I want to talk about a film. One that I consider to be one of the greatest examples of cinematic awkwardness I’ve had the displeasure of viewing in my entire life. What’s worse is that the smug teen drama, or “gritty” as it fancies itself, had the audacity to pretend it was a Power Rangers movie. I’m talking about Power Rangers 2017.Having a movie titled under one of my favorite franchises, yet have so little to do with the source material reminded me of when Ninja Resurrection was released and it pretended it was a sequel to the amazing animated film Ninja Scroll.
Spoiler, it wasn’t.
Power Rangers Movie Facts:
Let’s start out by simply examining how this movie did:
Rotten Tomatoes: 46% Rotten, 76% Audience Score
All 76% of the audience members who liked this movie need a lobotomy. When it came out, I remember asking the few people I knew who liked it why they enjoyed it. I asked with sincere, judgement free curiosity. I wanted to learn, to be enlightened. But no one gave me an answer. It was like they were guilty for enjoying it because they knew it was dreck and didn’t want to have to deal with recounting its terribleness. It got to the point where I sort of feel like they’re just trying to mess with me.
The movie was a flop, making $85 million domestically and $1.2 million in China. The US depends on China specifically for overseas dollars at the box office because China loves movies, especially American ones. But with unlimited access to perfectly executed Mecha media, the Power Rangers movie was a lesson in shit oversight and clearly knew nothing about the audience.
Rumor has it there were six Power Rangers movies planned, including a female Green Ranger teaser at the end of the first movie, all appropriately canned when the movie flopped. The surprise here is that a possible sequel might still happen due to high toy sales. This is incredible considering the movie toys looked like garbage compared to the television ones from the series, no surprise. Even better if you can hunt down/afford the Japanese Bandai toys. Those are always gorgeous, not to sound like an elitist prick. However, the successful toy sales spans across the entire franchise, not just the garbage movie toys! So in essence, when the movie dropped and Power Ranger toy sales were high, they pretended like it wasn’t because of any Legacy lines that were dropping, or Megazords and figurines from Power Rangers Ninja Steel, which was the series on the air at the time. They acted like the high toy sales were from the movie.
Talk about skewing a narrative to suit your needs. And really, we all know that on the very last day of the very last Toys R Us in the US, there were still Power Rangers movie toys stuck to those shelves. No one wanted them.
1) First off, there is ZERO reason they American MMPR names need to be used in this film. There’s no relevance to the characters being named Jason, Billy, Zack, Kimberly, and Trini. The villain didn’t need to be Rita. Alpha and Zordon are irrelevant. If you’re going to ride the nostalgia train, you have to GET ON the damn thing. It could have just been its own stupid thing and been 1% less lame (actual science fact) Now, let’s examine the tone. The movie starts with a “joke” about jerking off a bull and goes downhill from there. The amount of “edge” it attempts is just nauseating. The pitiful backstories of how this team of teens got their “attitude” is just trash. And certain things are so glossed over, like how Kimberly was a “mean-girls” style cheerleader who was ostracized when she took “nude pictures of a classmate in a compromising position”. Like, that’s some sick, violating stuff! And all this chick got was detention and unlimited access to robots and magic powers? Are you kidding me?
2) Zack, the new black ranger (and he’s Asian so that he and Billy, recast with an African-American actor could have a “YOU’RE THE BLACK RANGER?” gag-joke has a pretty lame “sick-mother” back story. Trini, the new yellow ranger, is disgruntled because she’s gay. This could have been a really cool moment in the inner turmoil you feel when figuring out your sexuality (and having your family hate you for it), but instead it’s all just alluded to in a single line. One of the characters ask her “Guy troubles? Girl troubles?” and a look from Trini who says something along the lines of “I just get really mad, okay?”
3) Jason is just a cookie-cutter white dude who hates that he’s a cookie-cutter white dude, right down to the high school quarterback who won the star game storyline. Like, who would be pissy because of that? Your life is simple and awesome and that’s just too much to take? And we have another missed opportunity with Billy, the blue ranger. Admittedly, his performance and characterization was the strongest in the film. Within moments of meeting him he declares he’s on the ASD spectrum and describes a laundry list of his social limitations, yet practices none. That’s Power Rangers’ 2017‘s fatal flaw. Telling, but never showing.
4) I feel like there’s simple rules to Power Rangers and this movie tosses them out the window. Power Rangers, based on the Japanese Super Sentai series that’s been happening since the 70s. It’s formulaic, to say the least. It has a few rules in place in order to make it awesome. Each season of the American show, Power Rangers, has adhered to these simple rules, if not reinventing and perfecting them (though some seasons are more interesting that others) Here’s what we need:
- Fighting Putties out of Ranger costume.
- The moment when the Rangers transform, and there’s some kind of toy or accessory they hold, something they yell out, or a pose they strike to get into costume.
- They fight the monster or bad guy in costume.
- The monster grows.
- The rangers summon their zords and we have the sexy money shot of the zords emerging from their individual lairs.
- The moment of desperation when the leader realizes it’s time to combine for some Megazord action. Initiate Megazord sequence. Megazord activated.
- The giant monster and the Megazord clumsily fight and it’s amazing.
- The megazord blasts the monster with a huge, powerful, laser blasting accessory that I can buy at my local whatever toy store is still in business.
That’s it! That’s all they had to do to create a successful movie. This isn’t a repeating formula; it’s how to make magic. And they failed. They failed with a boring, forced, edgy story. They failed with Rita, who went from a fun Japanese actress to a slimy extra who looked like a concept art rejection from Alien. They failed with Bryan Cranston, who had as much enthusiasm as someone walking into a sound booth for an hour, farting some sounds out of his head, and going home with a sweet paycheck. They failed in the visuals, the acting, the missing camp, and something for the audience to cheer along with.
If I never have to see this movie again, it’ll be too soon. I’m looking for the target audience to yell at me and school me on why I’m an old loser and why this movie wasn’t for me. Please, I beseech you, give me a compelling argument, because I want one so bad. I’m just left reeling, not understanding. If you have an answer, give it to me.
Even if you have to yell “It’s Morphin’ Time” in my vicinity.