The last thing the world needs right now is another superhero franchise, and few would have pegged Power Rangers as a worthwhile entry in the genre, but here we are. While the Power Rangers franchise has had many different incarnations throughout its run—including two feature films—this reboot goes back to the show that started it all, 1993’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and culls together a new story with a new take on the world featuring some familiar characters. The film toes the line between silly and serious, and while it doesn’t always hit the mark, it’s ultimately a charming, fun, and endearing affair thanks to a strong ensemble cast and a clear vision from director Dean Israelite.
The film is the ideal version of a franchise reboot in that it pulls the basic premise of its source material as well as a few specific nods here and there while ultimately standing as its own story. Five high school kids ranging in relationship to one another from acquaintance to stranger happen upon five power coins in a gold mine in their local town, and are subsequently called upon to become Power Rangers and save the sleepy Angel Grove from imminent doom.
The teen characters are all misfits in one way or another. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the high school football star who secretly wants much more out of life than being the small town sports hero; Billy (RJ Cyler), a kid with mild autism who suffers from being bullied; Kimberly (Naomi Scott) a popular cheerleader who suddenly finds herself on the outside of her friend circle; Trini (Becky G), a girl with an exceedingly normal family life who feels like she doesn’t fit in; and Zack (Ludi Lin), a seemingly nuts adrenaline junkie who also serves as caregiver for his sick mother.
After finding the power coins, Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack are pulled inside an abandoned spaceship where they meet the android Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and Zordon (Bryan Cranston), a former Power Ranger himself who now must serve as mentor so the new Power Rangers can get into fighting shape and stop Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) from destroying the world.
Honestly, the exposition dump of what Rita is after and why she wants it is the least interesting part of the movie. Where Power Rangers excels is in its interpersonal relationships, as these five actors bring a lot to the material, shading out these characters as complex kids rather than familiar archetypes. Jason, for example, is an interesting twist on the “jock” character, while Billy no doubt serves as a role model for many as the first bigscreen superhero with autism. Even Trini’s story is more complicated than it seems, as the film subtly implies that she’s a young girl struggling to find her sexual identity. While it’s not as explicit as one may have hoped, there’s a strong case to be made for our first LGBTQ blockbuster superhero here, and that’s a neat thing.