In a time when it’s cool to be a nerd, the Power Rangers movie was one that flew under the radar of the superhero boom that let it come to be.
The movie delivers exactly what the trailers promised. It is essentially an extended episode of the original TV series. But for those that go looking, there is also an incredible amount of heart and more sophistication than would generally be expected in a movie about diverse superhuman delinquents fighting a sorceress that used to be a part of the team, but is now trying to bring about the destruction of the world. Oh, and that sorceress also has an army of clay monsters that she brought to life.
Wait a minute… That sounds familiar…
That sounds scarily like, and I must force down the bile that rises every time I’m forced to say this… Academy Award winner: Suicide Squad.
But fear not, for Power Rangers does what Suicide Squad does not; it develops its characters as a team, earning the right to call them a family instead of just saying it and expecting the audience to swallow it.
It doesn’t stop there, the troubled backgrounds of the characters aren’t unnecessarily over-the-top. Despite some clichés, they feel very real and let us, as an audience naturally come to understand their depth in a way that respects the intelligence of those watching, something that took me by surprise when I realised it.
I think this was exemplified by the way the film handled its LGBT Ranger and its autistic Ranger. Going into the movie this was my biggest concern. Early on it tried to announce Billy, the blue Ranger, as being on the spectrum in blatant ways that seemed to be setting him up as a caricature more than a character. But this mellowed out into something truer to life, and succeeded despite some hiccups.
But what was truly exceptional was the construction of Trini’s character, the first openly queer superhero in a live action film. What was masterful about her portrayal was that she was NOT defined by her sexuality. She was not sexualised nor treated any differently to any other character under the film’s perspective. But, her sexuality was also not ignored, it influenced her interactions with her family and how she believed people viewed her. As a character, she felt very real.
That being said, do not go into this movie expecting anything particularly deep or sophisticated. It is still a dumb action movie – and I mean that in the most endearing way. Furthermore, there is a distinct tonal shift when it enters the third act which can be jarring. But for those that go looking, it’s a film with some remarkable heart that will make you leave feeling at least a little bit happier than that of when you came in.