Lionsgate Entertainment and director Dean Israelite have reinvigorated the Power Rangers franchise with an entirely novel approach to the characters and mythology we all know and love. If you strip away all the flashy computer generated special effects and whizzbang action, the new Power Rangers film is actually a compelling, 1970s-style paranoid conspiracy thriller in the mold of The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor.
Power Rangers is elevated by its award-winning ensemble of actors, including Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Naomi Watts, Paula Abdul, Sissy Spacek, Eddie Redmayne and Jon Cryer. Cryer in particular gives a standout performance as the autistic Billy Cranston (aka the Blue Ranger), a computer expert with an inability to understand the most basic social cues.
The first hour and twenty minutes of the movie is a strictly realistic story of an internecine bureaucratic struggle between the corrupt Secretary of Homeland Security Rita Repulsa (Spacek) and a team of spies working in the National Security Agency nicknamed the “Power Rangers.” The Rangers struggle to prove that Secretary Repulsa is betraying America by hollowing out the border security and immigration screening functions of her department. They attempt to steal files and hack into computer systems but are consistently outfoxed by Repulsa’s mastery of the the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States government.
Toby Olbers (aka the Green Ranger, portrayed by Fassbender) cracks the case wide open when he obtains information from an anonymous leaker in a dimly lit parking garage. The information he receives proves that Secretary Repulsa has been covertly working for the Islamic cleric turned terrorist ringleader known as Lord Zed (Dileep Rao). The Power Rangers must use their secret morphin’ powers to battle the putty patrollers, defeat Goldar and summon the Zords for a final showdown with Lord Zed’s Jamaat Ansar Islamic Liberation Front.
The last hour of Power Rangers is a nonstop smash fest between the humanoid robot Zords (piloted by the Power Rangers) and the suicide bombers of Jamaat Ansar Islamic Liberation Front, who have been trained up to an elite level in Africa by Boko Haram fighters. By the end of the movie I was gasping for more, and cannot wait to see the “five or six or seven sequels” already being discussed by Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.
TL;DR – Suspenseful and politically astute, Power Rangers is a superior entry in the franchise’s canon and is sure to thrill audiences of all ages.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“While I appreciated the dense political content of the movie, it seemed to bore the children who made up the vast majority of the audience in the theater. Many of them napped until woken up by the loud and interminable battle of Zords and suicide bombers at the end of the movie.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
“I can’t decide which performance I found more mesmerizing: Paula Abdul as the Black Ranger or Idris Elba as the Yellow Ranger.” – Belkina Mazona, IndieWire
“I found the obvious Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment of Power Rangers to be alarming, as it has been marketed primarily to young children and teenagers.” – Bhaskar Sunkara, Jacobin
“The taut, conspiratorial, dialogue-driven scenes of the first half contrast dramatically with the phantasmagorical and entirely nonverbal action of the second half.” – Full Edwards, Village Voice
“Who expected a Power Rangers movie could be so smart and relevant to the world we live in now?” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed the hints dropped indicating Fassbender’s Green Ranger is actually a mole for the Chinese government, setting him up as the villain for the inevitable sequel.” – Jasper Knowles, Den of Geek
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