Jason will tell you: He isn’t a hero.
If anything, he’s really more of a rebellious teen who tends to make stupid choices. He freely admits it. His latest escapade not only had him running from police and getting in a car wreck, but it left him with a banged-up knee and no chance for a football scholarship.
And it really made his dad mad.
So if you had somehow suggested to this angst-filled high schooler, just a few days back, that a battle for one of the most powerful artifacts in the universe would involve him, he would have laughed in your face.
Now, though, the situation has changed. And he’s been forced to rethink, well, everything.
That transition kicked into gear when he found a red, jewel-like medallion embedded in volcanic glass at a mining site. OK, back up. He didn’t find it. He and four other similarly outcast teens found it. In fact, they each found different colored medallions.
So who are these other teens?
Well, there’s an autistic guy named Billy whom Jason sorta took under his wing when he saw him being bullied. Then there’s this used-to-be-popular cheerleader, Kimberly; a just slightly crazy loner named Zach; and a mysterious new girl in town, Trini, who has a plank-sized chip on her shoulder.
The fact is, Jason and these other kids don’t really know each other very well. And if you were to ask each of them they’d tell you that they really don’t even like each other. But again, the medallions changed everything: They, uh, supercharged Jason and the others.
Oh, and those colored thingees also led this group of kids to a spaceship buried deep within the Earth. A spaceship that’s been down there for millions of years and …
… if you can believe the spaceship’s robot—uh huh, there’s one of those down there, too—he says it’s all part of a big, mysterious battle plan designed to pit them, the new team of Power Rangers, against a universal and all-encompassing evil.
The teens go from not really liking each other to feeling close enough that they say they’d give up their lives for one another. In fact, even when they’re virtually powerless, these newly minted Power Rangers all venture forth to face off against evil.
They also start realizing that there really are important things in life, things that far outweigh their personal, self-focused perspectives. Zach talks of his love for his mom and his fears about a serious illness she’s struggling with. We see him giving of himself to help her.
As for the Power Rangers’ medallions, they come with three pretty positive rules attached to them: Never use the power for personal gain; never escalate a fight; and never reveal your true identity.
Kimberly suffers a bout of self-hatred and shame after doing something very hurtful to someone else. Jason tells her that doing something awful doesn’t make her an awful person. He suggests that she can work to be the person she truly wants to be.
We’re told that every planet that sustains life does so thanks to the power of a piece of a “Zeo Crystal” that has been planted somewhere on the globe. And, though never fully explained, we’re shown a group of Power Rangers who die in battle protecting Earth’s Zeo Crystal some 65 million years ago.
From time to time, Billy starts talking to his dead dad. An unexplained power—either connected to the Zeo Crystal or, perhaps, some ancient alien technology—allows two different people to be resurrected. The evil villainess, Rita Repulsa, possesses an (again unexplained) power to imbue life into a gigantic construct made entirely of gold. She’s said to be “pure evil.”
While practicing the controls of a robotic vehicle called a Zord, Zach barely misses smashing into a car full of singing nuns.
Formfitting female Power Rangers’ outfits emphasize their wearers’ feminine curves. Kimberly strips down to her underwear and dives off a cliff into a pool of water. She admits to sending a picture of a female friend to some guy. We never see the picture, but it’s implied that it’s a nude photo. Jason states that there are “thousands” of those kinds of photos floating around at school.
While talking about her own sense of being an outsider, Trini’s conversation with another team member implies that she may be gay, or perhaps questioning her gender identification.
Director Dean Israelite addressed that bit of dialogue: “She hasn’t fully figured it out yet. I think what’s great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, ‘that’s OK’. The movie is saying, ‘that’s OK’ and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe.” David Yost, who played the Blue Ranger in the 1990s TV series on which the film is based, told The Hollywood Reporter, “So many people in the LGBTQI community are going to be excited to see that representation.”
Later, Rita Repulsa shows up in Trini’s bedroom and seductively strokes the young woman’s face and neck while making lightly veiled threats. Elsewhere, someone jokes about masturbating (using the word “morph” instead), and another guy suggests he attempted to “milk” a bull.
Though we never see any grisly carnage up close, it’s obvious that scores of people are killed in the course of this pic. Rita has her gold golem smash through the city streets, demolishing buildings and people beneath its feet. Her rock monster creations run the streets attacking people, too.
Rita drowns someone, and she gathers the gold teeth that she’s removed from several victims’ mouths. We see corpses of policemen floating in the water. A building blows up, killing its occupants. The teen Rangers have a vision of a street full of people all incinerated and turned to ash. A policeman shoots a shotgun at Rita only to be, himself, incinerated as well.
Gigantic entities give battle in the city streets. Zords spit out high caliber shells in all directions. Vehicles are smashed and set on fire. A woman freezes in space. Several characters are hit and killed by a hurtling asteroid. [Spoiler Warning: One of the Power Rangers makes the ultimate personal sacrifice to save the others.]
A train hits a van full of people, sending the crumpled vehicle tumbling. A bully tries to head-butt someone and knocks himself out instead. In the course of their training and personal battles, we see the teens pummeled and tossed around, resulting in bruises and welts.
While excited, Billy starts crying out “Yippee ki-yay, m—–f—,” but then stops himself and ends with “Mother. Mother’s good.” God’s name is misused eight times. In addition, the dialogue includes about half a dozen s-words, and a handful of uses of “a–,” “b–ch” and “h—.”
While in a campfire setting, Trini appears to be drinking a beer.
Teens display incredibly foolish behaviors, from theft and breaking and entering to crazy driving that, in one case, involves trying to outrace a train. Billy breaks the law and hacks Jason’s house-arrest ankle monitor. Someone sends Kimberly a poop emoji.
Many children of the ’90s probably know the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers pretty well. The Japanese children’s show import was popular Saturday morning fare, and the marketed action figures and collectables filled many a toy chest and Toys “R” Us shelf.
The show’s small-screen action tended to be cheesy and cheap. But hey, that was before Marvel movies were everywhere, so young fans in search of superheroes weren’t nearly so picky. Brightly colored spandex, karate moves and cheese went just fine with a bowl of Cheerios.
The latest Power Rangers movie is intended to be a modern update, an attempt to morph a new generation of young imaginations. And you can see how the producers worked at inserting a variety of contemporary bits and pieces to do just that.
The CGI budget has certainly been inflated, to a reported $105 million. The outfits and tech sparkle on screen. And they’ve made the Power Ranger team itself more diverse: Alpha 5, a sprightly space alien robot, sums it up with: “Different colors! Different kids! Different-colored kids!”
However, during that updating process, the filmmakers also blended in other “modern” additions that detract more than add. These five angsty high school heroes sometimes push rebellion to obnoxious levels, while sprinkling in rough-edged language and superfluous sexual innuendo (as well as one character who may be exploring her own sexual identity).
That kind of stuff might not bother a slightly balding fan showing up at the theater in a Comic-Con T-shirt. But when you add it to some intense superhero violence, you end up with a combination that could well be a deal-killer for parents of younger, would-be fans—the only other group, frankly, that might potentially find this pic entertaining.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.