“POWER RANGERS” — 2½ stars — Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G.; PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language and some crude humor); in general release
The success of “Power Rangers” will likely depend on the reaction of its niche audience. Director Dean Israelite’s effort clearly has longtime fans in mind, but his film feels much more like a product than an experience.
After a quick prologue shows an ancient blue warrior named Zordon (Bryan Cranston) bury a set of magic stones, we fast-forward 65 million years to the present, where a group of dysfunctional teens are failing at life in their own unique ways. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) was a high school football star before a prank got him house arrest. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) was a cheerleader before social media knocked her off her high horse. Billy (RJ Cyler) is a brilliant but backward super-geek that meets Jason and Kimberly after he winds up in detention.
This trio eventually teams up with Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G.), two more disaffected teens, when they discover a set of colored gemstones at an industrial site right before a chase with security ends in a violent crash.
But when the teens wake up, they are at home rather than the hospital, and sporting newfound superpowers. A little more investigation leads them to an underground spaceship, where a talking robot named Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) and a computer-assimilated Zordon tell the group that they have been recruited to save the planet. The teens have been chosen to be the next team of Power Rangers, an ancient group of color-coded super-warriors.
Every superhero needs a nemesis, and fortunately an ex-ranger named Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) awoke from hibernation around the same time the kids were finding the stones. Apparently 65 million years isn’t enough water under the bridge for Rita, who is determined to destroy Zordon, the Rangers and Earth in general.
The Power Rangers are the only thing standing between Rita and her diabolical mission, but they can’t realize their full powers until they learn to come together as a team. Hence, about two-thirds of “Power Rangers” feels more like “The Breakfast Club” with a science fiction twist, and things don’t really get going until the third act of the movie.
That third act is packed with enough fan service and CGI action to probably satisfy most longtime fans, but for a franchise that built its reputation on camp and repurposed Japanese action footage, the “Power Rangers” reboot feels awfully light on personality.
Banks does her best to ham things up as Rita, and it’s fun to see Cyler shake things up after his turn as Earl in 2015’s “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” But take out the pedigree, and “Power Rangers” feels like just another routine superhero origin story with an obligatory 20-minute fight tacked on the end.
The characters say dramatic things and the music swells to emotional cues, but they only do the things they do because the script says so, and we barely get enough on each character to feel for any of them. There’s some humor, and there’s some action, but the style feels like any other 2017 sci-fi action film.
This might not matter much to fans, at least in the short run, and they will want to stick around for a mid-credits bonus scene. But if there is a follow-up, Israelite and company would be well-advised to use a little less routine and have a little more fun. As it is, “Power Rangers” isn’t bad, but it isn’t near fun enough to be good.
“Power Rangers” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language and some crude humor; running time: 124 minutes.
Points for parents
• Violence: Many scenes of violence happen as the Power Rangers train against projected enemies. There are two scenes of erratic driving to escape security or law enforcement. A man wrecks his car, rolls it over and is seen bleeding after the accident. A car is hit by a train at full speed. A girl falls from a cliff as a rock wall collapses beneath her. The main enemy attacks people in the town and kills them. She also finds the yellow Ranger and fights her in her own house. A giant gold monster attacks the town and destroys many buildings. As the rangers fight the monster, there is massive destruction.
• Nudity: A girl takes off her shirt and pants before diving into water in her underwear.
• Language: There are very few instances of swearing and one instance of stopping short of saying an expletive.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. You can also find him on YouTube.