I have no idea how Dean Israelite’s Power Rangers was actually made, but it feels like a film that’s been focus grouped to death. Every decision in the film feels less like an artistic decision than a decision designed to increase the film’s generic appeal to a young audience.
Power Rangers is not the first nor will it be the last film to star a bunch of generic, too-good looking twenty-something actors as high schoolers, but it’s certainly one of the most egregious. In this case, the Power Rangers are a veritable Breakfast Club of misfits and outcasts, who instead of bonding over their shared differences in detention, bond over their shared differences as superheroes. Though the teens all have their own particular backstories and angsts, it was pretty difficult to get any attachment to any of them. The acting is pretty dull on the whole, though it’s unclear to me that there’s really much blame to be assigned to actors who have to deliver dull exposition and painful dialogue; in particular moments where canonical Power Rangers iconography had to be referenced landed flat, like when a “megazord” is initially introduced as a “mama-zord”. It’s a particular travesty that this film wastes the skills of a premiere actor like Bryan Cranston.
Filled from front to back with cliche after cliche, Power Rangers manages to succeed with action that, while uninspired, is sleek and well-produced. The musical cues, songs freshly picked from last year’s Top-40 charts, are unlikely to age well, but a training montage set to “HandClap”, by Fitz and the Tantrums, manages to be a fairly successful moment in an otherwise dull film (as annoying as that song may be).
The mythology building here is fairly clunky, with Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa not really doing a great job of conveying motivation or lore in any effective way. It would have served the film well to place some villains around her in supporting roles, because as the film is structured now, it feels like a really small, contained world, not an expansive world to explore.
This film feels like a creative failure, a sheer miscalculation of what audiences are looking for in action movies. It’s not big enough or bombastic enough to be a Transformers-like success, not campy and fun enough to fill a cult niche, and all told it’s unclear what kind of film this is really meant to be. I could imagine what a good Power Rangers might look like, but it wouldn’t look much like this.