‘Power Rangers’ offers mix of mediocre action, fun nostalgia

"Power Rangers" | Lionsgate Grade: C+
Kimberly French/Courtesy
"Power Rangers" | Lionsgate
Grade: C+

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The Power Rangers are back with a surprising new direction that includes trespassing, cursing and terrifying car crashes. Actually, director Dean Israelite’s newest adaptation takes a new approach to the classic superheroes many fans grew to love. The PG-13 superhero flick offers a nostalgic nod to the old series while also giving it a modern twist.

The story follows five teenagers, with little to no connection to each other whatsoever, who come together in order to stop the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) — a former green ranger gone rogue — from destroying planet Earth. Each ranger is going through their own personal struggles, and somehow, one day they find themselves all in the same restricted area when Billy (RJ Cyler) sets off an explosion revealing the crystals that give each ranger their superpowers. With the help of Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), the new rangers are able to harness their powers and become the ultimate Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.

It’s clear that a lot of effort was put into the set design and cinematography of the film. Every car crash and stunt is captured perfectly, and some of the visuals, especially those filmed underwater, are breathtakingly beautiful. The new costumes manage to achieve a modern twist on the old costumes fans originally fell in love with. The set designs are also incredible. From the massive spaceship to the ship where they find Rita Repulsa, the set design is on par with films such “Alien” and the “Harry Potter” movies.

One standout actor is Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa. While the character could have easily been overdone and cheesy, Banks tastefully performed her role with just the right amount of villainy. She works her green ex-ranger costume flawlessly and actually manages to portray a truly terrifying villain with some great moments of comic relief. While it may not have been intentional, her performance made her a likable feminist powerhouse, but one you do not want to see succeed.

Another fantastic performance was the portrayal of Billy (RJ Cyler), the blue ranger, as the first ever autistic superhero. This bold choice and new direction certainly pays off. Billy manages to be the most likable ranger, and RJ Cyler’s performance accurately displays a realistic interpretation of autism. He is a great role model for everyone with mental disabilities, proving that those with autism make great superheroes too.

But of course, there were some flaws with the film, such as Becky G’s Trini, the yellow ranger, who was widely advertised as the first lesbian superhero. Her sexuality is not made very apparent. The only time Trini somewhat displays an exploration of sexuality in the film is when she tells the other rangers her family is obsessed with her being normal and that she is afraid of showing them her true self. Simply questioning her sexuality does not make her lesbian. If the movie truly wants to capitalize on an LGBTQ superhero, similarly to Disney’s newest “Beauty and the Beast,” there must be a more apparent and correct representation for it to truly be successful.

In addition, character development moves too quickly throughout the film. One moment the superheroes could not get along, and the next they were fighting crime together like they were best friends. Many plot points are predictable. Some jokes are funny, but many fall flat and leave the audience indifferent.

As far as superhero movies go, nothing new is presented here. The film presents many typical cliches and at times seems almost identical to not only other superhero films, but also other generic films about saving the world. But nostalgic viewers looking for why they first enjoyed the original series and films will be pleased, and newcomers will easily be caught up. Despite its flaws, “Power Rangers” successfully offers surprising social commentary and gives the old series a modern twist.

Contact Samantha Banchik at [email protected].