In the first scene of Power Rangers, we watch Bryan Cranston as Zordon, in full alien makeup, crawling through some sort of hellscape as a world disintegrates around him. Elizabeth Banks then shows up as the evil Rita Repulsa. The two trade some scene-chewing barbs before a meteor slams into both of them, presumably killing them. While watching, I remember thinking, I might like this. In the next scene, set in the present, a character jerks off a bull. (To be fair, he thought it was a cow.)
Power Rangers has one of the most zig-zagged tones of any big budget studio film I’ve seen in a long time. It’s jarring at times how often it goes back and forth between “gritty” and “silly.” Here’s an example: There’s a scene in which Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), a.k.a. “the Pink Ranger,” admits that she distributed revenge porn to humiliate a classmate, and now she feels she’s an awful person. Kimberly even goes on to describe in detail how she was forced to sit in a room with the victim’s father and watch this man look at this explicit photo of his own daughter. Not long after this, there’s campy dialogue about “stopping Rita Repulsa from getting to the Krispy Kreme.”
(That’s another thing: The most important location in this movie is a Krispy Kreme. And this isn’t a situation where it had to be a business, so why not just use a real company and make some money off of it in the process. The huge MacGuffin in the movie is at a Krispy Kreme. There’s even a scene in which Rita Replusa stops to eat a Krispy Kreme donut and we, as the audience, just watch her eat it. Corporate product placement doesn’t bother me that much, but at least try to incorporate it into the story.)
We don’t get to see the Power Rangers actually as the Power Rangers wearing their armor until 92 minutes into this movie. (Which probably leads you to your next question, so I will go ahead and answer it: Power Rangers is 124 minutes long, so strap in.) Zordon left stones behind to seek out worthy humans to be the next team of Power Rangers – which all wind up being five teenagers who all happen to be at the same abandoned gold mine at the same time.
There’s the most popular boy in school, former football star Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery, who seems to be doing his finest Chris Pine-as-Captain Kirk impression the whole movie; honestly, I just want to refer to him Chris Fine) who was suspended from the team after that whole “jerking off a bull” incident. And then there’s the aforementioned revenge pornographer, Kimberly. There’s also super nerd, Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), and super bro, Zack (Ludi Lin), who responds “only in the shower” when asked if he’s ever morphed before. And, yes, that would make the second masturbation joke of the movie.
Rounding out the team is Trini (Becky G), who is getting some attention for being a gay Power Ranger. Personally, I found this scene frustrating because it was noncommittal and it reminded me a lot of what we saw in Beauty and the Beast with LeFou. Trini is basically asked point blank if she’s gay, and her answer is she doesn’t like labels. Which, in real life, fine. But in the movie studio world, this is the “have cake and eat it, too” way out. The movie will get accolades for having a gay character, but if some small movie theater in Alabama wants to ban the Power Rangers movie – and I’m sure that’s coming – then the studio can say, “Well, she never said one way or another.” It’s 2017 and huge studio movies still seem to want to dance around this subject and it’s frustrating.
We see the team jump a lot. Oh, there’s a lot of jumping as they test out their newfound powers. Zordon, who now lives inside a spaceship’s computer, trains the team and a robot (who might as well be named C-3PExposition) explains to the team everything that has happened up to this point. After the team finally comes together – after an hour and a half! – the last half-hour is a CGI spectacle of Power Rangers, dinosaur machines, giant gold villains, and Elizabeth Banks eating a donut. (For her part, Elizabeth Banks seems to be the only actor who knows exactly what kind of movie she’s in.) Though, even this stuff felt a little too much like the battle in Thor with Loki and the Destroyer. (Rita even kind of dresses like Loki.)
Power Rangers will one moment have a scene where a character is, in the most serious tone, talking about the horrors of revenge porn, to a movie that makes masturbation jokes, to then fighting a donut-eating character named Rita Repulsa. This movie should be campy fun – and parts certainly are – but it too often gets bogged down in its own self-seriousness that the camp just comes off as startling. There’s even a scene in which the original Power Rangers theme song plays and it just feels so out of place in a movie that also has a character who feels she destroyed people’s lives because she sent revenge porn.
At my screening, there was a mother with three children. (I assume at least one was her child, the other two might have been friends. I have no idea. The point is there were three children.) And they were sooooo excited to see Power Rangers. And I can imagine after the movie the kids saying, “I loved when Megazord battled Goldar!” Though I do wonder what that poor woman was thinking during the revenge porn scene. I suspect after the movie she just kept steering the conversation back to Megazord.
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