If, like me, you have never seen the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, then this movie reboot is probably the best place to start. MMPR was a quite popular kids' TV show back in the 1990s, made in the US but incorporating stock footage from the Japanese TV franchise Super Sentai. There was loads of merchandising and a spinoff movie back in 1995, but this is the first live-action incarnation since then. And it's a pretty decent effort for the most part, more of a teen drama than a superhero movie.
As with most movie reboots, what we have here is an origin story, and it seems to follow the original mythology from the TV show. Five "misfit" kids from Angel Grove in California come across an ancient spacecraft buried in an old gold mine near the town. Inside they meet the spirit of Zordon (Bryan Craonston), who has been embedded in the ship since the Cenozoic era. He's the original Red Power Ranger, and he's been trapped in the quarry since the Green Ranger, aka Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) went rogue and killed the others. She's now threatening to return and destroy the Earth, so Zordon – with the help of trusty robot sidekick Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Bader) – must train a new team of Power Rangers to stop her.
Hardcore fans of the old MMPR TV show would probably be a bit disappointed by this updated version (the film was considered a box office flop on its theatrical release). It's light on the action and heavy on the exposition and dialogue, but for newcomers such as myself, that's no bad thing. It spends the first hour or so setting up the new characters, letting us get to know them so that when they do eventually don the suits and do battle with evil Rita, we actually car whether they win or not.
And thanks to a decent screenplay from John Gatins alongside likeable and engaging performances from the five leads – Dacre Montgomery as Jason (Red Ranger), Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink), RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue), Ludi Lin as Zack (Black) and Becky G as Trini (Yellow) – we easily and quickly become comfortable with this disparate, quirky group who are trying to find their place in the world. And a nice touch is the diversity; alongside a mix of races, we also have one character who may well be gay and another who is on the autistic spectrum. So these are all pretty normal, average kids having to deal with normal, everyday issues alongside their training to become superheroes. There's real depth to the relationship that develops among the group, and genuine chemistry between the actors.
There are touches of humour (the film opens with a bovine masturbation gag) and mostly perfect performances. I say mostly because the usually reliable Banks seems to think she's back in the old TV series and puts in a somewhat campy and a little over-the-top turn as the villain of the piece. But that's all by-the-by when we get to the finale, which feels as though it's taken also the TV show too. For a film with a two-hour running time it does feel like a bit more action was needed, but as origin stories go it works well, particularly the training scenes as the teens learn to harness their powers and morph into Rangers. It's less silly and campy than the TV show it's based on, but Power Rangers is a decent reboot with enough fun to keep you watching (and booing evil Rita). It succeeds for the most part at updating the material and making the concept a little more contemporary, but it could do with a little less of the campy, cheesy stuff that occasionally throws off the tone, along with a few more laughs. And now that we've got the whole how-they-became-Power-Rangers thing out of the way, here's hoping that we get some more adventures with this team.
EXTRAS: There's an audio commentary with director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins; the feature-length nine-part making-of documentary The Power of the Present (2:20:12), The Power of the Present (HD, 140 min): which features the cast sharing their memories of the old TV as well as crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and it explores the casting, the costumes, the fight choreography, the music, the special effects and more, broken into the chapters Rangers Then to Now, Building the Team, Beyond the Rangers, Suiting Up, Rangers Welcome to Training, Ranger in the Wild, It's Morphin' Time, Power Balled: Music and Sound, and This Is Your Destiny; 18 Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes (33:39); Outtakes (3:41); and the Theatrical Trailer, with an optional commentary from Israelite.