Thursday, 13 April 2017

Power Rangers (Quick Review) - Go Go Nostalgia Raiders

Nostalgia has a lot to answer for. It ruins your Twenties for a start; as you seek to escape your shitty post-university life by delving into the past. And it was nostalgia that aided Donald Trump, who would oft bring out his promise to 'make America great again' - optional sarcastic emphasis on the 'again'. Now, nostalgia is responsible for the creation of this fucking travesty of a film.

In short: thanks to nostalgia, Power Rangers (2017) has raped more childhoods than the Catholic Church.

Not that Power Rangers was ever a particularly good franchise. Alongside Transformers, Street Sharks, Mighty Max, and Pok√©mon, it existed entirely to sell merchandise to kids: the sort of dastardly whimsical capitalism Willy Wonka would come up with. My reaction, therefore, comes not from some misguided fanboy loyalty, but how genuinely awful the film is.

Power Rangers (2017) is a reboot of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, which ran from 1993-1996 and was itself a remake of Japanese series Super Sentai. Structured like an extended episode the movie may be, it nonetheless focuses on all the wrong parts. Which means the ultra-camp Nineties aesthetic is lost in translation, replaced by grit and Beverly Hills, 90210 style drama.

Star quarterback, Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), throws his promising career away for a stupid prank and is forced to attend The Breakfast Club. There he encounters former cheerleader Kimberly (Naomi Scott), autistic nerd Billy (RJ Cyler), and, through series of incredibly contrived situations involving dynamite, label-hating Trini (Becky G) and boring Asian guy Zack (Ludi Lin). I'm glad to see Jason's obeying Tumblr's diversity laws.

As far as franchise set-ups go, this one is certainly up and down - like my voice during puberty. I understand the premise is about contrasting existential threats to humanity with teenage issues (such as to trying to grow a beard that doesn't resemble bum fluff). But instead of creating a balance between the two, a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this film doubles down on the teenage angst. One scene, for example, has Trini explain her hatred for labels and strict norms. In an aggressively mainstream Hollywood film, no less.

L-R: Billy (Blue), Kim (Pink), Zack (Black), Trini (Yellow,) and Jason (Red) 

It left me wondering who this movie is for. Not the (now) grown-up fans of the original, that's for sure. I also doubt the sprogs enjoying the current series - which probably has some adjective word soup name - want to watch a film that's 80 % High School Delusional either. A teenage soap where the word 'Morphin' is used often enough for it to sound like an euphemism for wanking.

When I think of Power Rangers I picture 20 somethings dressed in spandex, pretending to be teenagers; there're blazing guitars in the background, fights like those from knock-off 70's Kung Fu movies; Kaiju and Mecha battles, and villains with incomprehensible plots. In many ways, the Power Rangers franchise was a baby version of the superhero genre - popular long before comic book films really took off.

Not that the film is without its moments. The final battle, which sees the Rangers come up against Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and the 100ft monstrosity Goldar, captures is brash in a way this film needed to be all along. My favourite moment was seeing the team launch out of Zordon's base in their Zords while the iconic theme song rang out. And there's the Mega-Zord defeating Goldar with a suplex and slapping Rita into space, which definitely shows the movie possesses a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.

Moments such as those are rare, however. The real focus is spent emphasising the Power Rangers as people, and positioning the movie as a 21st Century coming of age tale. Only I simply don't care. I don't care that Kimberly shared a photo of her friend's stonking tits round the school. I also don't care about Billy and his autism: the guy's like a cross between Sheldon Cooper and the Crows from Dumbo. There's a scene where Zordon (a wasted Bryan Cranston) admits he's using the Rangers so he can stop being the wailing wall and get in on the action. I was fucking rooting for the guy. Sadly, this never comes to fruition.

Honestly, it's Elizabeth Banks I pity the most. She does an admirable job with what little she's given and even tries to go full ham. But she's relegated to popping up now and then to do the odd villainous thing here and there - sort of a handywoman of evil. Better than the usual crap treatment female villains get, but I still want to see a female antagonist as unabashedly awful as Lt.Col."You may scream, there is no shame" Podovsky from Rambo: First Blood Part II.

There was a rather colourful poster for the movie which demonstrated the Rangers and their Zords in action, and it seems clear that the filmmakers intended to rake in the nostalgia dosh through bait-and-switch marketing. It suggests this movie is as colourful and brash as the original series, when it's closer in tone to Michael Bay's Transformers reboot. There are scant references to the series, but in terms of tone it's a wholly different beast. The producers overdid it and overdid it, until they pulled an Emperor Diocletian and divided the Roman empire into halves and quarters.

All in all, Power Rangers stinks. Power Rangers? More like Shower Strangers.

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