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Power Rangers movie review: How to kill a 90s franchise

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 31 March 2017, 14:24 IST

Nostalgia is a heady sentiment. However, sometimes things from the past should just stay there, and Power Rangers is an example of that.

Directed by Dean Israelite, and with cameo appearances from Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks, the movie is a reboot of the hit kids franchise from the 90s. Centred around the Power Rangers -- a teenage superhero team tasked with defending Earth from campy alien villains, the movie stays reasonably true to the original TV series. Sadly, for those of us who grew up on the show, the movie serves as a reminder of just how weird the 90s were.

A 90s fever dream

The movie, however, seems oblivious to how bizarre the original premise is, and this is what dooms it to failure. While Israelite has resurrected the franchise with an improved aesthetic and modern day levels of inclusion and diversity, he chooses to stay with a lot of themes and characters from the 90s that absolutely do not translate well in 2017.

As a result we get a villain like Rita Repulsa, arguably one of the tackiest villains the original series ever dreamt up. Essayed by Elizabeth Banks, in her weirdest role ever, Repulsa is a gold-devouring vamp, dressed in a Poison Ivy-esqe costume, and hell-bent on destroying the Earth with the help of her monster Goldar. It just isn't the sort of thing even kids can buy into anymore, with far better entertainment options on offer.

Even so, the zaniness of the Power Rangers franchise isn't something we were oblivious to in the 90s. However, we could buy into it because the original franchise threw in enough action to mask the weakness of the premise with endless fight scenes. The 2017 reboot, though, spends less time on action and more time establishing the bizarre Power Rangers mythos instead.

Thanks to this, we're served up a half-baked origins story, packed with over an hour-and-a-half of teenage angst, broken up only by lacklustre training montages, and moments of faux-self realisation, none of which passes for even the faintest shadow of entertainment.

Tacky action

With a villain like Rita Repulsa, the movie's action was always doomed to be garish. However, the trailer made it seem like this movie would be grittier than the rest of the franchise, leaving us with hope that the action would be entertaining. It absolutely isn't.

The hand-to-hand combat that was a staple of the original series happens for about a minute-and-a-half, and makes no use of the huge leaps and bounds VFX has made since the last Power Rangers movie.

Similarly, the Zords, the Transformers-like animal machines the rangers use, look absolutely woeful. Whereas the original Zords looked very cool, especially given the VFX prevalent at the time, the Zords in the reboot look very low budget.

The Mega Zord, something that was the highlight of the Power Rangers franchise, is similarly underwhelming, with the final fight scene as a result, a short, whimper of a finale.

Diversity yes, direction no

The movie has one thing going for it - diversity. The Rangers are not homogeneously white as they were in the original franchise. Instead, barring the Red Ranger (Jason), the other rangers vary from Black, to Hispanic, to Chinese.

The movie has both an autistic Power Ranger as well as a queer one.

The movie takes this diversity a few steps further as well, with the Blue Ranger (Billy) being mildly autistic and the Yellow Ranger (Trinni) admitting to being queer.

However, none of these progressive ideas actually do anything for the movie, and instead seem like rushed add-ons to earn brownie points from critics in the absence of any other plus points.

Heavy on homage

With the movie retaining all the original characters from the TV show, it was only inevitable that they would also be rich in homage, and it absolutely is. The soundtrack contains a rehashed version of the original Go, Go, Power Rangers theme and I've Got The Power from the original Power Rangers movie.

In one of the final scenes as well, some of the rangers from the old Power Rangers movie are seen in the crowd, further kindling nostalgia.

However, the movie chooses not to make any overt references to the franchise in any other way, something that would only have added to the movie.

Should you see it?

If you have kids below the age of 8, you could be forgiven for going for the movie. However, if you're an adult looking for 90s nostalgia, stay away from this movie, it will make you hate your childhood.

Rating: 1/5

First published: 31 March 2017, 14:12 IST