There’s a fundamental misjudgement at the heart of Power Rangers, the latest franchise wannabe. It takes a property that could never be cool to anyone over the age of 12, and stuffs it to the gills with Breakfast Club-style teen angst. It’s impossible to fathom who it’s actually aimed at: too dull for kids seeking superhero thrills, too lame for anyone who might actually be in a position to relate to its protagonists.
The borderline-edgy leads comprise fallen sports hero Jason (Zac Efronalike Dacre Montgomery), “on the spectrum” Billy (Me & Earl’s RJ Cyler), ostracised cool girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott), surly Trini (Becky G.) and Zack (Ludi Lin), whose characterisation extends to having a sick mother.
Jason, Billy and Kimberly meet in Saturday detention, crossing paths with the others at the site where Zordon (Bryan Cranston) – one of the original prehistoric alien Rangers from the Cenozoic era – buried crystals that’ll give the new chosen ones powers.
Reincarnated as a disembodied mentor, Cranston suffers the indignity of acting through a lousy visual effect that’s basically a large-scale version of those pin-art contraptions you pressed your face into as a kid. As well as receiving trite nuggets of mentor wisdom, the gang’s training only really covers performing suplexes.
It’s not entirely without merit. Director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) flaunts visual panache with a spinning 360-degree view from inside a car during a chase, while the team of photogenic outcasts aren’t entirely charmless, with Cyler getting most of the laughs.
It also takes commendable baby steps towards being a more progressive superhero film, and includes a casual reference to one character’s non-heterosexuality. But any potential warmth is derailed with some misfiring decisions, including two-too-many wanking gags and an act of revenge porn that’s shrugged off as character building.
For viewers of a certain age, there will possibly be pangs of involuntary nostalgia when (finally) it’s morphin’ time: like the TV series, there’s a cheap-looking fight in a quarry. But by this point, it’s hard to feel invested in the stakes.
Elizabeth Banks’ hammy baddie Rita Repulsa feels like she’s been transplanted from an entirely different, younger-skewing film, and the mythology feels not so much half-baked as raw. When the indistinguishable Zords assemble for some sub-par Bayhem, the budget VFX struggle to conjure much excitement.
It’s a meh climax to a reboot that feels misguided: when your film has such egregious product placement that Krispy Kreme becomes the source of all power in the universe, the buck has to stop somewhere.