In our culture, littered with trolls trying to ruin everything before anyone even gets to see it, the film buzz of the week has been the notion that “Saban’s Power Rangers is not very good.” Having seen it, I can report that the people who’ve been perpetuating that are fun-hating grouches who may not even have a soul. Nobody is going to win an Oscar for Saban’s Power Rangers, but the jerks trying to drown it in critic-piss and Internet-vinegar should not be allowed to deter folks from enjoying this movie.
I’m not a Power Rangers fanboy. At best, I’m a casual appreciator whose sister was really into the franchise in its original American iteration in the ’90s. We’re ten years apart, on opposite sides of the Gen-X/Millennial line, and I was a teenager when she first fell for the Pink Ranger as a child. My generation had “been there, done that” with Voltron and such. I recognized the cheese of the “Sentai” genre and filed it in the same part of my mind as the goofy Kung Fu films of the ’70s craze. They were their own thing, and were bringing plenty of joy to people, so good for them. I saw the feature film in the ’90s, appreciated the kitsch, and enjoyed the surprisingly good soundtrack album.
Beyond that, I never revisited the Power Rangers world, other than observing the many iterations, the refreshing childlike glee of adult fans, the endless well of revenue evident in child fans, mobile-phone ringtones beeping happily at conventions or video game stores, and the increasing presence of Rangers alumni making a decent living signing autographs.
Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of working with some of these actors when running the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention, and I met some of the nicest people among them. I also met one of the most full-of-it people, but that’s a separate story. (Looking at you, JDF…)
It’s safe to say most people went into the new film expecting it to be pretty lame. Cheesy? Sure. Bad writing? Likely. Goofy effects? Maybe. Bad production design? Looks like it could swing that way. Flimsy acting? Probably.
Actually, none of those notions ended up dominating the experience. The cheese was appropriate, with many in-genre gags, one-liners, or jokes (am I the only one who got the joke about Billy being “on the spectrum?”). The writing was not profound, but not bad. Just average. The effects were decent — great compared to the overall franchise — and legit for the subject at hand. Despite looking a little bit Michael Bay, the designs were appropriate for our modern context. Even the acting held up to the occasion.
(Now, see that? That’s the spoiler line. Between the spoiler lines, there may be spoilers.)
The film spends a lot of time on origin story, but not so much it feels clunky. A decent basis is established for these kids, in this place, with these concerns. Once they discover the coins, the underground ship, Zordon, and Alpha, there is still a decent amount of time before they’re just conveniently fighting in suits and piloting Zords. Yes, the action escalates quickly, but that’s how this genre works.
One disappointment I noticed was the lack of opportunities taken for more cameos. We have a cameo at the end by two recognizable former Rangers (to big cheers from the audience) but there were many opportunities for other roles which would have been fun as cameos: the detention teacher, Zack’s mom, Jason’s dad, any number of townsfolk, and so on. Music, however, made many of the right appearances, with the classic theme song and a couple of tunes from that fun ’90s soundtrack being included as covers. The absence of “Kung Fu Fighting,” however, was a little sad.
Another missed opportunity would have been to employ a post-credits stinger teasing Lord Zedd out in space, relating to Rita’s frozen, drifting body. Bonus points if they could have booked Robert Axelrod for the voice. (One of the sweetest — and oldest — men in the business.)
We did get a nice tease for the Green Ranger, in the mid-credits scene. We never see who the missing “Tommy” is, but I am hopeful they may consider playing with a gender swap in the next film, and possibly introduce a female version (Tommie? Tomi?). Maybe a blonde (since it’s all-dark-hair all-the-time on the current team), with a long samurai-esque ponytail. I also can’t help but presume this casting would massively annoy a certain former Green Ranger actor, and stick in his overly-macho craw…
(Back to non-spoiler land.)
The advance-screening crowd seemed generally pleased with Saban’s Power Rangers. Nobody seemed to hate it, or even give it many knocks. It seemed that many came to it like I did, with expectations low. However, it landed with most people in a good way, with everything from “a good popcorn movie” to “glad they respected my childhood” being the commentary in the hall.
It seems the only people detracting from this film are the usual lineup of grumpy critics and web-based blowhards (glass-house irony acknowledged). As a cynic, I feel I should be able to relate to these haters, but I can’t. Sometimes you just have to shut up and allow yourself to have a good time. Beyond that, you have to allow others to have a good time, and lately it seems like the popular choice to be the naysayer.
At this point, it isn’t even that rare to be a detractor of popular arts. The cool-kid bus seems to be the bitch-and-moan bus, and it’s so overdone it’s not even interesting anymore. Being negative about every “geek” franchise that gets another shot at the screen (big or small), is just the norm these days, and falls into the same uninteresting cloud of white noise.
If you see Saban’s Power Rangers this weekend, have a great time! Ignore the haters, grab a few buddies, pop by your local cinema box office and pick a showing, get a drink and some snacks, high-five each other, and allow yourself to smile and enjoy something.
Maybe if enough of us remember how to do that, these sourpusses will pry out whatever crawled up in them and died, and realize nobody has time to listen to them try to ruin everything.