My name is David Oxford, and I am a Power Rangers fan.
From the very beginning, actually. Before Rangers were anything other than “Mighty Morphin,” and before there was even a Green Ranger to help cement my interest in the series to this day, I was there for the premiere on Fox Kids. On the morning of Saturday, August 28, 1993, following weeks of promos across various other programming, I tuned in to see what this bizarre show put before me was (“Rangers? So they work in a park or something? But what kind of park has giant robot dinosaurs?”), clueless that it would blow up into something so big — almost a permanent fixture of pop culture.
Now, almost a quarter of a century later, the Power Rangers are still here, and so am I. There were a few hiccups along the way, but with the exception of when the semi-infamous Power Rangers Turbo led me to think that maybe I’d somehow outgrown the show (the following season, Power Rangers in Space, brought me back), I’ve pretty much been a fan the whole way through. And now there’s a movie.
A third movie, actually. Back at the height of their popularity, Fox made sure to cash in on the phenomenon by making an out-of-continuity motion picture which was simultaneously low-budget, yet still bigger than the budget that treated us to new adventures on weekday afternoons. This was followed two years later by Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, which actually was in-continuity, and that turned out to be a part of the problem with that season. Interestingly enough, it was a similar trick to the one pulled by Transformers: The Movie (no, not the Michael Bay ones) a decade prior, but despite missing both while they were in theatres, I was far less put off by that attempt. But I digress.
This newest movie takes a different approach to the previous two. Rather than an out-of-continuity adventure which built upon what we’d seen on TV (even using the same actors) or an in-continuity bridge between two seasons, this one is a full-on reboot of the franchise. An interesting tact, to say the least; Star Trek did the same thing less than a decade ago, when virtually all other sources of Trek media had dried up. Power Rangers, as mentioned, is still going strong to this day — Power Rangers Ninja Steel is currently on mid-season hiatus.
Making things even more interesting is the name of the movie: Power Rangers. Note the absence of Mighty Morphin in there. It’s another odd choice, but in a weird way, it works.
Even though this movie borrows elements from the TV series (to an impressive degree, I might add; Michael Bay should take some notes) this is definitely not your father’s Power Rangers. It features a number of familiar faces — well, scratch that. It features a number of familiar names, but these aren’t the same characters I grew up with. Zordon is a bit less fatherly as a mentor to the Rangers, and Alpha 5 is just hard to describe. I wouldn’t call him less kid-friendly, but maybe… hipper? Even though he does utter an “ay-yi-yi-yi-yi,” he’s probably not going to get on someone’s nerves the way the original might have (though not mine; Alpha 6 at first, though…).
As for the Rangers themselves, they are the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in name only. Jason is a disgraced high school football star, Kimberly fell in a little too deep with the local mean girl clique, Trini is a loner with questions about her sexual identity, Billy is on the spectrum, and Zack is no longer the easygoing hip-hop loving dancer portrayed by Walter Jones. Instead, he’s just kind of crazy.
Oh, and not a single martial artist among them. Rather than practicing their kicks and acrobatics in the local youth center/juice bar, these kids spend most of their time in detention.
On the other side of the Power Coin, Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa is nothing short of a delight to watch — though much like the Rangers, she barely resembles her namesake in any meaningful way. Sure, she has a staff, but so do numerous other big bads from the Ranger legacy. Nonetheless, she plays the part that was written to perfection, mixing creepiness and a certain level of malevolent badassness together in a way that just works. And while she does call upon Putty Patrollers to face the Rangers, Goldar is unfortunately relegated to a non-character equivalent to the Monster of the Week.
That’s not to say that any of them are bad characters; in fact, I like them a lot. At just over two hours, they wind up presented as some pretty decently if not well-rounded characters in a much shorter time span than their 1993 counterparts, who admittedly had much more breathing room for whatever development they received. Just don’t go in expecting anything from them like you know from a two-and-a-half decade-old show, or even the more recent comic books, or you might be disappointed.
This comes up a lot throughout, as while the film is clearly drawing from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and even features some elements specific to that show, it really feels like they didn’t lean into it hard enough. The prehistoric animal theme doesn’t play in nearly as much (with not even a roll call when it comes time to morph), the Rangers don’t have their iconic weapons (Jason breaks out something, though I don’t know whether it’s meant to be a Blade Blaster or the Power Sword), the soundtrack has minimal callbacks to the rock soundtrack that helped characterize the series (save for a too-brief use of the theme from the first movie)… heck, Rita doesn’t even say she has a headache.
While much of the series felt like they were winging it episode by episode, the movie’s story manages to look at the forest instead of the trees and take all of the key points and condense them into something which one assumes could only come with the kind of benefit hindsight provides.
Now though the movie may be kind of iffy in terms of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, it’s still terrific as Power Rangers goes, managing to hit all the right notes with the mentor guiding a group of young would-be heroes into defending their city/the world from the forces of evil with special powers and giant robots. Broken down, it feels like everything here could work as a slightly more mature season of the television show, and that’s kind of a strength and a weakness. While it hits the right Ranger notes, it feels like it lacks a certain sense of identity, drawing from Mighty Morphin, yet only in bits and bites. Swap out the names of the characters, and it would feel just about right as a whole new season of the show.
Put simply, I liked it, and I’d love to watch it again. As Power Rangers goes, it’s far better than the hype and trailers led me to believe, as they felt a little more “try hard” than the end product wound up being. It manages to mature the original teenagers with attitude concept around a more cohesive narrative than they were working with in the early 90’s, yet not so far as the controversial fan-made “Power/Rangers” production which seemed to help inspire it (I’m pretty sure the opening scene is a callback to it), landing on something that manages to feel just right.
Power Rangers is a fun time overall, and I hope that their plans to produce more sequels bears fruit. I also hope that next time, they don’t act quite so afraid of the source material that characterizes the Mighty Morphin iteration of the series.
And those are my thoughts. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts — or questions, if you have any (lord knows this isn’t as thorough as I could get) — in the comments below!
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.