If you were born in the last 35 years or so, it’s almost a certainty that the Power Rangers featured pretty heavily in your childhood. The colourful team first burst onto Western audiences’ screens in 1993, and ever since then, children’s TV has featured one iteration or another in practically every Saturday morning line-up ever conceived.
However, we’re not here to discuss the franchise’s lasting success in the realms of television. We’re here to discuss 2017’s ill-fated cinematic reboot of the franchise’s most successful team: the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Reactions to the initial announcement of 2017’s Power Rangers were mixed: some were genuinely excited at the prospect of Jason and co. making it back onto our screens, and others felt it was an unnecessary move made to capitalise on the nostalgia of millennials.
When the movie was released, feelings towards it were equally mixed. Critics were less than impressed with the film’s product placement (more on that in a moment), its lack of action and its divergences from the source material. Power Rangers became something of a box office bomb, and plans for sequels were scrapped (although there is now talk of another reboot).
In the interest of fairness, I think it’s worth mentioning here that I was a HUGE fan of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a kid, and even rewatched most of the show recently (it’s a pure ’90s cheese-fest, but holds up pretty well) – so you can rest assured that I came into the reboot with high expectations.
Honestly, I didn’t feel at all let down. Personally, I felt that the steps taken to set this new iteration of the characters apart from the originals were both necessary and respectfully done, and I enjoyed the film on the whole. In fact, certain changes (particularly to the character of Billy Cranston) were improvements on the original, and the inclusion of a character with autism was handled incredibly sensitively, especially considering that Power Rangers is, first and foremost, a superhero movie.
If you’ve never seen the show, (firstly, what rock have you been living under?) making a big screen adaptation work is no small feat. The show utilised a pretty standard villain-of-the-week format, with an overarcing narrative involving the evil Rita Repulsa and Zordon, the Power Rangers’ tube-dwelling, glowing-faced mentor. It was cheesy, with plenty of hammy, over-the-top acting, and all of the action was borrowed from the show’s Japanese inspiration/counterpart, Super Sentai and repurposed. It was cheaply made, and it offered plenty of merchandising opportunities.
Recapturing the lightning bolt that was MMPR and distilling it into one two-hour story was a thankless task, although it was remarkably true to the original, without ever struggling to stand on its own.
Admittedly, the film was far less colourful than it might have been. Its over-use of varying shades of grey didn’t exactly make for the most enthralling of visuals – something that was directly contrasted by the extensive and extravagant use of CGI, which I personally found to be a little off-putting.
There’s also the question of the film’s product placement, namely its use of a Krispy Kreme as a plot element. It was more than a little weird, but it wasn’t as shameless as the product placement in, let’s say Superman II (which is rarely criticised at all for its aggressive use of in-movie billboards), and in all honestly, seeing a Krispy Kreme in the middle of the wanton destruction that goes hand-in-hand with the Rangers actually grounded the film a little more in reality.
All in all, I really enjoyed this reboot of my favourite childhood TV show, and I really wasn’t expecting to. It’s certainly not without its issues, but it did a solid job of setting up a franchise, of establishing five interesting, likeable characters (although Trini was super whiny and a little underdeveloped), and of delivering some totally awesome, city-destroying carnage in its final act – something that, in my opinion at least, lives up to the original show’s legacy.
Summary: A well-written re-imagining of the difficult-to-adapt classic TV show, Power Rangers sets a very high bar for the next planned reboot