There’s a lot of talking points for this movie, all of which I hope to one day get to in a video discussion with Reed. Why, in a movie whose main characters each represent a different race, is the white Zac Efron look-alike still the leader? (We know why). Why is the Internet blowing up about how we finally have the first ever openly gay superhero in Hollywood, but in the context of the movie it’s barely mentioned once and then never again? It’s cool that they made the designated colors of each Power Ranger not racist this time around, but is it too obvious that that’s what they were going for? How do we feel about Bryan Cranston’s new Zordon?
Let’s talk, for now, about what it’s meant in our generation for characters to have ‘attitude.’ I present to the jury: Sonic the Hedgehog.
There are a few things that made Sonic resonate with the Bart Simpsons of the ‘90s and aughts. If you’ll notice, Sonic is always holding some fingers up. Very cool. He basically made peace signs ironic and spit on the entire hippy generation in the process. Sonic’s trademark red shoes were based partly on a pair of Michael Jackson’s boots, and according to Wikipedia, his personality was inspired by Bill Clinton’s “Get it done” attitude.
Attitude. There’s that word again. Can we just boil it down to quippy one liners and the need to be a hero? Maybe add a dose of disrespect towards authority and you have every cartoon character I remotely admired as a kid. Here’s Sonic taking the reigns from the President and giving Robotnik the finger.
And what about Spyro the Dragon? You’ll notice a familiar side-of-the-mouth smirk and a single eyebrow lower than the others. Now that’s attitude. And again, for the first few games he was a wisecracking kid who took the world’s responsibilities unto him. Maybe all video game characters of the times were just semi-responsible Bart Simpsons.
But times have changed, and both Sonic and Spyro have turned into goody-two-shoes boy scouts, and characters I never would have resonated with, being a Bart Simpson clone myself. This brings us to our long-awaited reboot of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Anyone going into this movie expecting times not to have changed is (obviously) going to be met with disappointment. Attitude doesn’t mean the same corny can-do thing that it used to anymore, and the new iteration of the Power Rangers has suffered the consequences of that phenomenon. The world no longer has the bright eyes to just hand out kool kids immediately willing to save the world to us on a platter and expect us to eat it up. To appeal to everyone, we need more realism, more flash, and less camp, and in line with these changes in sensibility, ‘Mighty Morphin’ has been dropped from the title. But is suffered really the right word? Some people will think so, but they’re not right.
To get down to why that’s not a bad thing, we should look at what the original rangers were.
Where are the shit-eating grins? Where are the finger-guns? It pains me to say this, but outside of their costumes, Zordon’s team of teenagers with attitudes didn’t have any attitude at all! When you take off the rose tinted glasses they were a group made up entirely of the boy scouts that Sonic and Spyro have become, except with some very minor, mostly offensive “defining” characteristics. In the suits, they had the Japanese footage to match corny lines to; but the crux of the show, the characters behind the masks, were almost nothing.
This is where I have to affirm my love of the original Power Rangers so that this review doesn’t lose you. Nothing will replace the first movie in my heart and Ivan Ooze is one of the best villains of all time. I have several Power Rangers shirts, and Lord Zedd is basically the template with which to base every super villain off of. Now without further ado, Saban’s Power Rangers (2017) opens on a war and some pointless slow-mo, giving hints at a cool backstory that the franchise has missed out on until now. We won’t get much into that.
In the real post-cold open opening scene, we’re given Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) pranking school by releasing a bull in the locker rooms, (see: disrespect towards authority.) A couple of bull masturbation jokes are tossed around, and it turns out our new definition of attitude essentially means being in 21 Jump Street (2012). In detention, we get into the real Degrassi: The Next Generation meets The Breakfast Club (1985) tone of the movie, and start meeting the rest of the gang who, refreshingly, is boiled down to much more interesting characteristics. Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) is a self-hating ex-cheerleader; Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) is black, autistic, and dadless; Zack (no last name ?) (Ludi Lin) is a Chinese basket case who loves his mom; and Trini (again) (Becky G) is misanthropic and – well – gay, I guess. We don’t get to learn much else about her, (see: Progress ????). I mean, it’s better than when David Yost got harassed off the original show…
What’s cool about all these characters is how defined they are, and it does it better than most ensemble superhero movies out today, or honestly, probably all of them. And by highlighting such big, human traits in the melodramatic context of teen years, we can easily understand the plight of all five individuals in the context of a single movie, so we’re not left being bogged down by four origin stories, a team-up movie, another round of four separate movies, another team-up movie, a round of more individual ones plus origin stories for more new superheroes, another team-up, hoo boy I’m dizzy.
We have it all right here! One ensemble movie, one origin story, and it’s in no small part due to representation. The differences between these characters are clear, and they’re interesting, and heck yeah baby, they have attitude. The whole movie has attitude, honestly! The fan service – they give it to you all at once like it’s a joke. The movie itself wears a shit-eating grin when it gives you its one brief, overly choreographed fight scene and precious select one-liners. Even Zordon gives everybody some attitude! He’s like kind of a jerk in this, and I like it! What I guess I’m excited about is that these are characters I would have looked up to as a kid.
This movie isn’t without its problems. I think I’ve already highlighted a few of them. They take a long time to morph into their suits, and after a certain point the story feels a bit rushed, but it’s an overall fun time. It’s a lot of fun, actually. There are good musical score callbacks to the original, (I’m pretty sure they used the same melody for Rita Repulsa’s theme?) and a lot of the fighting moves are ripped directly from the original series, and the new villain designs are good though the ranger’s gloves are weird, and the ‘Stand By Me’ scene feels a lot like the ‘Heroes’ scene in Stranger Things, and the Krispy Kreme jokes feel like they could’ve been in Good Burger (1997) and it’s just rife with ‘00s teen drama, probably done a lot better than Riverdale, though I guess I wouldn’t know.
I dunno, I don’t want to give all that much away. Elizabeth Banks really sells it as a bad guy though, and Bill Hader gives a funny and not annoying twist on Alpha 5. Look, I was really dreading this movie for a long time and I was really pleasantly surprised. Do I have to start putting my trust in – (barf) – Hollywood franchise movies? I guess just see the movie and decide for yourself.