When it was announced that the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was getting a reboot for the cinema, a large portion of geek community let out a collective groan. I was never a big fan of MMPR back in the day, but even I was a bit puzzled as to why this property was being resucitated as a big budget film, then it dawned on me. Superheroes.
While I thought of MMPR as a tokusatsu, teens in spandex fighting rubber monsters kitsch-fest, it’s clear that the thought behind this reboot was to capitalize on the superhero boom of the last decade, and I can’t say I blame them. The ’90s was a decade largely devoid of superhero action, certainly in live action, so the Power Rangers were pretty much the closest we got. One of the great successes of the Power Rangers as a franchise has been its ability to constantly reinvent itself over the last twenty years with hundreds of episodes, dozens of different Rangers, and appealing to the kids of the newer generations. Even my own son was a Power Rangers junkie for a few years. So it makes sense that the franchise would try to make the leap into the big time and not in the same way that the original film did, by simply taking the original concepts and stretching them out over 90 minutes.
Saban’s Power Rangers – the film’s official title – is a classic reimagining. It retains the core ideas and some of the core characters, but updates the material for a newer generation to whom five teenagers in spandex wouldn’t necessarily connect. The problem with this approach for me is that the film ends up being another origin story, meaning that the first two thirds of the film are almost devoid of action or the kind of special effects I’m looking for. The characters do get a lot more to do than they did in the earlier incarnations of the property, but I’m looking for fighting, and I had to wait a long time to get it.
I didn’t love Power Rangers, but I do have a grudging respect for it. The film is at least twenty minutes too long – no film like this needs to go over two hours – and needs to cut the exposition short, but they do take the characters pretty seriously, and it mostly works. I wasn’t impressed with Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa, but I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting. The character from the show was a shrill screaming villainess and Banks’ version retains the evil intentions, but tries to rein in the performance aspect all while spouting the kind of dialogue that would’ve felt completely at home in the TV series. If your villain loses me, it is really difficult to keep me interested in all of the CG destruction she creates.
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray of Power Rangers is yet another example of a disc that really makes me rethink a film that I wasn’t completely convinced of. My opinion of Power Rangers didn’t completely change after plowing through the over two hours worth of bonus content on this disc, but it definitely changed my perspective. In addition to the director’s commentary, there is a feature’s worth of bonus material cut into bite sized pieces (I ingested the thing whole), that is really enlightening.
Thankfully, the first allows the viewer to watch these nine featurettes all at once, which actually works pretty well, in spite of the fact that each of them has it’s own brief credit card. There are featurettes on the Power Rangers legacy, the stunt training, the CG, the MoCap performance of Bill Hader, the performances of Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Banks as Rita Repulsa, the scoring of the film, the outfitting of the Rangers and updating it for the ’10s, the new Rangers and the contemporary challenges they face, and much more. It’s very clear that a ton of effort went into this film, and while it doesn’t equal a complete success, I appreciate it a bit more having spent the time watching and listening to the team.
Power Rangers isn’t a great film, but this is defintely a great disc and more comprehensive than most big budget studios projects get for home video. Check it out.