Saban’s Power Rangers recently opened on the big screen, and I caught a matinee showing. I grew up on the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, during the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons and TV. I’m talking “get up early because the new episode is on” original, and saw the original 1995 movie in theaters (I think).
This movie came out at a time where I’m fairly hyped for original MMPR. I recently completed my set of ab-crunch addicted MMPR Legacy figures.
I also have a growing collection of Fisher-Price Imaginext figures that I share with my four-year-old son. He and I have recently started watching the original episodes on Netflix, which has put me in a fresh mindset to evaluate some of the differences and similarities between the new movie and the classic show.
Now, to be completely transparent here, I had very low expectations for this film going in. As an avid toy collector, I often find a strong correlation between the quality of a movie’s tie-in merchandise and the movie itself. The movie toys are awful, look as if they’re made of cheap plastic you’d find in a kid’s sand pail, and are priced too high. Between the merchandise, the Zord designs, and some lackluster trailers, I set my bar low and considered waiting for the rental instead of paying for a movie ticket.
I’m glad I didn’t wait.
Much of the film is based around building up the teens as real kids, with real problems. As Jason’s father says in the trailer, they’re a bunch of “weirdos and criminals” in this iteration, not simply “teenagers with attitude”. While the characters do match up on a high level with the original MMPR’s tropes, this movie develops them as real characters as opposed to their original, shallow counterparts.
Some may find certain aspects of the characters thrown in simply for the sake of inclusivity, but I disagree. The following might be a slight spoiler, but it’s been addressed in almost every review I’ve read. One character is “on the spectrum”, as in autistic spectrum, and another is homosexual. These parts of their lives don’t seem to be merely part of the trend of “let’s make our character inclusive” as seen in Star Trek: Beyond‘s tacked-on homosexuality of Sulu. The teen in this movie is not out to their family, which is too traditional, so it’s a source of issues at home, giving a clear and believable background for their place on the team.
This emphasis on trying to make a realistic team of troubled teens means that most of the camp you’ll find in the original show is missing. Good riddance. The non-battle scenes in the original MMPR are almost unbearable. Anyone who wants more of that in this remake should be forced to watch the first two seasons of MMPR, non-stop, in one weekend as punishment. As big of a fan as I am, I’ve yet to be able to get through more than two episodes in a day, and even then I’m left with Bulk and Skull’s theme music stuck in my head for days.
Speaking of Bulk and Skull, you’ll find them or similar characters absent from the movie. Their role in the original was largely to introduce physical humor, which was necessary to keep the attention of the younger intended audience during the largely boring “talking scenes”. With the intended audience of this movie being considerably older, evident by the PG-13 rating, there’s no such need. Some physical humor still makes its way onto the screen, but it all stems from Billy who’s as clumsy as his Legacy counterpart.
You’ll still find some camp in the film, primarily in the throwback references to the original. There’s no “morphenomal!” thrown around, but you do get such gems as Rita shouting “Make him grow!” The use of catchphrases was enough throwback for me, clearly intended to trigger fond memories for those who haven’t seen MMPR in 20+ years. I appreciated their inclusion, and that they weren’t overdone. I did want to see a remake, after all.
In general, I think this movie stands successful on its own, only taking inspiration from the original where necessary, instead of relying upon it for success. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece of theater, but as I write this it has an 81% Audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s a number I would agree with, and maybe bump to 85%. As characters, I prefer all these new imaginings over the classics. Even Alpha 5, voiced by Bill Hader, plays a more important role in the movie and is actually funny (whereas in MMPR, Alpha 5 is pretty much his own punchline).
The reason I wouldn’t give it a higher score is because some scenes definitely move too slow, and some dialogue is forced. There were a couple moments where I realized that a different character spoke, once saying something simple such as “I agree”, for no other reason than to have someone else say something.
I’ll definitely be buying the Blu-ray.
In the end, I’d recommend catching this movie, especially if you’re a fan of the originals. It offers new lore, better versions of every character (including Zordon), a suitable amount of references to the source material, and enough action. However, if you want constant action, such as in other childhood remakes like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers or even G.I. Joe, then you may disappointed. As much as I enjoy watching those others, this film has a better balance and less need of industrial subwoofers. I’ll definitely be buying the Blu-ray.