It’s time to “go go” once again as the popular children’s action franchise takes a more realistic aspect in terms of the core team.
In the small town of Angel Grove, the star high school quarterback Jason Scott has gotten in trouble with the law and has lost his chance for a scholarship. Forced to serve high school detention on Saturdays, he meets Billy Cranston, a young kid on the autism spectrum. Also in detention is Kimberly Hart, a one-time popular cheerleader who is accused of sending a photograph of a girl all over social media and her relationship woes when she knocked the tooth out of her ex-boyfriend.
That night, Jason takes Billy to an abandoned mine set for destruction a week later. As Jason leaves Billy to find Kimberly, Billy sets off an explosion, part of his skills in digging for artifacts. When Zack and Kimberly find Billy, they meet two more people, Zack and Trini. Upon their searching, they come across five rare coins which they soon learn gives them new powers they never imagined. They soon learn they are destined to become the Power Rangers, a team tasked with saving Earth from the likes of Rita Repulsa, a former Ranger who betrayed her team for aspirations of world domination. However, to accomplish their destiny, they first must learn to become a team on and off the field.
For over two decades, the Power Rangers have become one of childrens’ most famous action franchises, itself based on the popular Japanese phenomenon Super Sentai, which is currently in their 41st-season. While Hain Saban’s take revolves around five ordinary teenagers who are best friends and are chosen to become the titular team, the time to bring a grittier take on the franchise was abound. Originally hired to write the screenplay, Max Landis was replaced yet he mentioned the film was reminiscent of his hit script Chronicle, a story about teenagers who gain superpowers after discovering a mineral. While that piece can be said to be an influence, this is the story of how the five heroes become not only heroes but friends. While we don’t seen any real Ranger action until the finale, it’s refreshing to see these new heroes become a solid unit.
True to the Ranger tradition, a cast of newcomers take on the roles of the Rangers in the film and quite frankly, they did an impressive job. Dacre Montgomery’s Jason will remind viewers of James Van Der Beek’s character in Varsity Blues. Jason is the star quarterback, but he seems to have love interest in the sport and it looks like his father forced him to play to his best as seen with certain scenes. However, where Van Der Beek’s Mox talks about being heroes for one night, Montgomery’s Jason takes charge to be a hero forever.
Two of the most interesting characters of the film are Billy and Trini, played respectively by R.J. Cyler and singer Becky G. Not only do they bring authenticity to their roles, their characters tackle issues that truly are seen in today’s society. Billy admits to Jason in a scene that he is on the autism spectrum while Trini reveals she may have “girlfriend problems” and it was her character that has gotten rave amongst fans and even critics for their tackling of real-life issues in this brand of film.
Rounding out the cast of new Rangers are Naomi Scott and Ludi Lin as Kimberly and Zack. Kimberly is seen as the rebellious cheerleader who makes not one, but two mistakes that land her in detention and she even proves to be a love interest to Jason, something that was played out between original Jason and Kimberly Austin St. John and Amy Jo Johnson in Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie in 1996. As for Zack, he is the rebel who lives in a train and can sometimes act all cocky but ultimately makes himself a valuable member of the team.
Director Dean Isrealite pulls off a smart move and added some major A-list talent in three pivotal roles that proves to boost the film as a whole. First, there’s Bryan Cranston as the legendary mentor Zordon, who is revealed in the opening to be the original Red Ranger. Cranston, who got his start on the series as a voice actor and was the reason for Billy’s last name, makes for a great mentor. The second would be Bill Hader, a hilarious former member of the Saturday Night Live ensemble, who provides the voice of Alpha 5, Zordon’s right hand robot who helps the Rangers with their training. The piece de resistance is Elizabeth Banks, who takes on the role of villain Rita Repulsa, who is revealed to be the Green Ranger in the film’s opening who is a traitor. She brings a new style as opposed to original Rita Machiko Soga as she plays Rita with a more ruthless performance to the film.
Power Rangers meshes the franchise with real-life issues that plague teenagers today with some great performances by the newcomer cast and the three core veterans who make this film adaptation one to “go go” check out.
WFG RATING: A-
Lionsgate presents a Saban Films production. Director: Dean Israelite. Producers: Brian Casentini, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, and Haim Saban. Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Kieran Mulroney, and Michele Mulroney (story); John Gatins (screenplay); Haim Saban and Shuki Levy (original Power Rangers series). Cinematography: Matthew J. Lloyd. Editing: Martin Bernfield and Dody Dorn.
Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, R.J. Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Elizabeth Banks, David Denham, Jason David Frank (cameo), Amy Jo Johnston (cameo)