Dean Israelite's Power Rangers is a rare mainstream blockbuster in that it places its priorities behind delivering strong characterizations, a compelling story, and real emotional turbulence first, with the film's more bombastic, spectacle moments placing a distant second when it comes to the overall structure of this reboot. The story of five high school outcasts who together stumble upon an old alien spaceship, where they acquire extraordinary powers, only to learn that the world as they know it is on the verge of utter-annihilation if they don't work together as 'the Power Rangers', Dean Israelite's reboot checks all the boxes when it comes to the superhero genre, but it's the film's willingness to place the supernatural elements secondary to the characterizations that makes this worthy of your time. Power Rangers uses the mythology of the superhero story, one steeped in the paramount relationship between extreme power and selflessness, and projects it into a high school teenage drama, being a film just as much about the importance of general empathy, companionship, and understanding as it is about the typical tropes of the superhero genre. The film doesn't have much action, outside of the final 15 minutes or so, but Power Rangers remains engaging from start-to-finish, due to the charismatic nature of its characters, particularly RJ Cyler as Billy, showing a general ability to capture the ethos of being a high school student, one in which the responsibility of adulthood is right around the corner, and the exuberance of adolescence feels like it is slowly fading away. All of these characters are outcasts, in one way or another, in their small town of Angel Grove, and when they are granted these extraordinary powers, it takes quite a long time for them to learn to trust each other, as each character has lived most of their lives lacking this ability. Through their somewhat tumultuous journey to become "Power Rangers", the film captures the essence of why companionship and/or friendship is so important, exhibiting how friendship is rooted in this idea of not being afraid to reveal one's vulnerabilities or share ones' doubts and fears with no concern of repercussion, exhibiting how you only have to be yourself around true friends. While the action itself in the Power Rangers is nothing more than average, at best, one barely seems to care due to the film's ability to capture the high school experience so well, making the action and end-of-the-world stakes almost feel like an afterthought. The other aspect of Power Rangers that did surprise me is the direction by Dean Israelite, a filmmaker whom I was not familiar with. Israelite's direction in general is surprisingly more artistic and thoughtout than I would have expected from a Power Rangers film, routinely using all sorts of directorial techniques, such as well-placed long takes and canted angles, both of which elevate the film in subtle ways, making it not feel as by-the-numbers as so many mainstream blockbusters these days tend to be. Dean Israelite's Power Rangers is a teen drama masquerading as a superhero film, a surprisingly well-told story, which outside of a few small moments of eye-roll inducing forced melodrama, is an emotionally compelling story from start to finish.
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