Jason Scott is the star football player ready to bring Angel Grove to victory. But he wants to be something more than the answer to his father’s dream of sports. He steals a bull with a friend and brings it to school.
Now, those who follow me on Facebook might remember that yesterday I posted a joke about what you call a masturbating cow (Beef Stroganoff). That joke came back to haunt me during the ‘bull’ scene. Yes, the movie opened with a joke about jerking off a bull.
He ends up crashing his car trying to escape the scene of the crime, blowing out his knee and gaining an ankle bracelet plus detention. It’s in detention that he meets Billy Cranston, a teen ‘on the spectrum’ as Billy explains, who is being bullied. Jason protects him, and then smiles at Kim Hart – the on the outskirts Kimberly, future pink ranger.
Turns out Billy and his father used to go to the mines and dig around at night so he takes his new friend out there to help out. Kim is there, as are two other kids. Lo and behold, Billy blows some stuff up and they find the coins that make them Power Rangers.
Now, this is a nostalgia film for us kiddos who grew up on the PR, but updated with modern superhero (read, Marvel Cinematic, not DC tragedies) sensibilities. So they quip their way through training to become the rangers. Billy provides many fun moments, from his not wanting to say swear words to just general energy.
Rita Repulsa is a corrupted ranger back from the grave to get the Zeo crystal – think of it as an infinity stone if you’re a Marvelite – a source of universal power. And it’s buried in Angel Grove!
The Power Rangers form and do battle and learn to work together to save their town. They also almost die and/or really die for a wee bit in the process.
There are some great one-liners throughout, and ones that recognize some of the more problematic issues of race in the original series. For example, when Alpha is explaining to the teens that why they are Power Rangers he says “five colors, five teens. Five teens of different colors.” (not exact quote) and later, when the new black ranger, portrayed by an Asian man, proclaims he’s black, Billy Cranston, a black teen, calls him on it.
In the original series, back to nostalgia land, there was also great diversity and it might have been one of the first non sesame street show to have heroes who weren’t just white blonds. However, the black ranger was black, yellow asian, etc. It was very on the nose. Plus we didn’t learn much about the characters. Zak, the black power ranger, speaks Chinese in the film when talking to his mother, who he’s caring for as she’s ill.
The action was also great fun. Elizabeth Banks, for her part, did a crazed Rita Repulsa and we learned her backstory. In fact, Gordon and why the Zords are Dinos was also neatly explained. Goldar is also made of liquid gold that continuously move. He’s pretty cool, too, even if I missed the kind of gold flying monkey rubber suit of the series.
While there is more character development here than in the series or other movies, maybe it’s more character exposition. In fact, it’s made explicit that they can’t become rangers until they know more about each other, so cue the fire pit where they sit around and talk about how they miss their fathers, Trini, the yellow ranger talks about questioning her sexuality, etc. Kim, however, never tells her secret in front of the group, just to Jason. Her’s is that she forwarded what we’re led to believe is a picture of another cheerleader in a sexually compromising photo, to the school. Something that made me wonder the age group they were going for. I think it was 8th or 9th grade when my friends started watching the show, middle school, which would fit for this type of exposition. However, we felt we were watching it ironically and that it was really for 8 year olds. For 8 year olds, there were things (like that opening bull hand job joke) that were over their heads or out of line. The movie was by far darker than the others.
I always wondered where the F- the parents were in the Power Rangers. It was like they were all made drones and forced to be only background characters. While we learn of the death of a couple of the parents, Jason’s father is the oppressive ‘be my football star surrogate’ father in the beginning, then he’s a fisherman during a storm, then pops up only later for Jason to save (so Jason can feel he’s fulfilling his own destiny instead of his fathers, get it? The film realllly wants to make sure we get it). Trini is beaten badly in her house, and explains how protective her parents are. We see her walls are smashed in (and smashed in with her body). This happens at night, yet no one rushes in to help or call the police or anything. Billy talks about loving his mother but we don’t see her, that I recall. At least Zak spends time with his.
I also wonder about the branding. What up Krispy Kreme? You pay them so good money?
There are females here and not just for male consumption! The female power rangers, 2 out of the 5, wear jeans and t-shirts and the basic teen attire, just like the males. They aren’t forced into tights and fashionista styles like females in other teen movies. They speak! to each other! and about being super heroes! I think there’s a scene with the two of them together alone, hmmm. Most of the time it is the five, but they talk about being super heroes and stuff, nothing about boy/girl girl/girl relationships, really.
Rita Repulsa is scantily dressed and gets a whistle from a guy at a mine, obviously sexualized. She blows up the place and doesn’t respond to the whistle. There is also a hint at a history we don’t see on screen between Rita and Gordon. See, they used to be on the same team (nostalgia heads, remember how Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, was originally evil and got his power from Rita? Well, where do you think she got it?). At one point the kiddos say they’ll take her back for Gordon to decide her fate. She yells that he is not going to judge her again. Now, there’s strength in a female declaring that she is no longer letting a man judge her. Makes me wonder the system she escaped from. At the same time, Gordon is telling the Rangers she’s pure evil for turning away from him. There’s subtext going on here, folks. I want to know more about what the hell happened.
Final Comments: I think it was great fun and a nice reboot to the movies. Apparently Saban Entertainment has 5! more planned already, depending on this success. I think they fit somewhere between DC and Marvel universe films in terms of tone. Jokey with some darkness thrown in, but an established world and history with those of the generation who now hold jobs and can afford to pay for their nostalgia. I enjoyed it, and it was way more slick and professional (as in, not as kid like) as the other Power Rangers movies, or even the series.