Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G. Directed by Dean Israelite. Rated PG-13. 124 minutes. 2017.
There is a solid start, as well as a firm foundation in its characters, to Power Rangers. That is a surprise for this adaptation of the goofy television series that has just recently entered its 24th season and is primarily known for the over-the-top brand of karate-infused acrobatics employed by the titular superheroes to defeat various, fantastical villains and monsters. In fact, director Dean Israelite and screenwriter John Gatins barely seem interested in introducing the Rangers of the title until the point at which its climax begins, and that ends up being a good decision. I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because for a long time, it’s easy to rally behind these misfits-turned-heroes, thanks to genuine chemistry between the actors and a screenplay that considers how they must end up being Rangers.
The effect is a nice deviation from the beats of the plot that we expect, but it only lasts so long. Until that point, we are introduced to those eventual heroes. The first three meet in detention. Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the Red Ranger, is a disgraced football champion who got into trouble with the law after an incident involving a male bull that was confused for a female cow (Think about it) and an ensuing chase with police. Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the Pink Ranger, was involved with an unfortunate candid-photo incident that drove her to knock a tooth from her boyfriend’s mouth. Billy (RJ Cyler), the Blue Ranger, accidentally blew up his lunchbox. There is an amusing energy to the scenes between the heroes, who also ultimately include Zack (Ludi Lin), the Black Ranger, and Trini (Becky G.), the Yellow Ranger.
This is especially true after the driving narrative is established. The fivesome merge after an incident at a closed-off work site leads them to some glowing rocks and a collision with a train that unintentionally binds each of them to the color signified above. They meet Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Ranger who died burying the rocks in order to secure the destiny of five future warriors, and Alpha 5 (voice of Bill Hader), the remarkably annoying robot who has been waiting 65 million years for these warriors. It becomes clear that the warriors could technically have been any five people who stumbled across the glowing rocks, but whatever: They must save the universe from the clutches of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), a villainous villainess of villainy who is searching for some sort of other glowing rock thing that’s been hidden away in a Krispy Kreme location (seriously) and who has a leviathan made of gold as her main lackey.
The best scenes of the teenagers accepting their destinies as Rangers include the initial discoveries of their increased strength and speed, a training montage that might be a montage but seems more focused on the physical comedy of teenagers whose hormones are raging as much as their new powers, and a fireside chat in which we learn about some of the issues plaguing the kids (Zack’s mom is ill, Trini is currently questioning her sexuality, Billy is autistic, and Jason and Kimberly are suffering from the ennui of their dull existence in the town). The particulars of the plot held by Rita are hogwash whose conclusion has apparently been left to the inevitable sequel, and the build-up to the climactic action set piece, in which the characters don their suits for the first time, is so long that, when it comes, the visually ugly chaos that ensues is all but entirely anticlimactic. Power Rangers is intriguing enough to make one wonder where a series spent in the company of these characters might lead, but then it becomes a Power Rangers movie.