by Wes Womble
Since their introduction to the west in 1993, the Power Rangers have been pop culture icons, captivating and entertaining an entire generation. Hoping to rake in a profit from nostalgic twenty somethings, Lionsgate released Saban’s Power Rangers earlier this month. The film manages to create a fun theater experience, though no amount of rose tint can cover up the glaring errors sprinkled throughout the film.
Five characters, five stories, one movie
Most of the superhero teams seen coming to the silver screen are the product of many solo films that establish individual characters and motives. The Power Rangers are inherently a team from the outset however, so splitting them up is not an option. As a result, the film suffers from trying to introduce backstories for several characters at the same time. The movie starts in prehistoric times, with Zordon and his Ranger team giving up their Power Coins to defeat Rita Repulsa, who betrayed them to gain power by using Earth’s Zeo Crystal. Ultimately she is defeated, after Zordon orders a meteor strike on his location, sending Rita to the bottom of the sea, wiping out the dinosaurs, and hiding the Power Coins deep underground.
The film then jumps to a modern day small town – Angel Grove – where we meet Jason, a former football star removed from the team for a prank that went wrong. As part of his punishment he is sent to detention where he meets Billy and Kimberly. Billy and Jason go off to explore an abandoned gold mine where Billy sets off explosives, attracting the attention of Kimberly and two other students, Trini and Zach. The group of five – who just happened to be in the same place at the same time – discover the previously buried Power Coins. They find that the coins grant them special powers and abilities and return to the mine the next day, discovering what appears to be an alien spacecraft hidden underground. Here they learn that the coins chose them, and they will be the next Power Rangers. Alpha 5, Zordon’s assistant throughout the years, revives his master’s consciousness, which is doomed to remain stuck on the ship. Warning them of Rita’s return, Alpha 5 and Zordon train the new Rangers in hopes that they will be ready to stop her plans for destruction of the Earth.
The first two acts of the film aren’t really about the Rangers and their fight against Rita at all, rather about their struggles bonding as a group – if they don’t trust one another with their lives, they can’t “morph” and receive their Ranger armor. On paper, it sounds like character development, and it is, but it falls flat on its face in execution. Character bonding came at a breakneck pace and often in the form of montage, with a few scenes that cut between to cover personal secrets and fears within the span of a couple of minutes. Jason feels he can never live up to expectations; Kimberly is guilty about how she’s treated other people; Billy feels people never truly cared for him; Trini is a loner; and Zach feels very alone while taking care of his ill mother. The only character who felt believable was Rita, and only then because no attempt was made to elaborate on her personal story. She was evil for the sake of being evil, and although it was simple, it worked. The Power Rangers in the past never needed complex stories and interactions to entertain, and it still holds true today.
Head scratching character motives
Although the execution was poor, the ground work is still there for a future film in the franchise to expand upon.
In a film where a superhero team consists of five teenagers from a small town, conflict and a decent amount of angst is to be expected. But it honestly seems as if the writing team consisted of adults who skipped that period of their lives or spent it all watching T.V. shows about what Nickelodeon thought high school was like. All the Rangers struggle with something, and it is supposed to create a way for the audience to bond with them, but none of their problems and internal conflicts felt real.
Jason feels as though every day is decided before he wakes and wants to lead his own life, but seemingly decides this after throwing away the life of a football star which he created for himself. Kimberly is guilty about how she’s treated others in the past, but ultimately, her actions barely affected the victim at all. Billy has been bullied all his life for his mental condition, and but this is resolved within the first fifteen minutes of the film and is never really mentioned again. Trini is your classic character who moves to a new school every year and can’t seem to make any friends. However, this is mainly due to the fact that she intentionally treats others coldly, making her struggle a self-made issue. Zach has the most believable story, one where he feels a great need to take care of his dying mother and isolates himself because of it. But because his situation is so rare, it still feels fabricated and fake, so ultimately very few can relate to his character.
None of the characters relate to one another at the start of the film, and to make matters worse, none of them really work through their problems. The script simply has a scene where each of them “open up,” attempting to build group cohesion. But the entire sequence is awkwardly directed, not to mention downright unbelievable. Few people in the real world go around telling their darkest secrets and fears to strangers they met a week and half before. Although the execution was poor, the ground work is still there for a future film in the franchise to expand upon.
Nostalgic waves in a sea of mistakes
One of the biggest draws for the film is the capitalization of a generation’s memories – who doesn’t want to feel like a kid again? Approached with loving intentions, the execution unfortunately feels more like a slap in the face than a pat on the back. The film is wrought by continuity errors and a script so predictable, some characters seemed to break the fourth wall and poke fun at it. Tying it all together are poorly directed action sequences, and without spoiling much, Krispy Kreme must have taken a second mortgage on all their stores to afford the amount of screen time their products received.
The number of continuity errors throughout the film approaches an embarrassing number. One stood out though, a note passed among the group in detention, reading “We should start a band!” It serves to humanize and bond the team during a glaringly obvious “all is lost” moment, however one of them threw it away toward the start of the film, only to have it end up back in their pocket. Some attempts at comic relief in the film get a chuckle, but most leave the audience quietly shuffling in their seats, waiting for the next scene to begin. Some of these jokes were followed with dimly lit, smoky fight scenes, with most hits accented by a bass drop that would sound erotic to most of the Transformers.
While the movie was poorly constructed, there were a few bright spots that create a fun viewing experience. Elizabeth Banks’ performance as Rita Repulsa helped carry the first two acts, delivering ridiculous lines with such power and emphasis, she breathes an intimidating amount of life into a relatively flat character. The CGI characters and creations were also very well done, brilliantly animated so that they flowed seamlessly into the world around them. And many will find themselves grinning ear to ear when hearing the original theme play in the background of all five Zords rushing into the fray.
The Power Rangers were, are, and will remain pop culture icons throughout time. Although Saban’s Power Rangers didn’t deliver ground breaking performances or innovative and original script writing, it did capture some of the magic that was created from the series’ inception. That magic can’t erase the errors within the film, but it still takes the viewer back to their childhood, something most franchises can only dream of.
All Images From: IMDb
Ryan is a Music Media Production major who wrote the first ever Byte music review and has been involved with nearly every other section at some point. He is also an event planner at Village Green Records and the primary booking coordinator for the store’s outdoor concerts.
Saban’s Power Rangers is overflowing with errors, leaving much to be desired. However, it still captures some of the original charm and campy tone of the original series, creating an enjoyable viewing experience.