Nostalgia is great. I still think back to my childhood to find warm happy memories of times long ago that are definitely better than anything happening now. Like that movie where Luke Skywalker is the last starfighter and he helps Han Solo steal the Holy Grail before running over to the Mushroom Kingdom to stop Bowser… wait… I think I may have mixed up a few things in there… The Jedi had to save Christmas by stopping an exploding shipment of candy canes… right?
My point, nostalgia is great but we don’t always remember things the way they really are. Thanks to the internet, we can now find all those cherished childhood memories and ruin them by reliving them now with adult eyes. Power Rangers is nostalgic for my generation. It was a huge success when it came out and has kept itself on the air ever since. Sometimes, however, going back to that nostalgia isn’t always great.
So, I went and saw the new Power Rangers. I really liked it. I thought that it was, no joke or sarcasm, very good. I went into the theater thinking it would be a Suicide Squad but it came back as more of a Scott Pilgrim-lite. It wasn’t life changing like Scott Pilgrim but I certainly didn’t feel like I wasted time or money seeing it. Just about everything was well done, felt genuinely fun, and exciting. I got chills when they morphed.
The only things I could possibly complain about were the villains and some of the CGI. The whole movie had a super polished tone to the actors’ performances until Rita and her army of green screened weirdos arrived. It seemed like whoever was directing Elizabeth Banks gave her three or four conflicting notes and then changed their mind later in filming but never reshot her scenes. In one scene she is a powerful witch, in another a space hobo, in another that weird aunt that licks the clean silverware and puts in back in the draw, and later just sort of yelling at the camera incoherently.
She is a good actress so I have to err on the side of directing issues or producers butting heads. Overall this makes sense because the subtle character changes for her from the original series makes me think they wanted something new but didn’t know what it was. Instead of being locked away on the moon she was just napping in the ocean. Instead of wearing comfortable robes, she was in a metal bikini, and instead of being a sassy space witch she was an ex-Power Ranger with a chip on her shoulder.
Next to the absolutely astounding performances by Becky G., Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, and Ludi Lin–I have to believe there were outside forces working against Banks. I mean, come on, this cast was so perfect that it hurts. The chemistry of the Rangers cast was so in tuned that by the time it was Morphin Time I really didn’t want them to leave for the final fight. Even Bryan Cranston’s Zordon brought so much personality to the film and he was a floating head in a jar for crying out loud.
Which is why I really really liked this film. Things that bothered me before like, “Why is Zordon in a jar,” or “Why is everyone fighting,” actually gets somewhat explained and fleshed out. The film actually makes you question if Zordon is a good guy. It gives Rita actual motivation to be evil beyond just blowing things up.
Which reminds me of the bad for the film. The worst part of the movie was the final fight scene. It wasn’t terrible by any means but it was the most nostalgic portion of the film and the least engaging. I was so caught up in the struggle the Rangers were facing that the actual fight wasn’t that amazing. They attempted to recreate scenes of the Zoids running across the world like they did in the old episodes and it just felt forced. Then they fought a molten gold CGI monster that never quite looks right.
The point is, anywhere they attempted to bring in some points for nostalgia, I felt like the movie tripped up. They reimagined so many things in such perfect turns that I thought they would do the same for the fights but they just don’t quite get it.
The one and only nostalgic thing I wish they had left in were having more villains to work with Rita. She was left without any sounding boards or companions to talk to. One of the strongest elements of the originals were the hilarious villains being evil together. There were whole plotlines about Rita getting into tiffs with her lover Zed. As a kid, I thought those were great moments. Those were the kind of missing elements that with a tiny turn (like Zordon) would have made the movie perfect. Just changing things from Rita being fished out of the ocean to Goldar unlocking her prison and chatting with her would have made the film perfect.
If you don’t believe me, check out how freaking adorable the monsters were on the show from this subtitled clip:
Which is a strange tightrope movie makers have to walk: the duality of nostalgia. Much like a Power Ranger is both a person and a Ranger, nostalgia in movies is both a seen characteristic and a hidden one. Some people will get the joke and others won’t. It’s both saying you remember the original while also changing it and shaping it to a new vision.
In the case of Power Rangers (2017), I think overall they did a very good job. They really could have dug their heels in though and pushed back a little against losing Rita’s character but most of the changes were amazing and really made an expansive world. Some of the worst parts of the movie were when they let the nostalgia have too much control of the direction. That is the duality of trying to make something old new and fresh.
In the end, though, I hope whoever keeps making Transformers will just give their budget to the Power Rangers sequel instead.