Credit Power Rangers for not leaning completely on the nostalgia card. Portions of the original ‘90s series remains in this darker reset. Quippy robot Alpha 5, the town of Angel Grove, that spiffy and catchy “Go, go Power Rangers” ballad; it does reminisce while resetting Power Rangers lore.
For 90-minutes, director Dean Israelite’s superhero yarn – two years removed from his Project Almanac – successfully adapts the contemporary young adult drama into Power Rangers. Using a kung fu film’s narrative parlance, five kids learn and grow their skills. The core tenet of the series, teamwork, remains integral to the story. Angel Grove’s small town America setting is often quaint, even typical. Everyone is middle class in this melting pot scenario. The football star, the bullied one, the outcast – tropes line the bed on which Power Rangers lies.
Once the fivesome discover coins that grant them abilities, super powers burst free. Yet, they don’t have their color-coded suits. They don’t fight clay monsters (also yet). Instead, they earn the privilege to morph into powerful heroes. Maybe it’s illogical as villain Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) begins spilling blood around town. Maybe stopping her is more pertinent than learning teamwork. Regardless, that style of banding together has themes in martial arts, a touch of eastern philosophy the original show appropriated crudely. Here, it’s prominent, if still entirely western in its gung-ho, muscle bound, missile firing climax.
Power Rangers has heart. That’s more than can be spoken for the camp-laden original. Despite the ludicrous, made-up-as-it-goes logic, the script plays strictly straight. No one told Elizabeth Banks though. Her Repulsa delights in a performance of over acted nonsense. It’s great, if out of place.
Better and for worse, this is Power Rangers utterly on its own
Better and for worse, this is Power Rangers utterly on its own
That’s the critical conflict of Power Rangers. Merely resetting the pop culture property in the throes of darkened caverns and near death scenarios isn’t praise worthy in itself. This isn’t the first to do so. We live our cinematic lives at a time when Superman and Batman mercilessly kill. Seeing teens undergo grueling training in an empty location called “The Pit” isn’t straining drama (even less so when set to peppy pop music). Their personal battles likewise don’t stretch beyond empathy for first world, middle class teens.
For as much as Power Rangers insists on playing serious, everything is railroaded in the last half hour. Product placement becomes an eye-twitching central plot point, far enough for Elizabeth Banks to sample said company’s products in the middle of a climatic brawl. The whole thing becomes lost in explosions and gaudy, overdone American design taking things to impossibly literal extremes. There’s no fantasy. The gold monster is gold. It’s robots clashing with a realistic-looking glob of molten goo and so disinteresting as to render the final act worthy of an action cinema coma. Edit clips of this fight into a Transformers flick and no one would notice.
It’s rather painful given the admirable swell of creativity earlier. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) evades police in the opening scenes via an impeccable master shot, twisting around his truck’s cabin interior without breaking the moment. Even near the finale, the Rangers battle their enemies in a slick underwater bout, taking the anything goes, limitless potential of this property somewhere clever.
Unlike the previous two Power Rangers live action movies, this one shows a spark in terms of taking the source material toward a definitively western-styled future. It’s no longer cropping out large swatches of Japanese lineage for its own sake. Better and for worse, this is Power Rangers utterly on its own, removed from the traps of Asian television. What that reveals is how risk-averse American studios tend to be, utterly strict in their plot devices and unwilling to budge. Power Rangers, with this reboot, is made real, and it shows why that was never the intent in the first place.
Significant portions of Power Rangers take place underground. That’s where Zordon and company reside. The capabilities of HDR become apparent here. Although some crush is necessary and part of the original cinematography, shadow details sprout even in dark corners. Depth remains strong and prominent. A nighttime fireside chat delivers all, including the brightness of the flames and darkness of the environment around the kids.
Although listed as 4K master, the disc isn’t one to wow with detail. Sharpness is firm and impressive. However, fidelity wanders, following the somewhat dry visual style. Some close-ups do impress with their textural qualities and some wide shots of the Canadian locations are startling in their definition.
Graded with cool tones and rarely deviating, color density still maintains an appealing quality. Even when the teens gain their suits, the primary tones stay reserved and loose. Things finally sprout in the last half hour. Angel Grove is finally given sunlight, allowing the Goldar design plenty of pop.
A few bouts of noise barely register. Lionsgate’s encode is challenged near the end as thousands of specks of gold scatter into the screen. The encode holds up.
Black crush tends to overcome certain scenes on Blu-ray. The challenge of this disc is certainly maintaining clean shadows. It does, just not frequently. Passing through water incurs some banding as well.
The original cinematography prevents some fidelity. Expect close-ups to perform admirably, if to a routine end. Nothing here is special, so much as adequate. Strong contrast helps elevate some key scenes and the final round of brawling in daylight acts a suitable release, visually and in terms of story.
Mild noise rises in a few scenes. The team looking on at Jason’s red coin before entering Zordon’s ship for the first time is a problem. It passes quickly.
A stellar, power-driven Dolby Atmos mix invigorates this movie. Sure, the finishing battle with its lasers and giant monster punches gives everything necessary to a blockbuster. But, listen to how well this mix tracks objects during the opening police chase. Inside Jason’s truck’s cabin, the camera pans and moves, every bit of sound and voice traveling as it does. It’s an incredible sequence, finished with spectacular LFE.
Emphasized surround use never ceases to impress. Zordon’s voice is on a swivel, tracking between channels regularly. For an audiophile, this is beauty. Listen as Billy blows up the mine and how well established the mix’s debris field is. Rare is the track that performs this well.
Although subwoofer support happens throughout with room swelling thrust, Angel City’s demolishing tops them all. Between a 100-foot Goldar and Zords running about, the opportunity for huge bursts of low-end activity are numerous. Each is prominent.
Have some time? You’ll need it. Power of the Present splits into nine parts, tracking the origins of the property through every aspect of production. Total runtime: 140 minutes, 17 more than the film itself. It’s not all great, but good luck finding a missed detail.
Don’t skip the commentary from director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatnis. Even after Power of the Present, their chatter is worth listening to. Eighteen deleted scenes measure 33-minutes, with a fun outtake reel coming in under four. The original trailer is included, but interestingly, with Israelite commentary.
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