A 24-year-old, pop culture franchise got another cinematic reboot this year that tanked at the box office but looks to capture a loyal audience through the ultra high-definition release of Power Rangers (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 117 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $34.98).
Director Dean Israelite (who also directed “Project Almanac”) takes on the colorful superhero team’s origin story by mixing serious subjects, such as bullying and alienation, with a silly premise amid special effects-laden action.
Writer John Gatlins’ screenplay introduces a collection of five high school misfits in the mythic California town of Angel Grove — screwup football star Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), cyberbully cheerleader Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), autistic class nerd Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), LGBT loner Trini (Becky G), and bilingual caregiver Zack (Ludi Lin).
They find a common cause in protecting the Earth after each acquires a legendary Power Coin that can morph them into powerful, costumed warriors.
This superhero “Breakfast Club” must stop an evil, former Green Ranger — the gold-eating grotesque entity named Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) — from resurrecting a multistory monster named Goldar that will help her secure the Zeo Crystal and destroy humanity.
The team gets mentoring from a “Wall-E”-style android named Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) and a former Red Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston). And, best of all kiddies, when in full gear, the Red, Blue, Pink, Black and Yellow Rangers can control the famed, dinosaur Zord exoskeletons to thwart the plans of Miss Repulsa.
Neither I nor my offspring has ever been a devotee of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but Mr. Israelite’s take on a coming-of-age film had plenty of fun moments (they even manage to sneak in the original “Go Go Power Rangers” theme song).
It was loaded with action (the Megazord vs. Goldar battle was epic) and offered empowering messages of: friendship, courage, inclusion, tolerance and teamwork. I, now, may be a fan.
However, the movie’s box-office demise could easily be diagnosed. The filmmakers targeted the wrong demographic: teens instead of tweens. With its death scene, mature themes and a grotesque and truly scary villainess tormenting the heroes, the film received a PG-13 rating — not PG or G.
Power Rangers have always been a tween-and-younger audience grabber, especially with the variety of toys and television series available to this day. And multi-tasking, tech-savvy teens have much better avenues of entertainment to access and much more intense action film franchises to appreciate.
4K UHD: A razor-sharp presentation, thanks to a digital transfer to 4K from a 4K master and introduction of Dolby Vision (the next generation of high dynamic range for those few with compatible equipment), greets home theater owners.
The reference quality image does not start to impress until the Rangers find their underground headquarters, suit up and start fighting the big, bad guys.
Viewers will look closely at the computer-generated creation of Alpha 5, with its clear saucer-shaped head containing a florescent cosmic swirl, celestial masses encased in bulbs for eyes, and purplish glistening armor protecting a spindly metal mesh body. They also can scour the detailed form of Zordon (who looks like Lyndon B. Johnson) as an undulating digital data matrix of rods simulate his face popping out of the wall.
Next, the Ranger costume transformations are a saturated thing of beauty as the armor slowly scales up and crystallizes over the skin of the human recipient while the breastplate emerges with encased multicolor light tendrils.
Equally eye-popping is the introduction of Rita reclaiming her powers as molten gold shapes her staff and gold flakes emerge on her fingernails.
And, of course, her massive buddy Goldar walking across a field to smash town looks amazing, especially when in battle with the Megazord. Every punch and kick to its head vividly spews liquid gold like blood.
Best extras: Viewers will need a steady stream of caffeinated beverages to stay awake while watching an almost 2 1/2 hour-long, nine-part love fest that explores the production and overstated importance of the movie. (Hey guys, it’s a dang Power Rangers film, not Shakespeare, so lighten up.)
Beginning with a wisp of the Japanese origins of the franchise (including some footage from the original Japanese and American television series), the exhaustive documentary touches on casting, make-up effects, designing the new Rangers exoskeleton suits, and the morphing magic.
It also dives into the visual effects, stunts, the cast’s martial arts training, costumes, sets, location shooting in Vancouver, animating the Dinozords and Megazord, musical score, sound and even dialogue overdubbing sessions.
All is fueled by plenty of interviews with cast and crew, who gush about each other being part of a great movie experience.
I would have preferred less fluff and more history of the franchise and its key characters.
An optional commentary track with Mr. Israelite and Mr. Gatins does a great job of complementing the production documentary as they focus on directorial objectives, the magic behind filmmaking, reimaging the Power Rangers and story motivations.
They also confirm the “Breakfast Club” homage and spend plenty of time talking about challenges on the shoot, how good teenagers can make bad decisions and making sure the fans would enjoy the movie.
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