“Power Rangers”

 

            “Power Rangers” is really in two acts.  The first is a “Breakfast Club” kind of teen movie, where misfit high school kids meet in detention and form an unexpected bond. They each have challenges at home, and they all struggle with typcial adolescent issues of self-identity, sense of belonging, and making good decisions.  They've all messed up, or at the very least, failed to meet the expectations of those around them.  But what they've yet to learn is that self-confidence comes not only from self-reliance, but also from the bonds of teamwork.

            Jason (Dacre Montgomery) was supposed to be the star quarterback, but got caught doing a dumb vandal prank, and has to endure his father's disappointment, as well as that of his classmates and teammates. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) got kicked off the cheerleading squad for spreading a compromising photo of someone else on social media, and she's not even sure why she did that.  Billy (RJ Cyler) is the brilliant-but-socially-inept loner who likes making explosive devices, a tendency which has gotten him into trouble, but it's his homemade bomb, out by the old mine, that uncovers the strange, glowing metal that they all take a piece of for a souveneir.  It turns out to be an “alien” substance, sent to Earth as a result of a galatic war, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  So, along with their new buddies Zack (Ludi Lin), the daredevil, and Trini (Becky G.), the loner, the five of them first stumble into a car wreck where they are strangely unhurt, and then into an abandoned mine shaft where they discover:  a spaceship with an instructional droid?

            Now it borrows from the “Star Wars” concept of tapping the power from within yourself, and learning to harness your energy to benefit others rather than yourself (except for self-defense).  They can “morph” into being a true “Power Ranger” only after they learn to think of each other before thinking of themselves.  That's not easy for any age, but sometimes juveniles can be obstreperously self-obsessed.

            But don't worry, we have to get over ourselves very soon, in order to save the world from the evil Rita Rupulsa (Elizabeth Banks).  She's bent on destroying anything and everyone in her path to get at all the gold she can get her hands on, and her unmitigated greed demands the combined efforts of all the young Power Rangers to stop her.  And then, like the costumed super-heroes of the comic books, our heroes morph back into their “everyday” selves, except they all know they'll never the same again.  And we all know that we're all set up for our next big adventure.

            Is it cheesy?  Sure.  But the teenage characters that are introduced here might actually be worth developing, apart from their “superhero” mode, which makes this Teenage Mutant Comic Hero saga worth more than a dismissive wave.  How about a high-five for a fantasy teen story with a little human complexity?

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  When have you disappointed yourself and others?  What was your response?

2)                  When have you most felt like an important part of a good, strong team?

3)                  What were your personal issues during your upbringing?  Are they resolved now?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association