“Saban’s Power Rangers” wields a darker sword than its predecessors

Character depth and subtle moments of nostalgia revive the franchise reboot’s tonal shakiness.

Kyle Kohner, Writer

“It’s Morphin Time,” just to a lesser extent. In fact, it takes until the last third of “Saban’s Power Rangers” for the titular heroes to envelop themselves in their full-body armor and take command of their ranger powers, which ultimately proves to be a great decision considering how clunky those suits appear. However, it does not take long for the group of teens to demonstrate their iconic “friendship” mentality. For most of its duration, it maintains heavy characterization. The fleshing out and heavy-handed setup of the heroes and their formation of teamwork and friendship proves to be the strongest point of a blockbuster that still oozes the classic Power Rangers ambience.

Gritty, grounded and diverse

Going into “Saban’s Power Rangers,” nothing short of gimmicky was expected. This movie succeeds in the cheese department, yet these Power Rangers are more gritty, grounded and diverse than ever.

The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers of the early to mid ‘90s tried to spread the idea of diversity, but wound up spreading stereotypes instead. The lone African-American actor played the black ranger, the Asian-American actress played the yellow ranger and the blond white actress played the pink ranger. This new group of heroes is tastefully diverse. There is still an Asian-American, the black ranger, a Latino American, the yellow ranger, and an African-American actor who plays the blue ranger.

This group’s diversity dwells deeper than race and explores mental illness and sexuality. Billy Cranston, the blue ranger, played by RJ Cyler, has autism and Trini Kwan, the yellow ranger played by Becky G, is sexually ambiguous. The two characters’ added depth to their humanity as these heroes delivers a much more accepting and positive message for younger viewers to latch onto.

A team effort

Aside from the theme of diversity, the movie flaunts the moniker messages of friendship and unity just as fervently as before. In fact, it remains the center of focus and acquaints itself as the Power Rangers’ biggest obstacle from saving their town and ultimately the world from the evil Rita Repulsa, whose character eerily harkens back to the Mighty Morphin years.

This movie subtly pays homage to its predecessors and creates a palatable amount of nostalgic emotion for fans to take in. However, some of the attempts to throw it back to the ‘90s came off as overbearing. Elizabeth Banks does a fine job brandishing the over-the-top flair that the original Rita Repulsa encompassed. Unfortunately, the accurate cheesiness of Banks’ Repulsa alongside the much more endearing and serious performances of the rangers created awkward tonal imbalances, which lingered as a huge overarching problem. The tone of this movie should have went all-in on the classic goofiness or all-in with the grittiness.

Goofy or gritty

Another failed attempt at schmaltz lies within the aesthetic of the heroes. While watching their predecessors gear up into their original color-coded, skin-tight bodysuits and helmets while yelling “It’s Morphin Time” cajoled warm feelings as a child, these suits egregiously resembled bootleg versions of Iron Man rather than actual Power Rangers. But the writers’ worst endeavor at sentiment or lack thereof is the five-second snippet of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song. Yes, only five seconds, a tragedy by any measure.

Despite some shortcomings, “Saban’s Power Rangers” still possessed moments that made me feel warm and fuzzy, harkening back to those childhood Saturday mornings. If you are a ride-or-die Power Rangers fan, or a fledgling one at least, you will thoroughly enjoy this flick. If you go into the theaters expecting a film, then chances are you will be disappointed.

Sentimental moments will appease viewers, but surprising character development will surpass expectations. This group of heroes have to deal with bullying, mental illness, scandal and sexual orientation, making them more three-dimensional and transparent than their ranger predecessors, a necessary improvement if this brand wanted to make money off this movie and now destined movie franchise. This feature-length would have failed as an arthouse crowd pleaser, but thankfully it stuck to its gimmicky formula instead, embracing its marketable namesake and worldwide appeal in order to achieve slight success.

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