Directed by Dean Israelite
Starring Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G.
Film Review by James Burgess
Blockbusters either based on, or as a result of the synergy of toy merchandising are a prolific, if not always lucrative, cinematic staple. Transformers, G.I. Joe, not to mention Disney characters and Marvel and DC’s innumerable gaggle of superheros. Is it the factory-production of money-spinning cynicism, or simply the desire of filmmakers to re-imagine established franchises in a new way for each generation?
For this latest entry into the canonical pantheon, Power Rangers, popular consensus seems to favour the former. The vast majority of reviews have been terrible, dismissing it as a shallow, cookie-cutter cash-in. But the reason the notion of these remakes appeals so much, is to see how they’re interpreted and refreshed in terms of tone, stylistic choices, ideas and invention - how different are they from previous versions - if possible, even original?
Power Rangers was a fun, bright revisionist update of a popular nineties TV series. These reboots always work best when they encapsulate an evocation of childhood. So for reasons of nostalgic posterity, it worked - I had a figurine of the Blue Ranger years ago!
It takes a long time (almost three-quarters of the film) for the characters to become those florescent, publicity-adorned heroes, and actually put the suits on. Up until then, it’s mainly the U.S. high-school teen mixture of camaraderie and angst, (but, this was once a frequent sub-genre, particularly in nineties comedies, so doesn’t feel entirely out of place here). Also, the flip-side of this is that several relevant, contemporary issues for the characters are allowed to be raised liberally, without being treated as too heavy-handed.
The young cast are promising, if a little soapy (Dacre Montgomery as Jason, The Red Ranger, is a doppleganger for a young Zac Efron). There are some great supporting performances - Elizabeth Banks is wonderfully evil as the aptly named megalomaniac space-villain, Rita Repulsa, and a digitally enhanced Bryan Cranston lends his inspirationally dulcet tones. The climactic action and effects are well-staged (with an occasional burst of the original theme-tune), but it does descend into a rather overblown Transformers battle towards the end. Enjoyable, and left open for a sequel…