With the amount of rebooting and nostalgia creating going on in Hollywood these days, it wasn’t a matter of if they did a Power Rangers film, and more a matter of when.
Turns out 2017 is the answer to that question and boy was it worth the wait. Before I start, let’s get one thing straight; Power Rangers is cheesy and predictable, and I absolutely loved it when I was a child. It’s still going strong as a series now. My god-daughter and her brother have made sure their mother records every episode it in case they ever miss it.
The film lives up to the series. In broad strokes it follows the plot line of each episode, but having 2 hours to play with, instead of 30 minutes meant that the characters were more fleshed out, and had time to develop in their own way. It’s also massively cheesy, they even put the theme tune in there! (Never have I internally screeched more in the cinema.) The many nods to the original series did not go unnoticed and made it that much more enjoyable to watch. The graphics were impressive, considering the budget of $100 million, and despite Elizabeth Banks being the only big-name actor in this film with a physical part, everyone stood up to the bar.
Can we talk about Elizabeth Banks for a moment please? That woman is fantastic and needs an Oscar stat. Elizabeth played the baddie in this film (Rita Repusla) and quite honestly if she hadn’t worked, the whole film would have fallen down around her. I’m not sure how much more unrealistic than playing an alien who makes a giant monster out of gold, so she can dig up a crystal that is the source of life on earth, you can get, but Elizabeth played with part with such sincerity that I didn’t even question it. Of course, you have to the take it within the context of the film, but I really think that anyone less talented than Elizabeth would have had a hard time pulling it off.
The rest of the cast was incredible as well. Hopefully this will be a break-out role for the actors whom play the five rangers. I was very glad to see that this film stuck to the baseline diversity of the original series, and actually went further. There wan’t a latino Power Ranger when I was a child! Not only that, but they didn’t colour-code them according to their race. Smart move casting team.
It’s not just racial diversity that these Power Rangers represent either. Billy is autistic, Zack lives in a trailer caring for his sick mum, Trini is gay, Kimberly is a popular teenager fallen from grace, and Jason is suffering from total lack of direction after losing his sporting career. And you’re not slapped in the face with these issues either. This film felt like proper representation for these often over-looked groups. Their differences were just part of who they were, the plot didn’t revolve around them, nor did it make the narrative clunky in anyway. It felt very natural, as it should do, and left the actors to get on with the main point of the story: becoming a team to save the world. Of course, the fact that they are all so different makes it difficult for them to become a team in the first place, they don’t really know each other, as Zach so eloquently puts it halfway through the film. However, I’ve seen films where five straight white guys struggle to become a team, so this definitely feels like a step up from that.
Coming at it from a feminist perspective, this film is miles ahead than most other action films of the decade. Not only do females encompass half of the main cast, only one of them is white, AND it passed the Bechdel Test on multiple occasions. It portrays both healthy and unhealthy female friendships while refusing to demonise any particular sub-culture of teenage interests. Moreover, neither Trini or Kimberly are overly-sexualised, nor is there a clunky romance plot shoved in there for the sake of it. I am not onboard with boob-armour, it’s impractical and untrue to the original show, but at least the girls had the same amount of coverage as the boys. There is one scene that I feel is a little unnecessary, where Jason and Kimberly speak for the first time, and Kimberly happens to be in her underwear after diving into a natural pool. However, there could have been a lot more lingering on boobs and flesh than there was. And since Jason never uses the fact he’s seen Kimberly in a state of undress to embarrass her, or demean her in any way, I feel this scene could have had a much worse impact on the feminism of the film than it did. It could even be argued that the inclusion of it and Jason’s behaviour afterwards forwards the feminist message of it. “Look, this boy has seen this girl in her underwear and never treats her less because of it.” Not a bad message for teenage boys (or boys of any age) to be getting.
Simply put, the Power Rangers film raises the bar for action films in Hollywood these days. It may not have pushed much in the way effects or still-talking-about-it-in-a-decades-time plot twists, but it is light hearted yet has substance, is diverse yet doesn’t over emphasise it, portrays women in a complex yet true way, and I am sure little girls and boys will be waiting for the sequel as eagerly as I am.