There has never been a greater gift to Power Rangers than the ability to assess a franchise film in the context of what’s come before it: this is ostensibly because the last two theatrical things to come before this movie were Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1995 and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie in 1997, and they were varying degrees of recklessly brain-dead, poorly-made cash-in. Which isn’t to say that this Power Rangers isn’t also a cash-in, for there is almost no reason in the world for it to exist other than capitalizing on nostalgia for a brand that hasn’t been relevant for nearly two decades; it is to say, however, that this Rangers is superior in every imaginable way to those entries by such leaps and bounds of magnitude that past a certain point we might as well give up and extend it the legitimate credit it deserves for taking such a cut-and-paste hackjob of a TV series and making it into something cinematically literate. It is a low bar to clear, but clear it we do.
I roast the movie more than it deserves, frankly; even on its own problematic and middling terms, this achieves roughly the same win-loss ratio with regard to character and story and excitement as something like the 2000 X-Men kick-off, or Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, or even Lionsgate’s own 2012 The Hunger Games. Like those starters, what we have here is a narrative that is not quite sure yet what it wants to be: the filmmaking is competent but timid and mostly anonymous, the writing stops shy of making much of a clear point for fear of alienating a new audience, and the cast has about 70 percent of their characters mapped out and occasionally steps on the frayed edges of that nonexistent 30 percent. Also like those films, though, there is chemistry and agency between its cast members and a sense that there is potential in the overall story to be told.