'Power Rangers' Brings Morphin To A New Age
By Devvon Eubanks
Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” It's looking back on previous periods of one’s life, reminiscing on our fondest memories. Nostalgia can be triggered by sound and smell, but some of our greatest memories, especially during childhood, are connected to one household device: the television. In the 1990s, the television was an important point for a lot of children’s programming. Rugrats, Batman: The Animated Series, Darkwing Duck, and Reboot were some of the most popular shows during this time, but none compared to the allure of Saban’s “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” In the show, five teenagers were chosen to defend the Earth against the evil Rita Repulsa and her minions. Featuring cheesy dialogue, outlandish monsters, and a penchant for martial arts and giant “Zord” robots, the Rangers punched, kicked, and morphed their way into the hearts of millions of fans across the globe and spawned almost twenty different versions that continue to this day. But now, after being away from the silver screen since the 1997 film “Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie,” the crew is back in action…and I must say, it is an awesome time to be a fan.
Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) finds himself in trouble after he steals a car and gets into an accident. On top of that, after being the star of Angel Grove High’s football team, he gets kicked off the squad, placed under house arrest, and sent to detention with other delinquents. But when he befriends the nerdy Billy Cranston (R.J. Cyler) and travels with him to an abandoned mine, Jason quickly finds himself in over his head even more. After Billy causes an accident, the pair, along with three other teens, find “power coins” embedded in the quarry and gain superhuman abilities. Returning to the mine with their newfound powers, they uncover a spaceship and a world much beyond their own. With the threat of an ancient evil looming and threatening to destroy all life on Earth, these teens must uncover the secret behind their powers and learn to work together as a new team of “Power Rangers.”
Overall, the story and initial background of the film is pretty standard. Angel Grove is a small town that appears to be suburban and laid back, just like in the series. It is a quiet, sleepy place with few discernible features, but it has a bit of a brooding and dark atmosphere. This simple ambiance also extends to the plot, which feels like another episodic season of “Power Rangers.” It's good versus evil in another race to save the world, not too different from an “Avengers” movie. But what is refreshing about the film is actually related to nostalgia. When the crew first encounters Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), fight the new “Putty Patrol,” and see their new Zords, memories come flooding back to the audience that remembers the battles of the past. And there is enough of a modern spin to capture younger audiences who don’t even know what heck “Power Rangers” is. From the costumes to the final battle with Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), it is a fantastic melding of the classic with the modern in so many ways, without coming across as weird or outlandish.
However, what is really surprising is the way the characters develop. The original series did not focus much on the background of the individual Rangers and was centered on providing diversity just to be diverse. Furthermore, the team just happened to come together and fight after a bit of information from Zordon and a charge to defend Angel Grove. It was campy while providing wholesome programming for kids. But the story behind this crew is totally different, as each has a role to play. The overall tone is also more serious, as some Rangers battle with personal issues, like Trini (Becky G.) with her struggle to be accepted, and Zack (Ludi Lin) finding a way to take care of his gravely ill mother. The film shows a life outside of the team atmosphere, something the original didn’t focus on much. Dialogue between all five teens is also quite entertaining and they interact like a close family throughout as they argue, laugh, and share secrets. It's a refreshing dynamic. There is a bit of cursing for emphasis, which could throw off some younger viewers, but it isn’t anything too jarring. Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa also does a brilliant job, offering a menacing new take on the goofy original. She is effective as a malevolent witch who takes advantage of the Rangers' inexperience, and her costume is outstanding.
In the end, Saban’s new “Power Rangers” succeeds where other reboots have failed. Given that this is just the start of a reported “six-film story arc,” we may see our fair share of the mighty morphin’ crew for some time. But what is here bings enough of the classic excitement back to the current age, so series fans can be at ease about the new team. So until the next outing, all I can say is…
“It’s morphin’ time!!!”