Power Rangers: A Film That Banks Heavily on Nostalgia

Power Rangers Plot Summary:

Five teenagers must defend the Earth from the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) by becoming the Power Rangers, a legendary team of superheroes.

I feel sorry for this generation of kids. Most of them will never experience Saban Entertainment’s magnum opus, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Of course, that’s unless they watch it on Netflix or catch reruns. If you’re a parent, it’s your duty to make them watch it. Not whatever the newest version is. The original is the best because . . . I’m joking, by the way. I don’t believe any of that.

I grew up with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and many of the subsequent iterations, but I’m not blinded by nostalgia. There are parts of my childhood that hold up now that I’m an adult, parts that kind of do and kind of don’t, and parts that just don’t. I imagine it’s the same for most people. Power Rangers falls into the third category. Goofy villain schemes, embarrassing attempts at comedy, and an ironclad formula are all staples of the franchise.

For an adult, this new Power Rangers movie is better than its TV counterpart. Notice I say for an adult. If you force a child to decide between the cheesy show and the more serious remake, I have a feeling that child will choose the former. And it’s not just because of the tone. The movie has more of an edge, but it switches between silly and mature on a dime.

It’s more because there’s not much action until the third act, largely due to the origin story. I sort of respect this, since I’m sometimes all actioned out by the last 30 minutes of a flick. But as explosive as the finale is, I do wish there was more martial arts in the second act. The training montage doesn’t count.

For a movie’s climax to work, you generally have to make your audience care for the characters. In the case of this climax, Power Rangers succeeds, to a certain degree. Like in the TV show, Billy (RJ Cyler) is the nerd of the group, but the movie plays up his awkwardness. It’s certainly not a new archetype, but Billy does have the best lines. A few actually elicited a chuckle from me, something the TV show would have a hard time doing.

The overall makeup of the group gives the movie a Breakfast Club vibe, which people definitely caught from the trailers. The movie doesn’t outdo The Breakfast Club, but I felt sympathy for most of the Rangers. However, the film neglects Jason (Dacre Montgomery) in terms of motivation, despite making him the protagonist.

One of the biggest stories coming into this movie was Bryan Cranston playing Zordon, the Rangers’ mentor. FYI, he did some work on the show, which is why Billy shares his last name. I’m here to tell you that Cranston does a fine enough job. We all know that he’s an amazing actor. But he might be too famous post-Breaking Bad. Seeing his face in a cartoony movie like this took me out of it. Regarding the other stars, Elizabeth Banks is creepy as Rita Repulsa and Bill Hader manages to keep Alpha 5 from becoming annoying. The original Alpha 5 was best in small doses. Sticking with his original personality would have been a mistake.

Whether these changes bother you or not depend on what kind of fan you are. Does this Power Rangers need to be as identical as possible? If so, you’re going to be unhappy. But if watching the team suit up and hearing the iconic theme is enough, this movie is for you. You’ll also be pleased with the mid-credits scene. I wish the movie incorporated the moment another way, since I’m tired of content during/after the credits, but oh well.

Now, if you’re a parent, you might be wondering whether or not to take your kids, since Power Rangers is traditionally family-friendly. That’s your decision, of course, but I direct you back to my statement about the lack of action. It might bore your kids. Besides that, there’s one super crude joke at the beginning and Kimberly’s (Naomi Scott) backstory might be too suggestive, even if it’s not all spelled out. There’s also a decent amount of language, as much as a Marvel movie, though the overall violence is less. I personally would have preferred they shot for a PG rating, but I know the studios cater to the all-important teenage boy demographic.

When it comes to demographics though, I don’t know if this film would appeal to anyone who didn’t grow up with Power Rangers. I got more enjoyment out of it than I expected. Based on that, I could give it as high a score as a 7 out of 10. But if you take away my emotional attachment, the plot and action aren’t particularly special.


Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.