Power Rangers Movie Review

I know what you’re thinking: What, this isn’t a game! Why are you reviewing movies now? I’m making a special exception for Power Rangers because I grew up with the series and it was a defining point in how I approached a lot of media. It’s also where I still draw inspiration from. With that said, there will be some spoilers (with warning) near the end of the review.

As a whole, Power Rangers is a feel good movie. I left the theater happy. I enjoyed the time I spent on the movie and overall I felt it was a serviceable origin story. That shouldn’t be a spoiler, by the by. Power Rangers is the introduction to Angel Grove and the rangers. That said, there are some glaring flaws that I’ll go over but first would be what I liked…and there is a fair bit to like.

What’s Great: Actors, Action and Acts One and Three

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From left to right: RJ Cyler (Billy), Naomi Scott (Kimberly), Ludi Lin (Zack), Becky G. (Trini) and Dacre Montgomery (Jason)

Perhaps the greatest praise I have for the movie is that all the actors were quite enjoyable. One of the biggest fears in making a movie like this is that even if the story is great, the actors might not be. Thankfully, everyone is enjoyable to watch from veterans to newcomers. If I had to pick out a single MVP, however, that would go to RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston. RJ brings life to this character and makes him the heart of this movie, creating someone we’re genuinely invested in seeing and someone who the viewer adores. Even characters who don’t get enough screen time in my opinion like Zack (Ludi Lin) or Trini (Becky G.) do their part to give depth to their character. I doubt I even need to praise Bryan Cranston (Zordon), Elizabeth Banks (Rita Repulsa) or Bill Hader (Alpha 5) for having great performances….even if one is a wall.

Another great part of the movie was the action. One of the biggest flaws with modern cinematic action is that it’s often messy and hard to watch. Thanks to the suit colors and the action mostly taking place in daylight, there was rarely a part where I was confused as to who was hitting what. The zord fights as well were a joy to watch, bringing large-scale battles but not-so-hectic fighting that I could be absorbed in the sheer size of the brawl. The weird designs (“Alien Dinosaurs” as the director puts it) are also not so problematic when you can’t really tell that the mastadon has six legs.

As you’ve likely gathered, the first part (which plays like Breakfast Club meets Spiderman) of the movie is wonderful at introducing us to characters and making us see them at their low points. It makes the third act (which is the big budget battle you’d expect) all the more enjoyable when we see how far the heroes have come.

What’s Not Great: Tone and Twos

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Everything young-me wanted…barring some caveats.

As you just heard me praise the first and third act, you’re probably wondering “What about the second?”. Unfortunately, the second act is a nosedive into boredom. Not much of note happens and it’s quite the long section of the movie, at least mentally. We see some aspects of the rangers coming together and Rita growing stronger but nothing holds weight. It’s slow, it’s boring. Sure, it makes the third act all the more welcome, yet it doesn’t excuse the build up. The last thing a movie like this should do is bore you.

Along with this, the movie suffers some tonal inconsistency. I didn’t laugh all that much (but your humor may vary) and occasionally the jokes would come out of left field. It’s hard to chuckle at a particularly funny joke when our heroes are suddenly in life-or-death situations. It didn’t happen ALL the time but when it happened, it felt pretty damn bad. Perhaps in the future the second act can be improved when we don’t have to focus so much on the coming together aspect but that’s for spoiler territory. Hell, cut the second part of the movie out and extend the first-and-third acts to fill it. Perfection.

On the whole, Power Rangers was a good movie. Is it unskippable? No. Is it unwatchable? No. A movie like this is where metacritic and aggregation sites fail because it’s not AWFUL but it’s not the second coming of cinema. If you like the power ranger/super sentai series, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t, you might enjoy it once but I’d wait for a home release. Overall, it’s a good first movie…let’s just hope something comes from it.

VERDICT
Worth a watch but nothing revolutionary.
Would recommend in theaters for fans. DVD for non-fans.

Spoiler City

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LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK!

EVERYTHING BELOW THIS IS SPOILERS. MOSTLY MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS AND CRITICISMS.

 

 

 

Elaborating on the second act: There are no morphed or team fights until the very end. It’s also the weirdest, “rushed” part of the movie with Zack and Jason getting into a fight only for it to never be referenced or even talked about ever again. I understand that build-up needs to happen but even Ironman, one of the hallmarks of the hero genre, had scenes with him as Ironman before the finale. Had the rangers had scenes where they were not fighting as a group but still in costume, the second act could have been more lively.

Zack and Trini get the least screen time with their problems, albeit they’re fleshed out to a satisfactory degree. I did wish that we could have seen something deeper, especially with Trini being sexuality-questioning and how Zack’s living in squalor and taking care of his mother. It might be good for future storylines but hey, who knows. Billy’s autism is also pretty realistic; He’s not having fits and he’s not an obvious token. He just doesn’t get sarcasm or humor. In terms of how you could handle autism, this is definitely not a bad way to do it. Jason and Kimberly’s kiss got cut. Guess there was enough backlash to warrant that.

While I like the suits, I would have loved to see more of the weapons. Jason gets his power sword but nobody else gets anything. No power axe, no power lances, nothing. Maybe in the next movie we’ll have a scene where their weapons combine into a giant cannon. Feels like you could have had the second act fights mostly be martial arts and build up act three to using their powerful weapons all together.

