Friday, March 24, 2017

Review of POWER RANGERS: Campy Champions

March 23, 2017

The Power Rangers is a television series for young kids featuring a group of five teenagers with superpowers working as a team to fight the forces of evil. Beginning in 1993 as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the present, there would be 24 seasons with different titles. There had also been two feature films in 1995 and 1997. 

I only got to know them when my sons became hooked on the series entitled Dino Thunder and Ninja Force, despite the shallow plots, bad acting and lousy monster effects. It is with a sense of expectant nostalgia that my sons and I watched this new feature film, maybe 10 years since the last episode of the series we had seen.

A group of five juvenile delinquents from Angel Grove find themselves together at a gold mine just when an explosion caused a rock slide revealing five coins with different colors, one for each of them. Since then, the five teenagers inexplicably escaped death from a train crash and actually developed super strength and abilities. It was later revealed to them that they have been chosen to be the new Power Rangers tasked to save the earth from the destruction wreaked by an evil ex-ranger Rita Repulsa and her giant minion Goldar.

I was so ready not to like this film when we entered the theater. The introduction and set-up of the characters took a bit too long at the first. But as the movie went on, I found myself actually smiling a lot and liking this one. OK, the acting of the supposedly teenage (but actually 20 something) lead stars were not exactly stellar, but much better than those I recall seeing on TV years back. Of course, we expect the technical aspects and visual effects to improve over the years, and to be fair, they did.

RJ Cyler, who previously made a good impression in the film "Me, Earl and the Dying Girl" (MY REVIEW) as high-functioning autistic nerd Billy Cranston (Blue Ranger). Latina pop star Becky G, who hit #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her song "Shower" (2014), plays the troubled Trini (Yellow Ranger). She was supposedly lesbian according to promo articles, but this was just mentioned in passing in the film. 

Australian actor Dacre Montgomery (as rebellious star quarterback Jason Scott - Red Ranger), British-Indian actress Naomi Scott (as cynical cheerleader Kimberly Hart - Pink Ranger) and Chinese-Canadian Ludi Lin (as filially devoted Zack - Black Ranger) complete the attractive inter-racial cast of rangers.

From a 2-D floating head in a tube before, Zordon's face now inhabits a multi-pixelated 3D wall, played by no less than Bryan Cranston. Whereas before Alpha 5 looked like it had a real actor inside wearing a disc-like head, the new Alpha 5 is now all slick and sleek robot, with the voice of comedian Bill Hader for his cheery personality.

The main villainess Rita Repulsa now looks very different from before. Previously she had a gigantic clunky headdress and long flowing gown. Now, as played by Elizabeth Banks in full camp mode, this new Rita is sporting a more fight-action-ready emerald body-hugging suit, carrying her powerful golden staff. Goldar is now a more fluid fighting machine made of molten gold, unlike the heavy bulky golden robot in the previous film.

I liked that they chose the dinosaur zords for the rangers to morph with in this one. I liked the rapid-fire references to some Marvel and Transformers characters. I wonder how much doughnut franchise Krispie Kreme paid for their massive product placement here? There were scenes that needed better lighting and some camera angles were bizarre, like the first sequence with the cow. Rita's stone warriors were a bit on the lame side. The scene when we heard the original "Go, go Power Rangers" theme song being played was too short! 

I am not sure how devoted fans of the original series would accept the various changes made my this new version to their favorite TV show. But for a casual viewer who only had a cursory knowledge about the origin of the rangers, I unexpectedly liked this reboot and I think it could revive interest and gain new young fans for this franchise. 7/10.

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