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« In Which We Forgive Her Almost Everything »

Did You Morph Yet?


Power Rangers
dir. Dean Israelite
124 minutes

Rita (Elizabeth Banks) returns to American society in the year 2017. For 65 million years she has inactive in the deep sea, but a fishing net trawling the bottom of the Pacific Ocean finds her body. She was consigned to this bitter, watery fate by Dr. Heisenberg (Bryan Cranston). She subsists primarily on gold and water, so obviously a jewelry store makes a useful target. Before she presses a silent alarm, an employee at Jared offers her a variety of gold rings, which she consumes orally. When a single cop arrives he is armed with a shotgun, and when she does not turn around in sufficient time, he tries to put her down.

All I could think during this was how great all of it was. Power Rangers has tons of exciting moments, for example a black teenager (RJ Cyler) explains to his new friend Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the former star quarterback, that he is "on the spectrum." Someone actually was like, "We should make the Blue Ranger an autistic comedy figure!" and another person responded in the affirmative. This was a real moment that happened in our world. Once this unlikely pair discovers a underground cavern together, Bryan Cranston (Heisenberg) informs them they must save the world or at the very least, their small California town named Angel Grove.

In another equally fantastic scene, Kimberly Hart (the ravishing, important Naomi Scott) is explaining to Jason why she was put into detention. It emerges that the reason for her punishment is because she cyberbullied her friend for taking a nude photo and sent it to everyone. Jason registers this information with sufficient interest, before responding, "You should focus on being the person you want to be." It was unclear whether this meant more or less cyber-bullying, but I really did not care at that point. I was just so happy.

There are a lot of montage sequences as well. Such summaries were not the better part of this Power Rangers reboot, since they felt a bit forced and were composed mostly of Bill Hader one-liners – he plays an annoying robot. He wasn't as bad as in Trainwreck, but that is not saying much. Fortunately, Dr. Heisenberg (Bryan Cranston) is mentoring all these young people so he can teach them how to kill Elizabeth Banks' character. Hilariously, Heisenberg (Bryan Cranston) has zero faith in them whatsoever and spends all his time thinking about how he can materialize outside of being an aspect of his starship's AI so he can lead these hopeless fuckers.

After eating up that gold, Rita is sufficiently strong and she finds out there are all these new rangers around. (She used to be the Green Ranger and I guess in a way she still is.) You know how sometimes actors will just phone in roles they believe are beneath them, like Bryan Cranston in everything since Breaking Bad? Elizabeth Banks gives you your money's worth in every single scene, in what feels like a subtle apologia for how terrible Pitch Perfect 2 was. She tracks down the lesbian ranger (Becky Gomez) and almost chokes her to death, and then tracks her to find the rest of the Rangers. Within an hour she has imprisoned them all, and she even kills the autistic one because whatever.

This is not even the height of Banks' performance. As soon as she finds out that these new power rangers do not have the collective camaraderie to "morph", which is some kind of code for a communal sexuality which would allow them to display post-pubescent armaments and weapons, she is constantly being like, "Holy shit, you guys haven't even morphed yet?" and laughing hysterically. A great villain has emerged, and even when she is excommunicated from Earth at the end of Power Rangers and begins to freeze as she hurtles through the deep recesses of space, I began to feel seriously envious that I will never be Elizabeth Banks or even be able to get to know her in a casual, friendly setting like doubles tennis or carpooling.

It is not even Banks alone. The cast of Power Rangers is all completely perfect, even the irresponsible Michelangelo of the group, a Chinese-American teen named Zack (Ludi Lin). He is the Black Ranger, which seems a tad racist but whatever. I have never heard of a Chinese person named Zack, but that's probably more my fault than Zack's. That is what is so wonderful about Power Rangers. It is such an empty vessel that no one even cares what you put into it.

Director Dean Israelite has surely earned the right to make a sequel to this amusing film. I am not totally sure what it would be about, but I have some ideas. The pregnancy of the Pink Ranger seems imminent, and also could she at the same time be cyberbullying the Yellow Ranger? Could the robot played by Bill Hader be really into Grey's Anatomy? Could Jesus be the villain turned hero, and be made an honorary ranger? Where does Aaron Paul play into this? Could he be the Blue Ranger's Magic: The Gathering buddy? The possibilities alarm me in their vividness.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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