I’m also not totally sold on the megazord design. We don’t even really see it combine; The rangers are just shoved into a pit and suddenly it’s formed. I hope in a future movie, the megazord is broken/destroyed and they have to remake it in a style more befitting the original megazord. Although, out of all the designs, the megazord was the only design I really had problems with. I could even understand Goldar’s design as a mass of gold made from Rita’s powers.

The original theme from the 1995 movie is used once. Personally, while I would have liked more of it, they used it at the perfect time as the zords charge toward Angel Grove. If I had to put it at ANY other time? I’d have added it when the megazord was formed to really drive home that “This is when we come together and kick ass” part. If I had to be earnest, I’d rather have the theme used all the time or once/twice in a really befitting situation. Consider this me being content.

Krispy Kream’s product placement was hilarious as the place where the zeo crystal rests (Yes as in PR: Zeo). The problem was the tone 180’s all of a sudden with Billy’s death at the hands of Rita. Good god, way to utterly swing something at a breakneck pace. It’s funny, sure, but damn if it doesn’t come at a time that really screws with the movie tone as I referenced above.

As you might have guessed, cinematic universes are all the rage and Power Rangers is no exception. The mid-credits end (as well as the beginning with Rita) shows us that the Green Ranger is on the horizon with Tommy Oliver in detention. It also explains his gold chestplate, as Rita’s power seems to be gold manipulation. Considering Saban has a SIX (!!!) movie storyline, I’m very surprised that they’re going so deep after just one movie.I’m also curious if we’ll get suit/costume changes befitting seasons, where rangers get outfits in the style of Power Rangers Zeo or In Space.

No Bulk and Skull. Movie. FIX THIS.

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The MOBA Scramble: Surviving Decline

If you saw Startale’s podcast which I frequent, you’ll have heard me talk about the “MOBA Decline” and how the genre has plateau’d. I feel this could use some background and why I feel this way, albeit some of this will be less raw and heavy facts and more so looking about to infer meaning.

King of the Ring

For just under a decade, MOBAs have been the most enormous and possibly profitable genre bubble to hit video games. League’s explosive success in 2009 followed by the arrival of DOTA2 and more caused a scramble to get into the MOBA industry. It harkens back to the days of World of Warcraft where the MMO caused the entire genre to explode, albeit nobody expected it to last forever. Just as the MMO slowly phased away, so too would MOBAs eventually die out.

Now, to their credit, MOBAs are a part of the free-to-play explosion that has rocked gaming harder than any scandal could. League of Legends still makes money hand-over-first despite being almost a decade old. In fact, the only game that comes close to it is…WoW. A game released in 2004. Granted, WoW has a subscription fee but the sheer money coming in still speaks volumes. Along with that, DOTA2 is still the most played Steam game of the year and regularly smashes the prize pool record from each previous international.

You’d assume that there is nowhere but up, right?

The Scramble

Well, not quite.

If I had to put it to a single thing, I’d say the advent of the “hero shooter” (A FPS game with MOBA-esque mechanics like abilities and ultimates) has caused the biggest alarm for this genre. A genre that erases some of the biggest complaints people have about MOBAs such as long match times, steep learning curves and painfully annoying “It’s everyones fault but my own” mentalities. Sure, some of these still exist in hero shooters, but not to any degree they do in MOBA-style games.

It’s difficult to gain actual data but compare Google Trends for how often League and DOTA have been searched for. Since their peak around 2013, the games have slowly been looked for less and less. Sure, there are major tournament spikes, but people have either found their game or avoided the genre. New blood isn’t really coming into these games and they hold a static playerbase save for the occasional investigative “taste test” of the genre. Interesting enough, when I looked at DOTA2’s Playercount, the number spiked to nearly 14 million unique players. Yet according to Steam Charts (While they don’t tell the whole story), the average player count has dropped since December’s big announcement. What was December’s big announcement?

A Triage Situation

I’ll be blunt: Both games are attempting to triage the situation in their own unique way. While you could argue they’re just trying to keep both games “fresh”, reading between the lines shows more factual information that neither company would truly care to admit.

On League’s side, they’ve basically been making good on promises they made years ago: Replays and Practice Tools have come out alongside a new client, as well as increased bans for pro play.

For DOTA2, the 7.0 update includes a far-cleaner HUD, visual updates for heroes who have desperately needed it, and new gameplay updates that speak more of more casual games than of DOTA2.

When you step back, the intentions are quite clear. League is pushing updates to entice their more hardcore fanbase while DOTA is making a push for the more casual fanbase. Both games are attempting to draw in fresh faces as well as re-incentivize those who may not have wanted to play the game.

But most of all, these updates come off the back of one major thing: Overwatch. Blizzard’s hero shooter has blasted all expectations and has become a worldwide phenomenon. For how long, nobody can say, but it’s more than a coincidence that this game explodes onto the scene and suddenly two industry titans suddenly make sweeping changes to appease the other side of the fence.

Death Knell?

For those who fear for the game you love: Relax. These aren’t going anywhere. MOBAs are far too large to up and die. It’s arguable that they won’t even truly die, just not be number one anymore. Building on this, it’s possible League/DOTA will forever exist as esports. Games we watch rather than play. They still pull in enormous numbers and both games are still considered the pinnacle of esport play along with Counter Strike.

But Overwatch was a wake-up call. They won’t be number one forever. You can’t get by with just what you have as your game gets older. There will be challengers to your playerbase and throne…and that has sparked a massive change-of-pace in both games. MOBAs still have plenty of life in them and we’re not going to see them rot away too fast…but the question is how long they’ll be at the top as time goes on.

And that? I have no idea of.