Power Rangers Is The Very Model of Diversity!

(L_R) Jason (Dacre Montgomery), R.J. Cyler (Billy), Zack (Ludi Lin), Trini (Becky G), Kimberly (Naomi Scott) – Power Rangers – Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Power Rangers is a more serious take on the patched together kids’ show that gained a huge following in the ‘90s. More serious doesn’t mean Batman serious – more like Iron Man Lite.

It’s fun if you don’t go in with much in the way of expectations – and it checks off a laundry list of diversity requirements: there’s a black kid and an Hispanic kid and an Asian kid, and a kid ‘on the spectrum,’ and a mean girl, and a gay kid, and forty-percent of the team is female (one way the original series was ahead of its time – it’s good to see that stay intact).

Basically, Power Rangers is the story of four high school kids who have been sentenced to Saturday detention for the semester (Hello The Breakfast Club!) and one lone wolf, Zack (Ludi Lin, Marco Polo), who skips school a lot and tends to his sick mother. One, Jason (Dacre Montgomery, Stranger Things)), the school’s star quarterback, is in for a ridiculous prank with an opposing team’s mascot and is serving probation and house arrest.

Elizabeth Banks – Power Rangers – Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

There’s Billy (R.J. Cyler, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), the kid on the spectrum – he’s good with numbers but not humor or sarcasm); Kimberly (Naomi Scott, Terra Nova, Inspector Lewis) – the princess who is dumped by her princess friends when they find out about her detention (for punching her boyfriend and knocking out a tooth), and Trini (Becky G, Empire) – the outsider who is still figuring herself out.

Their origin is more fun than most (Chronicle might have cribbed a bit from it) – they stumble onto – or fall into – a spaceship hidden underground where they find colored ‘coins’ which lead them to meet talkative robot Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) and Zordon (voiced by Bryan Cranston), the soul of the last of a team of Power Rangers from 65 million years ago caught in the ship’s matrix.

They learn that the now long dead Power Rangers had failed to destroy the villain they were chasing, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) and they must stop her before gains possession of a crystal that would give her the power to destroy planets.

(L-R) Zack/Black Ranger (Ludi Lin, Trini/Yellow Ranger (Becky G), Jason/Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly/Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott), Billy/Blue Ranger (R.J. Cyler) – Power Rangers – Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

To reach their potential, they have to learn to morph into Power Rangers armor. Then they will be able to face Rita – though they might have to use powerful mechas called Zords, as well.

Written by John Gatins (Real Steel, flight) from a story by Mark Sazama (Gods of Egypt), Power Rangers takes the basics from the TV series and gives them a bit of grounding – these kids are kids with problems (a la Spider-Man) who become superheroes through a combination of luck and training.

There are some really interesting action sequences, a genuinely evil villain (Banks is the campiest elements here, chewing up scenery like Krispy Kremes), some dazzling sets and mostly effective CGI and practical effects here. Capped off with a cast that is just grounded enough to offset what could be high camp silliness, Power Rangers moves like a starship on maximum warp and contains enough genuine emotion and enough sincerity that it is goofy summer fun a couple months early.

Final Grade: B