Repulsa (Banks), an ex-Ranger who turned to the dark side.  If she gets enough gold to awaken her henchman, it's game over for humanity.  Only the Rangers stand in her way.

Okay, it's not Shakespeare.  But I'm going to be lenient because it does a lot of things right.  Things that a lot of modern day blockbusters skip over.  For one thing, director Dean Israelite allows the characters to breathe.  I'm not talking about deep characterizations here, but they all have more personality than your usual summer action movie protagonists, who are usually just props for the plot.  That they are brought to life with solid performances is all the better.  Again, not Oscar material, but better than, say, "Twilight."

A reboot has to find the correct balance between fan service and originality, and while Israelite doesn't find it, it does a better job than other movies these days.  Actually, any attempt to honor the source material falls flat.  The "Power Rangers" theme song as a battle cry?  A villain named Rita Repulsa (played with far too much scenery-chewing by Elizabeth Banks)?  In a movie that's played straight, such campiness sticks out like a sore thumb.

There are other problems too, such as a constantly moving camera and frantic cutting, and far too much shaky cam.  But all in all, I rather enjoyed myself.  Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are.

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