I'm sure the motion picture industry made a grip off of folks who were kids during the 1990's, as adaptations of Disney's Beauty & The Beast (check out my review here) and Saban's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers were released in American theaters within a week of each other. Be still my inner child's heart! Beast was satisfying enough, but the Dean Israelite-directed Power Rangers was so underwhelming and un-rangery that it was dispiriting (screenplay by John Gatnis).
The intriguing attempt to add a little grit and make the film "melodramatic-teen-series meets action-fantasy" would have worked, had there been a better combination of the two. It would be hard to elaborate on this without a run-down, so here it goes:
Instead of upstanding citizens who are active in the Angel Grove community and make good grades, Gatnis' troupe are literally "teenagers with attitude." Eventual captain and red ranger Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is bent on blowing his football/college future away by being a delinquent. Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) is a mean-girl frienemy who distributed a sensitive photo of a schoolmate. Zach Taylor (Ludi Lin) is an adrenaline junkie that skips school (with good reason, we find out). Trini Kwan (singer Becky G) is a possible lesbian who clashes with her parents, while Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) is possibly autistic and frequently finds himself in trouble since his father's death. The quintet's lives collide when they dodge police for being on restricted land and survive a car accident after jumping train tracks (as misfits would do, of course). They manage to defy death because of mystic power coins they find embedded in a rock wall. They awake with superhuman strength, and upon further investigation, discover the underground lair of former ranger Zordon (Bryan Crantson) and his robot assistant Alpha (Bill Hader). It's explained to them that finding the coins after a gazillon years means they're "the chosen ones" and they must defeat the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), who's resurfaced and wants to attain the universe-yielding Zeo-crystal. She's gone on a killing spree while trying to find and ingest gold to regain full strength. In the hub of the film, we watch the rangers squabble, have a share circle, train and struggle to morph. In this story, morphing into armor is an intrinsic act; they have to "feel" it and be in unison. Zordon, who was unimpressed with them on sight, angrily loses his patience. He lets it slip that he wanted the morphing grid open so he can return to his bodily form (he's in a preserving screen) and handle Rita himself. He and Jason subsequently have a face-off. Rita plays on Trini's outcast insecurities to get her to lure the others into a trap, but Trini chooses to be loyal. Somehow, Trini's family never wakes up during the massive beat-down that ensued, but I digress. The crew decides to approach Rita without Zordon's help. Rita kills Billy, which finally unites them and opens the grid. Zordon sacrifices his chance to reform to resurrect Billy. They morph and fight putties on the ground until Rita unleashes Goldar, who's an extension of her this go 'round. The rangers get in their zords (i.e. battle machines), take down Goldar and kick Rita into the universe, freezing her. Zordon tells them to resume their lives normally and conceal their identities. When the kiddos get back to high school detention, someone is M.I.A.: a new trouble-maker student named Tommy Oliver. The end.
Don't let the lengthy recap fool you into thinking this movie was eventful. The pacing was muggy, stifling and sluggish (particularly in the last hour), making it that much more aggravating the franchise was treated like a sub-plot in its own film. The group spent way too much time not being rangers and many quintessential components were underplayed. For instance, there were minimal martial arts and no teleporting. The significance of the individual and collective function of each color, weapon and dinosaur (of which the uniforms and zords are fashioned after) weren't fully explained. The morph was just delayed, no gratification. It was so anti-climatic. As the teens transform, you get close-ups of their skin crystallizing into armor (no panned body shots), concluding with the red ranger's closed fist. The next thing you know, they're strutting down the walkway. It was like, "Huh? That was it? The whole time, and that's all we get?" In his review for TooFab.com, original blue ranger David Yost wrote of the sequence: "When we said 'It's morphin' time,' you knew sh*t was about to get real... feels a bit lackadaisical and is not the true transformational moment it should be." Amen, brother. Further, all of the action was crammed into maybe the last 20 minutes of the movie, and it was constipated. There were no edge-of-your-seat or "Wow, that totally kicked butt!" moments. Even the archetypal "Will they survive?" scene that's in all superhero flicks falls flat. When Goldar gradually pushes the zord-driving rangers into a fire pit, they're so noble and calm about it. It's as if they're not about to die and all of existence won't suffer at the hands of Rita afterward. The clip does nothing to invoke fear or concern from the audience. Also failing to arouse fear are Goldar and Rita (despite Banks' hearty performance), which brings me to character structure and other plot points that were forfeited in favor of several minutes of annoying teenage angst.