'Power Rangers' — What parents should know
My experience with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers belongs in a box labeled “All those times my niece (who was probably 7 or 8 at the time) insisted I watch it with her even though I didn’t want to.” Now in her 20s, she loved, and is still nostalgic for, the popular children’s TV series from the 90s about a group of colorfully-costumed teens who inherit superhero powers and fight aliens to save the earth.
Based on the crowd (and their reaction) in my screening of the new “Power Rangers” movie at Regal Hollywood 20 & RPX in Greenville last night, she isn’t the only one who’s nostalgic about it. Surprisingly, the movie breaks down all kind of barriers for a superhero movie, offering a fun-filled ride for families — especially those with special needs children.
The live-action “Power Rangers” starts with a flashback to millions of years ago when a battle between Rita Repulsa (played by Elizabeth Banks) and Zordon (played by Bryan Cranston) comes to earth. A meteor strike fossilizes their technology — and Rita — where a group of five diverse high schoolers in modern day Angel Grove, California, find it. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the high school’s quarterback whose tangent for breaking the rules wrecks his knee and loses him a free pass to college; Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a disgraced cheerleader ostracized by the popular crowd for sending inappropriate photos to another student; Billy (R.J. Cyler), a smart, lovable, socially awkward teen who admits he’s “on the spectrum” and can’t read people’s emotions; Zach (Ludi Lin), a crazy and reckless outcast who skips school more often than not; and Trini (Becky G), who seems to excel at being a silent, angry teenage girl for a reason that is hinted at but never really made clear.
When this diverse group unexpectedly comes together in a rock quarry and unearths the color-coded Morphin coins — Jason is red, Kimberly is pink, Billy is blue, Zach is black and Trini is yellow — they suddenly develop super strength and other mystical powers that lead them back to the quarry, where they discover a spaceship where a robot named Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader) and Zordon have been awaiting their arrival for millions of years. They have been chosen as the new Power Rowers, destined to defend earth against Rita, who meanwhile has been discovered and rejuvenated elsewhere in Angel Cove.
So, how kid-friendly is “Power Rangers”? Here’s what parents should know (with spoilers ahead).
“Power Rangers” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language and for some crude humor.
Basically, this version of “Power Rangers” is “The Breakfast Club” meets “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” The chosen five are diverse, full of teen angst, and pretty much delinquents. It’s Billy who stands out the most, giving the movie its heart and soul and embodying the fun spirit of the original franchise. He also marks the first time a character with diagnosed autism has been featured as a superhero in a major motion picture. That’s incredibly significant for a lot of families, and he's the biggest reason I would encourage anyone to see this movie.
Billy is beyond excited to be a superhero, and the other Rangers are his first real friends. He's earnest and always wants to do the right thing. That said, his portrayal as someone on the spectrum gives a superficial view of autism, but for kids who can relate to him, his existence is still an awesome representation.
What might put off a lot of conservative families is that it is hinted that Trini is gay, but never confirmed. Aside from that, the movie seems targeted mainly at tween and teenage boys, but doesn’t stray too far into the subject of sexuality. One of the female character strips down to her underwear and goes swimming while Jason watches. There are no kissing or sex scenes to worry about.
All the Power Rangers do dumb and reckless things both before and after they inherit their powers, which could impact impressionable children who might be tempted to copy them. For example, Jason leads the police on a car chase trying to get away after doing something illegal — not once but twice. The Rangers also test their powers by jumping off a cliff.
There is also some profanity and suggested profanity, and more than I expected for what should essentially be a kid’s movie. For example, Billy says “mother fu—“ once but cuts himself off before finishing the derivative.
Some of the scenes with Rita Repulsa are also dark and violent and might scare sensitive kids. For example, she attacks a homeless man and it is implied by his yells and her shadow on the wall that she is violently removing his teeth. There is also lots of comic-book-style fighting and scenes of battle in the climax.
That said, the movie has some great messages for its audience, primarily about friendship, teamwork, sacrifice and courage. It’s not until the characters learn to work together and care for each other that they truly become superheroes.
This movie is also surprisingly fun to watch, with the climax delivering on the cheesiness of the original series, and in a good way. And to answer a question likely on the minds of many “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” fans, yes, they even play the theme song once.
“Power Rangers” is now playing in theaters nationwide.