Sunday, March 26, 2017

'Power Rangers' REVIEW

I enjoyed Dean Isrealite's last movie, the time-travelling teenager movie 'Project Almanac'. I liked the characters, thought the dialogue was well-written, but the ending ruined it for me.  It was like they either ran out of time or money and the movie just fell off at the end.  I went from being pleasantly surprised that Michael Bay had something to do with this to being confused, not that Michael Bay made a disappointing movie, but as to what happened at the end.

Well, running out of budget was no problem for Dean Isrealite's latest movie 'Power Rangers', which contains the most obvious product placement for Krispy Kreme Donuts that you have seen since Chris Rock suggested their donuts have crack in them.  Literally, the crystal that Rita Repulsa is looking for during the whole movie is buried under the Krispy Kreme ("Krakky Kreme?") in Angel Grove.  And the kids hang out there (it IS a small town), practicing some of their kung fu moves by trying to snatch donuts away from each other on the end of forks.  A "wax on, wax off" for the new generation.

This new version of 'Power Rangers' (based, of course, on the campy 90's kids show) contains the same kind of well-developed teen characters that 'Project Almanac' had, almost as though Dean wanted to finish his movie.  "Dinosaur robots???  Cool???  Why not?"  Fans of 80's movies will make comparisons between this movie and 'Breakfast Club', especially since all of these soon-to-be superheroes meet during Saturday detention.  And the plot revolves around their characters having to bond and work together as a team.  They don't "morph" into their iconic, multi-colored suits if they don't.   But instead of writing a letter to the teacher (or to Zordon) about being "the geek, the brain, the spaz etc." they fight monsters and save the town.

Fans of the original show might not like the fact that these heroes do not show up in their iconic armor suits until the end of the movie, but that is what I liked about it.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, I don't have a nostalgic pull towards these characters because I did not grow up with the show, so I was "just" looking for a good movie...and I got one.  I liked the fact that this movie is a teen drama with sci-fi elements sprinkled in and then all the "wham bam" stuff shows up at the end when the putty hits the fan.

I liked the fact that Billy the Blue Ranger was autistic, for personal reasons.  I liked being represented and seeing how nice Jason the Red Ranger would be to me if we ever met.  I liked that these characters all felt like real, mischievous kids that I grew up with in the 90's, when I was in high school and too old to be watching the original show.  These are truly "teenagers with attitudes", not the goody-two shoes kids that you may remember from the show.  You will be able to relate to at least one of these characters.  The movie still has positive messages about the importance of trying to understand one another...but without being preachy like the show tended to be.

The sci-fi elements (power coins, Zordon, Alpha 5) are introduced little by little and do get a little over-the-top.  But, it doesn't take you out of the movie because you are already invested in these characters and want to see them succeed.  Also, since the original show was a little over the top, the filmmakers were trying not to alienate long-time fans.  They just gave the characters more backstory and grounded it in a more serious world, before they donned colorful costumes and started driving around in robot dinosaurs...and it works.  It all gels together.  All of the young actors who play the Rangers are great and Elizabeth Banks is great as (yes, over-the-top) villain Rita Repulsa.  Same with Bryan Cranston as Zordon and Bill Hader doing the voice of Alpha 5.

Not sure if long-time fans will disagree, but I liked it.  This was the serious, but still-quippy take that I would have loved to see in a TMNT movie.  Now, THAT was something I grew up with.

RATING: 3.5 Zords out of 5

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Go Go No Nostalgia!!!

I remember when the original 'Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' show came out and, at the time, I was too old for it.  It was on 'Fox Kids' right after 'Batman: the animated series', which I love (and still do, owning all the DVDs as a grown man) and the TV in my room didn't have a remote control...and I was too lazy to get up.  So, I watched with judgmental curiosity the adventures of these small town kids who fought monsters every time one or more would be sent to their quaint little burgh.

I guess I was at that age where I thought my fandom was too cool to watch something aimed at too young an age group.  I scoffed at the opening sequence, where Zordon labeled the Power Rangers as "teenagers with attitudes".  Clearly, if you watched the show, these kids were straight-A students who helped old people, younger kids and did volunteer work.  I went to school with teenagers and the ones who did that stuff didn't have "attitudes".  None of the Power Rangers were sneaking alcohol or girls into their rooms (or lives).  Obviously, this was done to keep positive messages in the show for the younger fan base.  So, what kept me watching (privately) this "kiddie" show that I had pronounced "stupid" in front of my peers?

I had read in a pre-Internet 1990s movie fanzine that MMPR used to be a Japanese show where the American actors were edited into pre-existing footage.  Being a fan of 'Godzilla' at the time and realizing that this same thing was done to the American Raymond Burr version of the original 'Godzilla' in a racist, post-WWII USA (so that the main characters would not be "those people"), part of my brain viewed it as a kiddie version of the kaiju flicks that I loved.  It was still in the "so bad it's good" MST3K territory and I never bought any merchandise from the show, but I did enjoy watching robot dinosaurs knock down small that "revert back to a five-year-old" kind of way.

All the while, the teenager part of my brain was wondering why this Rita Repulsa lady wold be spending all her time and energy trying to conquer Angel Grove, a small town no one's ever heard of and that only had tall buildings when the movie came out and the budget went up.  Was there oil underneath this town?  Did Rita work for the Carlyle Group?  Is that why she was waging war on a small place and killing innocents during monster/robot battles?  And where did the Zords come from?  Why would Zordon bury WMDs underneath this small town?  All these questions were shoved aside as I laughed and quipped at this colorful show, like I would see Tom Servo and Crow do all those years later.  Also, I thought Kimberly was hot, one of the perks of every show casting 20-somethings to play teenagers on TV.

Then, I saw the trailer for the 2017 version many years later.  Well, they fixed the teenagers with attitude thing, one kid is on parole, the other has to take a drug test.  And the special effects are way better.  And they fixed the racial connotations to the colors of their uniforms.  The blue ranger is black, the black ranger is Asian.  I think the yellow ranger is Hispanic.  The pink ranger is still a girl, but one kid is autistic like me, so that's diverse too.  I like being represented.

Anyway, I'm going to check out the new movie, shutting off my brain and enjoying the giant robot dinosaurs.  I won't have the nostalgic baggage that I had when Michael Bay ruined Ninja Turtles, because I didn’t grow up loving the franchise.  But I do like superhero movies and I plan to go into this one like it's something new.  Obviously, Hollywood would have never made this film if it was an original idea, because they don't do that with, thank you, cheesy show, for the closest thing I'll have to watching something truly original at the movies this year.

Like sci-fi?