Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, revisit your childhood and discuss Power Rangers, which premiered in the United States on Friday, March 24, 2017.
Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.
Now, join J.L. Gribble and guest chic Julia as they talk about Power Rangers! [Note: spoiler warning.]
J.L. and Julia: We’re doing something a little different for this Sound Off! post (as if that wasn’t obvious from the “talking in third person” thing), because honestly, J.L. didn’t really want to see this movie. She was just a few years too old for the initial Power Rangers television craze, and instead got bombarded with it as a younger sister watched it incessantly. Julia, however, was the perfect age for the first television run, and has been
irrationally excited about this movie since the first trailer (and she spent the evening before seeing the film with the original theme song stuck in her head). So Julia did what any good best friend should do, and bribed J.L. into seeing the movie with her in exchange for writing a Sound Off! reaction.
Except Julia isn’t a writer (she’s talented with found-object art). So she word-vomited about the movie for about an hour after the fact and then handed J.L. an index card with some scrawled notes. J.L. is not so sure that this fulfills the terms of the deal, but she will admit to actually enjoying the movie and will muddle through. Therefore, items in bold are Julia’s thoughts, and the commentary is from J.L.’s perspective, based on their conversations following the film.
- Transformers-esque filming. Let’s get this complaint out of the way first, because it’s one of the first things in the movie that jumps out at you. Luckily, it either tones down or, perhaps worse, I got used to it.
- Ranger “powers.” WTF? From what I vaguely remember, one of the significant differences between this version of the story and the original television show is that previously, the kids were all trained martial artists who just got the ability to get cool suits and drive robots. In this film, the magic(?) coins suddenly make the kids super-strong and give them the ability to become amazing fighters in a short amount of time. This concept definitely lent itself better to the idea of five very different people being drawn together rather than five people who were all already kind of the same.
- Billy on the spectrum = cool form of representation. There was nothing to interpret through coded language here. The character states in the beginning of the film that he is on the autism spectrum. And that’s it! None of the other characters try to change or “fix” him. Becoming a Power Ranger doesn’t “normalize” him. Being on the spectrum is just part of the character, and the places where it is used to further the plot didn’t feel contrived or exoticized. I also appreciated that the kids “chosen” to be Power Rangers weren’t just differentiated by race. And speaking of…
- Could’ve explored that Kimberly/Trini connection more. The internet blew up with the news that the Yellow Ranger had “girl problems.” And the reviews that followed whined that this wasn’t explored more. Except I was perfectly fine with that. I love that we’re seeing more genre films with LGBT characters, but that the film doesn’t revolve around them being LGBT. There are moments in this movie that could be interpreted either way: Either something romantic might develop between Trini and Kimberly in a later film, or it might be the equally realistic connection between two women surrounded by men. I’m intrigued either way.
- Season’s worth of lessons crammed into 10 minutes. Yep, the downside to suddenly acquiring super powers is the requisite training montage of learning how to harness those super powers. To be fair, other plot elements did a great job of heightening the tension of this montage, and it wasn’t all in the training arena. There are some great moments of the kids interacting back in their “regular” life that did a great job of quickly showing how real friendships are developing.
- Not the Rita I know and love, but it was nice. Definitely not the Rita I remember either, but Elizabeth Banks did an awesome job of “modernizing” the character! I was a little squicked out by the sexualized costume in the trailers, but there was NOTHING sexy about this role.
- Teen gangs! Every story arc has a dark moment, and one of the random visuals from this movie that will stick with me is when the kids realize they might never actually be Power Rangers — but that it is still their responsibility to defend their town. So they arm themselves the best they can and willingly walk into a trap. It’s a poignant moment, but at the same time, what do they think they’re going to do with some random pipes and chain against a supervillain?
- Did not learn from Green Lantern. We’re back to CGI costumes, folks. While I don’t think these were quite as egregious as seen in previous films, I do want to take a moment to point out the ridiculous (and problematic!) boob armor for the Yellow and Pink Rangers.
- Music: Tried too hard. Some producers spent a lot of money on licensing rights and are REALLY hoping to make it back in soundtrack sales.
- Didn’t like Jason’s face. J.L., after being handed the index card: “Like, did you have a problem with the Red Ranger’s character or something?” Julia: “No. Just tell them his face looked funny.”
So did we like the movie? Honestly, we did. Even J.L. found herself laughing and enjoying the ride, once she got over wondering what the hell she was doing in the theater. It’s a fun revisit to childhood adapted to modern times. J.L. even finds herself hoping that the sequels get greenlit so she can see how the characters develop from here.
Julia mostly wants to know why they dropped the “Mighty Morphin'” from the title. She also sent J.L. a text later that night, which read, “I thought of another thing! I was disappointed that Bulk and Skull were rolled into one character and didn’t have their own tuba-y theme music.” Since J.L. literally has no idea what any of that means, can anyone help her out in the comments?
J.L. (right) poached Julia (left) from a different group of friends (or was it the other way around?) about 4 years ago and they’ve been BFFs ever since. Julia is a professional artist who has been a fan of most things speculative fiction her entire life. She can probably beat you in Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia.