“Power Rangers” is one of the most bizarre action films to be released in some time. Scenes are so visually and tonally inconsistent that they seem to have been directed and edited by completely different people. Sequences are repeated so often that the story never truly seems to get off the ground. The cast is likable enough, but they’re never given much to do besides look frustrated in a film that is not necessarily at war with itself, but oddly unaware of itself.
The plot is simple enough. A group of troubled teenagers fatefully meet one night, discovering a ship, a robot, and an alien who give them powers to save the world against the evil Rita Repulsa (a delightful Elizabeth Banks). For the first half, “Power Rangers” appears to be on the right course. The future rangers all have tremendous chemistry, and there’s a sense of danger and awe when they first discover the ship. Perhaps this will really be something surprising, I thought. But slowly it begins unraveling. And as all the momentum came to a halt, it was apparent that it had no where to go until the inevitable end fight. If “Power Rangers” was only a 90 minute film, it would have been simply a slight irritation. At over two hours, it’s bafflingly torturous.
Director Dean Israelite get a lot out of the five leads; there’s a desire to go beyond one dimensional characters that’s commendable and actually successful. They all bond, meet Zordon, the captain of the sunken ship and his robot, Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader). We see the resurrection of Rita Repulsa and her rise to power. The stakes are set, and we’re ready to root for the good guys.
Then the film stops dead.
For a good 45 minutes, the same three locations are repeated over and over. Characters quit, get mad at each other, then reconcile and return to training — only to get mad at each other a couple moments later.
Quit. Fight. Bond. Repeat.
Occasionally, the formula changes so we can witness Rita Repula gathering gold for Goldar, who looks like a giant Oscar statue with wings.
Almost vindictively, by the time the leads actually become the Power Rangers, there’s only about 20 minutes left in the film. Things have been so passive and dreary for so long, you might become depressed and not care when the action begins. “Power Rangers” lacks the propulsion necessary to earn a fist-pumping finale. The film seems to understand this too, for every time I was ready to take a nap, it tosses us a scene with Repula, whom Elizabeth Banks is playing with enough energy for ten villains. She wasn’t given the memo that this wasn’t a straight adaptation of the goofy TV series. Either that, or she didn’t care, realizing it was up to her to save the picture. She’s having the time of her life, but it can only go so far. The rest of the proceedings aren’t willing to meet her halfway. The lead actors should be upbeat teenagers, but deliver their lines as if they’re tortoises reaching the end of their days.
If there’s any footage of Bryan Cranston on the cutting room floor, I’ll be shocked. It almost becomes a running gag with Zordon informing how important the rangers are or how wicked Rita Repulsa is. Our introduction to Alpha 5 shows him dragging the terrified teenagers around the ship in a moment that’s darkly comedic. But with everything else, he descends into grim solemnity. The ship seems to be an extension of the Kryptonian ship from “Man of Steel,” opting for the oil rig look rather than something more visually appealing.
The 45-minute training sequences are often edited in such jarringly different ways, as if there was a different editor for every moment. There’s no consistency, and no sense of urgency. Scenes become interchangeable, rendering them useless. One of the team members takes a dinobot for a test drive early on, crashing through mountains and veering completely out of control, only to bring it back safely without consequence. For a brief second I was sure it was only some daydream fantasy he was experiencing. There’s no sense of confluence.
“Power Rangers” is a film that begins with a promisingly heightened prologue followed by a bizarre sexual joke involving pleasuring a bull (“I miked the cow,” remarks one friend. “It’s not female,” responds the other). “Power Rangers” is a film that kills off one Ranger, brings him back (obviously), then minutes later finds it necessary to have an “all is lost” moment where all the rangers accept the fact that they will die. Neither do anything for the story.