Power Rangers, the latest PG-13 blockbuster adaptation of a classic childhood franchise, really tries to get as much mileage as it possibly can out of that rating. The film, like many other new so-called “tentpole” franchises, has to pull off a precarious balancing act: Entertain people in their 20s who grew up watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when they were 7, while also hooking current-day 7-year-olds and ensuring they’ll be the next generation of fans.
While any kids in the audience are no doubt going to be thrilled during action-packed Zords combat scenes or some of the quippy character work, there’s a lot in Power Rangers that seems like it would either go way over a child’s head or worse yet, bore them.
Now, none of this means that kids can’t enjoy Power Rangers. They probably will, and they’ll probably be psyched that the studio wants to make a half-dozen more, meaning they might be past their teens by the time the franchise wraps up. But, Power Rangers’s uneven adult themes and mature pacing certainly suggest that tykes weren’t the ones in mind when the creators were putting Power Rangers together. Here are some of the biggest examples.
Power Rangers: It’s Slow
The Rangers don’t morph until the last half-hour of this two-hour movie. It’s a long, long build-up, and while the charming cast and non-costumed training scenes help keep things moving, it can be a slog. That’s not to say that kids can’t be patient, it’s just that it takes Power Rangers a long time to get to the fireworks factory, and some of what it does in the meantime is questionable filler.
Power Rangers: There Are Dick Jokes
Like, for instance, the second scene of the movie, which revolves around giving a cow a handjob to completion. Crude jokes are mainstays for all-ages movies like Power Rangers, but they tend to be a bit more vague, alluding to grown-up humor rather than showing it. So, it says something about the movie’s tone when during the second scene, Jason and some friends sneak a bull into a rival high school’s locker room and we’re treated to a lingering shot of bovine penis and explicit discussion about “strange milk.”
Power Rangers: Revenge Porn
The Pink Ranger’s sordid history is one of the more confounding parts of Power Rangers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with teaching kids about a serious social issue that they might encounter as they grow up, but the movie doesn’t quite make an effort to impart any sort of lesson. We learn that Kimberly shared an intimate photo of her friend with the friend’s boyfriend out of spite and jealousy. It’s an evil thing to do, but Power Rangers lets her off the hook in a big way. By failing to really make the plotline a teachable moment, revenge porn just lingers, ugly and oddly in the middle of the film.
Power Rangers: There’s Reliance on Knowing Them
So much of what happens in Power Rangers happens because … that’s what happens in Power Rangers. During Zordon’s many exposition scenes, he drops jargon that, for the most part, makes sense because the audience remembers the oft-repeated narrative from the TV series. It’s almost refreshing, the way the movie doesn’t bend over backward to explain every given detail, but at times it’s a little too content to let nostalgia close the gaps. When Zordon names Jason as the team leader, it’s because, well, the Red Ranger is the team leader. The Megazord comes together because that’s how these episodes go. Granted, it’s not like a lot of Power Rangers lore is that hard to grasp. It’s just that the film’s many applause moments will only be applause-worthy if you were watching TV after school in the ‘90s.
Power Rangers ain’t a bad movie. It’s flawed, but all movies are. What’s interesting here is that many of its imperfections are related to its maturity, for lack of a better word. The film’s lots of fun, but some of its most “grown-up” moments get in the way, and it’s unclear who really benefits from their inclusion.
Take some comfort in this, though: If you had a suspicion that the filmmakers didn’t know who Power Rangers is for, then the folks who picked out the movie trailers that ran before a New York City showing certainly had no idea who it was for. Save for Wonder Woman and Transformers: The Last Knight (another tonallyawkward franchise), the rest of the trailers were all for capital-K Kids movies. And, I’m willing to bet that there aren’t any jokes about leaked nudes or cow semen in The Nut Job 2.