It broke the scale of quality.
I was a huge fan of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a kid. My best friend and I would watch the show and movie every day without fail. Their sense of justice, excessive use of puns, colourful character designs, and terrible fight choreography were perfect for our overactive imaginations. We would come up with our own monsters, fight over who got to be the Green Ranger, and recreate all of the battles in our backyards. Looking back at both the original television series and the 1995 tie-in movie, it is easy to see that they are not well made, and yet, there is something so good about something so bad. Over the years, we would go back and watch them for a heaping dose of nostalgia, and to laugh at how we ever thought these characters were cool. I mean, just look at the opening scene of that original movie. The Power Rangers skydive out of a plane, one of whom was on a snowboard, and upon landing, they grab their rollerblades and skate home, all the while doing gnarly tricks. Is there any purpose to this scene? Absolutely not, but it definitely ratchets up that “cool” factor. It may have had something to do with my desire to go skydiving myself, even well into my 20’s. The Power Rangers were a product of their time, and yet, when I heard that Saban was rebooting the franchise with a blockbuster movie, I was beyond excited. Maybe not to the degree that I was for Star Wars being brought back, or every Edgar Wright movie ever, but I was there in my Power Rangers t-shirt with a big grin on my face when I entered the theatre. And then it began.
Power Rangers is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I say that without hesitation. It is for this reason that I have watched it countless times. There are so many different aspects of this film that are just wrong, that they begin to seem right. There are glaring issues such as bad acting, and then there are less obvious issues, such as an over abundance of canted angles that leave the viewer feeling like they are watching a directorial debut of a film school horror director. Every time that I watched the film I began to notice new problems and they just made me want to watch it more. I started showing it to other people, and then to larger and larger groups. I had screening parties of the film where we would make fun of the movie in a manner not dissimilar to those of The Room, or other cult classics. Drinking games were made, popcorn was thrown, and we were able to quote the movie endlessly. So while I am about to break down everything wrong with the film, know that I enjoy it thoroughly every time. Simply put, it is a lot of fun to see something this awful.
The movie suffers from an identity crisis. It is simultaneously trying to be edgy and attempting to recapture the over-the-top antics of the original series. From the opening moments, the washed out colour palette introduces us to the new grittier version of Angel Grove. The writers also appear to want to take the franchise in a more mature direction, or should I say, adult direction. As they introduce Jason, the lead character of the film, they do so with a joke about performing sexual acts on a cow. This is not the only joke that would never fly in a children’s show. They constantly feel the need to push what can be said in a PG-13 movie. Which begs the question: who is this movie aimed at? Was I the target demographic at the time of release, a 20-something adult with fond memories of a show? You don’t build franchises off of young adults. I wasn’t going to be the one buying the toys, I didn’t have the money to see it multiple times, and I was already too old to be finding the lewd humour both tame and lazy. Even if I had been the audience they were going after, there were far too many moments that simply felt too kid-oriented. The movie was released in a post-Marvel cinematic world. Those movies managed to balance humour and nostalgia for both adults and children, while being effortlessly cool for anyone who had enjoyed the comics, new or old. So the movie is confused. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. Luckily, the problems don’t end there.
The Pink Ranger was probably my first crush. Before I matured and found my new love, Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Kimberly Hart was where my little heart was at. She was a totally badass teenager with a heart of gold. The other Rangers were no slouch either though. I used to tell people as a kid that my middle name was Jason (it wasn’t) because the Red Ranger was just that amazing. Billy made science and math seem cool, and as a kid who wasn’t exactly the most popular at school for his interest in all things Star Wars and space related, that was encouraging. Zach was hilarious, always providing a pun when times were most dire. Of course, no one can forget Trini, the Ranger most likely to perform a high kick while taking on five bad guys. Here those characters are portrayed with much darker pasts. No longer are these the justice warriors that are eager to take on any evil. These are reluctant heroes, more concerned with their own problems than those of others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I actually enjoyed that they fleshed each character out, spending time with each to raise the stakes when they inevitably find themselves in trouble. With that said, the acting is hilariously bad at times, especially in moments of heightened drama. In one key scene, the five teens are opening up to each other around a campfire, telling tragic stories in their lives, but I found myself audibly laughing every time Zach opened his mouth. Their dialogue didn’t exactly help either. Certain elements were bound to be carried over from the show that were going to be a little ridiculous. When the main antagonist’s name is Rita Repulsa, you have to expect a bit of cheese with your drama, but the script is so often trying to be edgy and funny at the same time that it can never find the balance necessary. I genuinely enjoyed Billy as a character in the film, but the guy has some of the least realistic dialogue ever put to paper. No one speaks like that, and the film is all the more quotable because of it. Just wait for when he comes up with the name for when their Zords connect.
I wasn’t familiar with director Dean Israelite coming into the film, but I have become well acquainted with his style after Power Rangers. The director has a fondness for overly complicated camera movements that have nothing to do with what is happening on screen. The characters are walking into a different room, let’s have the camera flip upside down to follow them! Jason is driving up to the high school, let’s angle the camera at 45 degrees to make it more dramatic! The Rangers put on their costumes for the first time, cue the Stranger Things music and have them walk in slow motion! There seems to be no reasoning for the movements other than to look cool. Yet, when it comes time to have the Rangers actually fight enemies and get into their Zords, that style is sorely lacking. By the end of the film though, you’ll be very familiar with what a suplex is! The movie is about 90% build up, and 10% action, which I am actually totally ok with given that this is as much an ensemble piece as it is an action movie. It’s just too bad that the fighting is easily the most boring part of the film. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous reaction shots from the five protagonists, it would be worth skipping the entire 10 minute fight scene. Seeing these beautiful CW channel looking teenagers sweating profusely and screaming incoherently is definitely worth sticking around for.
If you happen to watch the original television series before getting to this movie, don’t worry, there are plenty of easter eggs. Whether small, such as a key Rita reference at the end, or large, with original cast members making an appearance or Alpha 5 saying a key catchphrase, they are welcome additions. Even at its worst, it is clear that everyone involved with the project was having a lot of fun. Famed actors Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks have extended roles, and both give the appropriate amount of gusto for the roles. Cliched moments are abundant, and each one outdoes the last.
Give this film a watch, but do so with as many people as you can gather. I realize that may not be possible given the time we live in. I personally haven’t seen anyone since I saw that woman last year, but my hope is that you will discover this place amongst a group who can enjoy its offerings. I’m sure that you will have just as much fun as I did.
Oh, and whatever Krispy Kreme paid to be put in this movie, it was well worth it. The entire plot revolves around the restaurant, and when even the villain takes time out during the key battle to enjoy a donut, you are clearly doing something right. I really want a donut now.
3 out of 5 stars.