Film, Media

Anyway, I Loved the Power Rangers Reboot

I’ve been trying to put into words why I liked Power Rangers so much, and why I’d consider it possibly my favorite superhero movie in a very stacked field of good superhero movies (though grain of salt on my opinions, I like Zach Snyder’s movies) and I think what it comes down to is that it’s a reboot that doesn’t feel totally unnecessary, by virtue of actually updating the source material. Power Rangers has always had racial diversity,  and has put girls in action roles alongside boys (though there’s only been one girl Red Ranger, IIRC), but this felt like a movie that should come out in 2017. For an old fan like me it was a lovely progression.

I was a big Power Rangers fan as a kid. I watched Mighty Morphin’ through Space as they aired, collected toys and gear, had posters and could quote episodes, then sort of followed along via the internet for a few years before getting back into watching regularly for DinoThunder many years later. I never got into the Super Sentai stuff, but I watched some here and there. I went to a few Power Rangers panels over the years at some general nerd cons, and I’ve always had a love in my heart for the idea of superteens (with attitude!) saving the world.

After all, my favorite comics in the 90s were Young Justice and Generation X. I was a teen, and my triumvirate of cool teen super hero teams was complete with the Power Rangers.

My favorite Ranger was Billy, until Tommy showed up,  and Tommy was just The Cool Sensitive Guy I Wanted to Be, but then there was Adam, the dorky soccer player, who was my favorite until Kim left and Kat became the Pink Ranger (tbh I mostly wanted to date Kat, and by that point I was at the age where that was A Thing). That’s why I stuck with it until Space, because there was a through-line of characters I knew and loved. It felt like a natural progression, like growing up.

Anyway, I was a little wary of the reboot. I’m a little wary of reboots in general, because they keep happening and they keep being rehashes with new casts (or live action instead of animation, or whatever twist they want to put on it). In fact, the trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming aired before Power Rangers and my sister leaned over to me and said “boring, seen it 50 times.”

I’d been spoiled about Trini being queer and Billy being autistic along with everyone else before the movie premiered, but even before that I was excited that there was a major movie super team with only one white person on it. The MCU has been around for 14 movies, and they still haven’t done what Power Rangers did in one. But, you know, it doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t click, or if the CGI sucks, or if it’s just a boring rehash of something that’s been done fifty times before.

Well, the team clicked! The whole movie clicked, in fact.  It was a genuinely enjoyable two-hour origin story of a team of superheroes, who happen to be a really diverse group of kids. Bryan Cranston was kind of great as Zordon, and by the second minute of seeing him I was over how weird Alpha looked. And Rita, was. Well, how do you top OG Rita? Idk. But Elizabeth Banks was enjoyable enough, and a good and creepy villain. The callbacks weren’t overwhelming, but were really fun for those of us who are fans. The plot was fine, but it was really all about getting this group of kids together.

It wasn’t perfect. I didn’t really love Israelite’s direction (too much spinny-cam, too much slow-mo, too many over-the-shoulder shaky cam shots). The Megazord scene felt weird and incongruous. And I had some trouble with Kim’s story (more in a sec). I wish Trini’s thing hadn’t been spoiled, because what would have been a nice and genuine reveal in the movie felt like yet another minor moment that was overblown by press (particularly compared to how important Billy’s autism was to both his character and the plot).  But those are relatively minor issues in a two-hour film.

Power Rangers  is fun to watch. It’s a good entry into the superhero genre, which means it’s not just for fans like me. It follows the standard hero journey/origin story that we see all over the place these days, but it’s really anchored by the genuinely good chemistry of its team of superheroes. I found myself surprised at the two hour runtime, because it seemed to sort of breeze by.There was joy here, which has been missing from a lot of superhero movies lately (sorry, Civil War was as depressing as Batman v Superman, I don’t care how many times Peter quipped), and wasn’t drenched in darkness or devoid of diversity.  Honestly, these kids are just fun to watch, both individually and with each other, and if there are really going to be five sequels (oof) they’ve got a good team anchoring the action.

And now some spoilers/hopes for the sequel.

Billy really stole the show, and was clearly the heart of the team, and that was enjoyable to watch. Zack was… perfect; the exact right kind of reckless that I was hoping for from his character, backed by melancholy and fear and defiance. Trini is smol and angry and I love her, Jason was actually kind of a good guy who wasn’t a hypermasculine jerk, and Kim is very clearly the leader of the team.

Speaking of Kim, it’s Kim who I am somehow the most interested in. She seems like the most complicated character, possibly because her backstory is the least pleasant. She’s in detention because she did a horrible thing to another teen girl, and even though she steps up as a Power Ranger, I hope the sequel spends more time redeeming her. Being a teenager isn’t easy, and I agree that doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person, but what she did was very very bad. And yet really seemed like the end of the movie wanted me to cheer when she dropped some rubble on one of her victim’s car, which… ew. That girl is not nearly comparable to the bully who picks on Billy throughout the movie.

Last but not least, Kim has really good and palpable chemistry with both Trini and Jason, and I hope that’s something that gets explored. I hope that Tommy shows up and is a girl, as the cast wants, and that that throws a really interesting wrench into everything. Obviously it doesn’t have to be the main plot of the movie (here’s hoping for Lord Zedd) but it would be a really great way to build on the first movie, plus Tommy’s history with Kim from the show.


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