Let me sing a few praises for the Power Rangers movie. Not the new one, Power Rangers, but the first feature film from 1995, released during the original craze and directed by Bryan Spicer, who also directed the 1997 movie based on McHale's Navy. It has six karate kids fighting a giant puppet dinosaur skeleton. It has a mightily winking subplot about parents turning into consumer zombies because of a gooey toy their kids have made a fad. And it has Australian actress Gabrielle Fitzpatrick dressed up like Jill of the Jungle before turning into an owl.
It's not a very good movie, but it knew who was sitting in the theater: kids who wanted to see television's rainbow warriors fight slime robots on the big screen, and parents dragged along with them. Children's fare diced up with coy remarks and exposed skin like the glamorous mermaids in the original Peter Pan productions. By comparison, I have no idea who 2017's Power Rangers movie is intended for.
It has been more than 10,000 years since the evil Rita Repulsa was free. Defeated by the same asteroid that doomed the dinosaurs, which was summoned by Zordon (a nude Bryan Cranston) in desperation, the space witch was a corpse floatin' in the ocean for millions of years before being unceremoniously caught in a fish net. As Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) relaunches her campaign to destroy the universe, a breakfast club led by disgraced quarterback Jason (Dacre Montgomery) and mineral nerd Billy (RJ Cyler) discover magical stones that give them superpowers and color coordination. The rest is a young adult MadLib, limitless teen angst with all the nouns and adverbs filled in with "the pit," "morph" and "Putties." Most of the film is spent in a literal hole or looking at photos stuck to a fridge.
Everyone has a contemporary personal issue and about four minutes to talk about it.
Power Rangers is a little bit Transformers, but it's a lot a bit Twilight. They've relocated Angel Grove from the rollerskating California to the husked out Pacific Northwest, a better bittersweet setting for airing anxieties about the future, broken homes and a passing cameo by sexuality. Everyone has a contemporary personal issue and about four minutes to talk about it. Played straight, it would have been a droll two hours mimicking a genre that until recently was money in the bank. The funniest fucking thing in the world is that not everyone got the memo.
Elizabeth Banks seems to be acting out of protest; her Rita Repulsa is from a better movie. She treats the role as anyone who was told their name is "Rita Repulsa" would, like they're in a karate movie for children. Instead of playing to the high school confidential tone like most of the film, she's constantly yelling about gold and Krispy Kreme (the donut shop plays a pivotal role in the film).
In the same sequence where the Rangers sit around a campfire and talk about their insecurities and which parents among the dead and dying they miss the most, we also jump to Repulsa looting a jewelry store. She barges in with a staff made out of teeth, eats several necklaces and gives a cop a googly eyed stare that befits her better than it did Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. By the time it's a free-for-all between melty goop monsters and robot dinosaurs, she's the only one who doesn't feel completely out of place in weekday afternoon wackyland.
It's a square peg movie. The original, millennial consumer base of the 90s series won't appreciate waiting through two hours for a victorious Megazord instead of 18 minutes. The tweenage consumer base for young adult cinema has better, more dystopian places to be. The kids, the main audience for Power Rangers until now, don't even get scraps.
Bring back sweaty actors doing karate in foam costumes.