What if The Breakfast Club had super powers? I’m pretty sure somewhere along the line that was part of the pitch for this new Power Rangers reboot. A bunch of “misfit” kids meet in detention and form an unlikely bond that helps them overcome their troubles…and they also happen to find alien coins from an alien ship that recruits them into being world-protecting super heroes. I don’t know how else you’d explain that except to say “Breakfast Club with super powers.” Here’s the crazy thing, though; it works. Really, Power Rangers is actually a pretty good movie. I know! I can’t believe I just typed those words either, but it’s true. Power Rangers is fun, funny (most of the time in a good way), exciting and enjoyable.
So let me get some full disclosure out of the way here; I was always more of a Ninja Turtles guy than a Power Rangers guy. I just thought the Rangers were kind of dorky with their constant “dramatic posing” and incessant swooshing noise for every move they made, and the clearly cheesy production values and dorky humor. But then I thought teen turtles that ate pizza, were trained as ninjas, and said “cowabunga” was the “cooler” show. There’s no accounting for taste. The point being I went in with fairly low expectations, but was intrigued by trailers that actually looked kind of cool and fun. Well, those trailers didn’t lie; Power Rangers is a pretty enjoyable and, dare it say it?, even kind of cool. It just dark and gritty enough to be taken “seriously,” but retains all the “charms” of its source material, including the humor, with a bit more restrained exuberance. And it just works. If this would have been what the Power Rangers were like when I was growing up, yeah, I think I would have been a fan.
Not everything in this movie works. The obligatory training montage and the “journey to becoming a Ranger” lasts a little bit too long. I also thought there were one or two too many times when the team was pushed the brink of complete failure before having to inspirationally rally back. Towards the end of the movie one can almost start to wonder if they’ll every actually overcome and win. Also, not all of the characters are developed as well as they could be. In particular, Trini, is a character that’s following the grand footsteps of LeFou from Beauty and the Beast by being the “first openly gay super hero.” So the agenda is progressed, but the character is rather lacking. Her backstory is kind of confusing when it comes to why she’s “Breakfast Club worthy.” Her family is “too normal;” only a teenager could turn such a thing into a problem. Admittedly, the family isn’t shown in the best light, but it’s her description of the trouble that rings hollow. It’s a moot point, however, because most of that is dropped in the third act of the movie because…well, I guess it didn’t matter anymore? (but if it didn’t matter later, did it really matter at all…?) Speaking of characters, I’m not sure Rita Repulsa really worked for me. She swung wildly from fairly dark and gruesome to cheesy and hammy (thus being the most like the show) of all the characters. Far too often her antics reminded me of why I never really got into Power Rangers in the first place.
Those problems aside, however, the rest of Power Rangers is surprisingly good. The other characters are developed in interesting ways, and there’s a lot of fun in watching these teens come to terms with the realization that they now have super powers. The Rangers aren’t constantly striking poses, the humor isn’t always hammy and cheesy but often genuinely funny, and the fights don’t look quite so highly choreographed and tame. So the movie avoids a lot of the pratfalls of the series, but still retains the elements that makes the Power Rangers what they are; it just uses them in a sparing balance. So yes, the team does strike a pose, and there’s a scene of the Zords all racing into battle with “Go go Power Rangers!” It’s all handled so well that, for me at least, this is what I would have wanted Power Rangers to be like (I just didn’t know that till I watched the movie).
There’s even some nice poignant moments that lend a bit of weight and gravitas to the proceedings. One stand out moment (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) takes place when one of the Rangers dies (obviously not a condition that lasts). As the team mourns their friend, they all proclaim that that given the chance, they would willingly trade their life for their fallen friend. It’s a crucial moment of bonding for the team that has just the right amount of drama and emotion. Of course, sacrifice is one of the main lessons of “being a super hero 101,” and in fact was something Jesus himself talked about when he said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for friends (John 15:13). What I find so moving about the cross, however, is that was when Jesus said “I would trade my life for yours” to all of us. He took our place, paid our price, took our punishment for sin, and did so quite willingly. We often feel inspired and moved when we see our heroes on the big screen willing to sacrifice it all to defend those they care about. So how can Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, in large part for those that didn’t care for him at all, not be viewed in that same light of heroic nobility? Why is it so easily dismissed? It’s the pattern of heroic sacrifice for every hero on the big screen, and yet it’s discounted, debated, and oft times straight-up derided.
I honestly had pretty low expectations for Power Rangers, but I had seen enough to pique my interest in something that looked the same but…well, better than the Power Rangers I was (slightly) familiar with. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this movie. For the most part is was pretty funny, exciting, had decent characters, fun action, and just enough goofiness and cheesy elements from the series to give it a certain amount of charm. It tries at times a little too hard to be grittier and edgier than the source material, but on the whole, this was a movie that was just fun to kick back and watch. I’m still a little shocked in saying this, but seriously, if you’re looking for a fun action romp at the movies, The Breakfast Club with super powers…er…Power Rangers is actually pretty good.
Score: 5 of 7 – As I said, this is a “grittier” Power Rangers, so there a larger smattering of bad words, some innuendo and ribald humor, and some darker moments of villainy that what was found in the cheesy show, but on the whole, this was a pretty enjoyable sci-fi action adventure that just happened to start members of the Breakfast Club with super powers.