REVIEW: Power/Rangers [2015]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 14 minutes | Release Date: February 23rd, 2015 (USA)
Director(s): Joseph Kahn
Writer(s): Joseph Kahn, Dutch Southern & James Van Der Beek

“Bullshit is an ugly color on you”

I watched “Voltron” growing up so I was never a huge proponent of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” when they arrived on the scene. There was always a sense of facsimile in my mind and the goofiness of the whole thing didn’t help recruit me into their legion of diehards. I couldn’t tell you any details of either show now so many years removed, but I will say Joseph Kahn giving the latter a contemporary facelift has me reminiscing about the good and bad of both. That’s what fan-made films do—they homage, show a bit of nostalgic love, and provide the best sort of free advertising the internet’s geekdom possesses. So why is Saban having a gigantic hissy fit?

That’s a rhetorical question—I know why. Intellectual property this, we have a new movie in the works with Lionsgate that. But I wonder if there would be the same litigious threat level if some dude off the street created Power/Rangers rather than a guy who’s worked in the Hollywood machine (Torque) and directs music videos for a living. It happened with Mortal Kombat a few years back, yet the person behind its redux was applauded, rewarded with an online series, and allowed a place in the game’s legacy. Kahn, who shot the short in seven days and took nine months completing the effects on his own dime, has been harassed instead. Stop breeding ill will from your fanbase, Saban. Embrace it, stamp it with approval, and enjoy the press.

After all, this new vision is pretty sleek. Lionsgate should take note—not that they’d ever go hard-R for their own adaptation when the Power Rangers brand skews to a very tween demographic. There’s something to be said about retrofitting a gritty, dystopian aesthetic, though. We’re talking about giant robot wars so some Skynet flavor might be just what the doctor ordered. How close to canon Kahn and co-writers Dutch Southern and James Van Der Beek skew is above my level of knowledge, but I can’t believe it’s too far off with names remaining the same and talk of Rita. Kahn wanted to experiment with tone so he picked the silliest thing he could think of to make serious. It was about revamping, not plagiarizing.

With all that said, how was the film? Well, as an exercise it’s pretty damn cool. The idea itself has a lot of merit and really speaks to a generation of kids all grown up from their days of watching Tommy and Kimberly. Is it something that needed to be made or something that should be expanded upon to feature length status? No. If it were then Saban would have a point about the whole confusion of branding going on. You don’t want little kids stumbling upon it thinking this is part of the world they know. In its current form, however, it’s a nice way to spend fourteen minutes and a neat inside look at a filmmaker honing his craft and pushing the envelope before a new film comes along.

In all honesty, the acting leaves a lot to be desired once you go past Van Der Beek’s Rocky and Katee Sackhoff‘s Kimberly. Kahn was smart revolving it around them with the former turning to the machines as an interrogator to find out from Kimberly where Tommy (Russ Bain) was. Their Power Ranger friends have been turning up dead so the assumption is that the former Green-suited soldier snapped. We therefore only see the others in flashbacks with a lot of brooding to go along with some badass fight choreography. Gichi Gamba‘s Zack against Will Yun Lee‘s General Klank is great. As for the twists and turns, I feel they’ll work better for those familiar with the property.

I found a few of the transitions jarring as though we only went to flashback scenes for the cool factor rather than any true story progression. This is a bad attribute to have when you’re attempting to be a coherent film, but something that can be forgiven when the final piece is an experiment like Power/Rangers. Kahn pretty much gave it to the world for free, a document of his work this past year meant to stand as an entertaining bootleg and nothing more. It’s definitely worth a view with that mindset: it was made for the internet and it should stay there. Saban and Lionsgate can do whatever they will, but don’t try and silence artistic expression especially when it so obviously respects the original.

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