Lionsgate’s $105 Million feature film Power Rangers has been described as both a reboot and a reimagining the 1990s-nostalgia favorite franchise Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Hiring Dean Israelite to direct, whose much lower budget Project Almanac surprised Hollywood with its own unique teen team-up, was alone a strong indication of the studio’s new approach to morphin’ time.
The film, which opens this Friday, stars fresh faces Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things), Naomi Scott (The Martian), RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Becky G (Empire), Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt), with the intriguingly cast Bill Hader as robot Alpha 5, Bryan Cranston as Zordon, and Elizabeth Banks as none-other than Rita Repulsa. It has been pre-screened for critics and the initial reviews are now in for Israelite’s film.
Below is a round up of spoiler-free highlights from a handful of early Power Rangers reviews, with links to the full review in each listed publication:
The Wrap – Alonso Duralde
It’s a testament to these five actors and their collective charisma that they not only breathe real life into underwritten, cookie-cutter characters but also wind up being more interesting as regular teens then they are as color-coded superheroes. Yes, this is silly stuff, although the movie manages to play most of it with a straight face.
THR – Justin Lowe
For longtime fans, the newest installment preserves some of the most beloved characteristics of the original franchise, updated to reflect technological advances. Whether they’re dealing with bullying, alienation or peer pressure, these teens are more three-dimensional than their Ranger predecessors, but eventually this repetitive effort to emphasize their relatability becomes so heavy-handed as to appear transparently manipulative.
Screen Daily – Tim Grierson
A teen group therapy session disguised as a superhero movie, Power Rangers is numbingly predictable and cynically made, recycling myriad blockbuster tropes but draining their adolescent pleasures in the process
Variety – Owen Gleiberman
The new version tries to get all ironic and designer-techie and “ambitious” about rebooting the “Power Rangers” concept. Yet it’s all franchise window dressing. It can’t disguise the reality that the characters in “Power Rangers” have all the depth and idiosyncrasy of walking talking robo-teen action figures.
IndieWire – David Ehrlich
“Power Rangers” owes far more to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the “Twilight” generation, and Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies than it does its own source material. If not for a handful of scattered call-backs and an amusingly incongruous performance from Elizabeth Banks (who plays the evil Rita Repulsa with such go-for-broke glee that it feels like she’s fulfilling a Make-A-Wish request for a dying fanbase), it would seem as though this movie were embarrassed of its origins.
While it is still too early for a Rotten Tomatoes calculation of yea or nay, these early reviews are fairly neutral. It should be pointed out that the film is fairly critic-proof, as its core audience will be intrigued enough to see how one of their childhood favorites has been retooled for today’s franchise, reboot, remake, and sequel crazy industry.
For studio Lionsgate, this could be their next Hunger Games, with bigger potential than the studio’s previous comic-book heroes Red and Kick-Ass. Industry analysts don’t expect Power Rangers to rival a box-office return a la Marvel Cinematic Universe release, but well above the previous two attempts to bring the Power Rangers to screen in 1995 and 1997. Last year, CEO Jon Feltheimer expressed an optimistic desire to make as many as seven more Power Rangers, after social media reacted positively to an online costume reveal.
For the property itself, everything previously morphed is morphin’ again. Franchise creator Haim Saban, who has returned to produce this new feature film, essentially rebooted a previously existing series for the Western world, taking footage from the Japanese tokusatsu Super Sentai. The fact that we now have a massive-budget Hollywood tentpole picture, nearly 25 years later, has more to do with keeping a media franchise alive in the same vein as Transformers or Smurfs. As more reviews come in, that’s probably a good fact to keep in mind.
Sources: Various (see above)