After five high school students unearth mysterious coins in the sleepy town of Angel Grove, they are given superhuman abilities and discover that they are the next generation of Power Rangers: an elite group of warriors tasked with defending life across the universe. However, when the evil witch Rita Repulsa emerges from her 65-million year confinement to destroy life on Earth, the fledgling Rangers must learn to work as a team and morph into their true potential before Rita can return to full power.
Directed by Dean Israelite (“Project Almanac”), “Power Rangers” is an origin story that reboots the classic Power Rangers timeline and serves as the franchise kickstarter for five planned sequels. But how does the film handle this monumental pressure expected of modern blockbuster franchises? Ironically, “Power Rangers” starts strong as an interesting character study, but stumbles and falls hard once the actual Power Rangers arrive.
The chemistry between the lead performers carries this film far higher than it has any right to go. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin all shine as the Red, Pink, Blue, Yellow and Black Rangers, respectively. While Montgomery, Scott and Cyler receive more development than the others, each Ranger’s arc is layered and (to some extent) relatable, and watching these characters interact is by far the highlight of the film.
Even supporting characters aimed to flesh out the Power Rangers mythology via exposition dump (Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Bill Hader as Alpha 5) work well as subdued versions of their 90s counterparts. However, Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa is where the film struggles to find stability. Laughable villain name aside, Banks exudes unsettling elements of horror while simultaneously chewing the scenery as any other cheesy 90s villain would.
This is one of the film’s greatest problems: establishing a cohesive tone. In this regard, the film harkens back to last year’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” haphazardly switching between a darker, more mature tone aimed at its now-grown fanbase while still trying to retain the innocent and childlike elements of the source material to draw in a new generation of fans. “Power Rangers” zigzags between gruesome murder scenes to literally playing the “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song without skipping a beat — an uncomfortably jarring shift in tone, to say the least.
Even outside of Repulsa’s character, “Power Rangers” struggles to decide what kind of movie it wants to be. The first two acts play out as a grounded and engaging tale of discovery, akin to “The Breakfast Club” mixed with the first half of “Iron Man.” The actual Power Ranger components are all dumped into the rushed 20-minute finale, which relentlessly assaults viewers with an incoherent visual barrage of half-baked CGI likened to a low-budget “Transformers” film.
Ultimately, there is a great movie buried somewhere inside “Power Rangers” that is, ironically, hindered by its namesake elements. The Rangers’ climactic reveal does feel earned, but it might make viewers wonder if it’s really the ending to the same movie or if it’s even the ending they actually want at that point.
“Power Rangers” earns a mediocre two and a half out of five Garrett Stars. With a runtime of 124 minutes, the film is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and some crude humor.