Power Rangers film review: a fun reboot with real heart

Elizabeth Banks slays and the Rangers connect in the new Power Rangers movie

“Are we Power Rangers, or are we friends?” That’s the central question of Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers reboot… and an actual line of dialogue from it. When the Earth’s in danger from an ancient, gold-obsessed, pointy-shouldered alien, five troubled teens are recruited to save the world – but first, they’ll need to save each other.

Yup, you can forget anything you’d heard about this being a grimdark reboot of the daffy 1990s kids’ show. The costumes might be more muted, the fight scenes a little more dangerous looking, but at heart? This is basically The Breakfast Club with super powers.

The five Rangers map almost exactly onto John Hughes’ character archetypes: Red Ranger Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a troublemaking jock; Pink Ranger Kimberly (Naomi Scott) is a formerly popular mean girl; Blue Ranger Billy (RJ Cyler) is a lonely nerd; Yellow Ranger Trini (Becky G) is an awkward outsider; and Black Ranger Zack (Ludi Lin) is a rebellious bad boy.

Of course, there’s more to each of them than that, and when the five of them start to bond over their newfound powers, they’re forced to reveal their inner selves. That’s the whole crux of the film: it takes almost three-quarters of the runtime for the Rangers to finally suit up, because this time round it’s honesty and friendship, not the yelling of dinosaur names, that allows them to morph into their monochrome alter egos.

It’s all so painfully earnest that adult cinemagoers might be tempted to roll their eyes. And there are plenty of other eye-rolling moments, too, like the excruciating scene about ‘milking’ a bull. But this is a broad strokes superhero movie for kids – and one in which the baddie is named ‘Rita Repulsa’. The silliness is baked in, and there’s more fun to be had in accepting it than trying to ignore it.

That’s clearly the tack Elizabeth Banks is taking, because she’s in full-on scenery-chewing mode here (literally, at one point). Her Rita is the darkest timeline version of Effie Trinket, a lethal supervillain who’ll toy with her victims before smashing them into walls, all without breaking a single one of her perfectly manicured claws. She sometimes seems to be in a different movie to the rest of the cast, but she’s so obviously having a good time that her glee is infectious.

Sadly for Bryan Cranston, he’s not given anywhere near as much opportunity to let loose – his Zordon is a former Red Ranger who’s now trapped inside his ship and can only manifest as a vaguely disapproving pin art face. It’s not a terrible iteration of the character, but Cranston’s mostly wasted.

Fans should be pleased with the new zords, though. While they don’t get a lot of screen time, the new designs are sleeker but satisfyingly hefty-looking, and they charge into battle in the exact same formation as in the original Mighty Morphin series. Other nods to nostalgia include a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by original Rangers Amy Jo Johnson and Jason David Frank and a quick blast of the old theme song, plus all the catchphrases you’d expect (“Make my monster grow!”).

Despite the constant pop culture references and quiet character moments, Power Rangers is a little bit too long, and it’s clearly a little bit unsure of itself and its place in the current superhero pantheon. But for all its flaws, it’s tough to be too cynical about a movie so explicitly about the power of acceptance and teamwork. Sure, it’s kind of ungainly, but beneath its awkward swagger, Power Rangers just wants to be loved. And who are we to refuse?