“Power Rangers” is about as dark as a CW TV series: enough to be taken (somewhat) seriously, but with enough humor to have some fun, too.
The film is more about a bunch of oddball teens than it is about colorfully suited karate-chopping superheroes. The first half is “The Breakfast Club,” with extreme daredevil behavior, as this posse of misfits discover each other and stumble into their startling new powers, by way of five colorful coins they happen to blast out of a mountainside.
The explosives enthusiast is Billy (R.J. Cyler, who steals the movie), a neuro-diverse nerd who befriends a disgraced football captain (Dacre Montgomery) in detention. Also on the mountain that day are a rebellious former cheerleader (Naomi Scott), a heavy metal yogi (Becky G.) and an adrenaline-addled delinquent (Ludi Lin). Soon they’re being groomed by a 65-million-year-old alien, Zordon (Bryan Cranston), and a sassy robot (Bill Hader) to take on Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), who plans to use Goldar the gold monster to steal the Earth’s life crystal.
Banks stalks about the small town of Angel Grove in hobo dominatrix gear, dramatically stage whispering, “gold,” “crystals” and “Krispy Kreme” to no one in particular. It’s a committed performance that inspires chuckles, but hopefully it’s supposed to.
The actual power ranger-ing in the movie is blessedly short, focusing more on character and team building. It’s a good thing, too, because director Dean Israelite and cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd have a chaotic approach to shooting action. The film is dark and murky, and the action sequences have no sense of geography. It seems a trend these days to keep the pace blisteringly fast so that the film never drags, but the cutting between scenes could give one whiplash.
We are denied a good morphin’ sequence, though. All we get is slow-motion strolling when they could have been wildly peacocking on a cliff’s edge.
“Power Rangers” maintains the essence of its Japanese TV origins in that it’s pleasantly bonkers. It errs more on the side of goofy than gritty, and that’s to its favor. Trying to take this too seriously would be a mistake. Ultimately, it’s not much more than an itch on that nostalgic sweet spot that Hollywood is more than happy to scratch these days.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor. 2:04. Fayette, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.