The title “Power Rangers vs Life” could easily mean that you choose to have a life or to watch/enjoy Power Rangers. If that is the case, I chose to not have a life in my early tween years.
It’s been well over 20 years since I last spent time watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. There was something so innocent about the formulaic plots that repeated over every single episode. I knew, at the time, that it was a clear rip-off of Voltron, but for me it was the next best thing. I even remember seeing the 1995 feature film at the drive-in and not hating it. Apparently, the child inside me didn’t die until sometime around late 1997.
The story is simple enough. A group of five high school kids come across some mysterious coins/gems and they start seeing their bodies go through strange changes. It’s basically puberty, except you grow a super-suit instead of armpit hair.
This version of the story takes the same basic concept and the characters of the ’90s TV show. However, instead of being happy-go-lucky teens that hang out at the juice bar, these kids find each other in detention. They’re all mopey kids whose parents love them too much.
The Rangers themselves are all unknown actors. Because they can’t easily be recognized from a random Disney Teen show or the CW, you can fully invest in them as Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Trini and Zack. The only recognizable names are the villain or mentors. Bryan Cranston plays Zordon (i.e. The Big Face in the Wall). His role is to help these teens develop their powers and reach their potential. Bill Hader voices Alpha 5, a very patient, but anxious, robot guide.
Elizabeth Banks hams it up in her role as the villainous Rita Repulsa. She plays the role with all the subtlety of Nicholas Cage. It would actually be fun to watch, if she knew how silly the role actually was.
The first act, while being a blatant mix of Chronicle and The Breakfast Club surprised me by setting up this world and the plight of these characters. Billy (RJ Cyler) steals the show as the most developed and refreshing character. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie has a failure to launch. It doesn’t utilize the setup in the first 30 minutes and give the audience what it wants to see. It continues to drag out the origin and power discovery until there’s only 15 minutes left.
This was so close to being a fun movie for tweens and teens, but it just comes of as a bit boring. It focused only on being the first part to a fun franchise so much, that it missed out on being energetic and cool.
Power Rangers is far from being bad. At times, it’s even fun and surprising. The problem is, it’s just a bit mediocre. There is potential for a fun sequel that can get past all the moodiness and exposition, and I hope they decide to put a little more money into the budget for effects. C-
Life, the poorly named movie, follows the crew of an international space station as they retrieve and study living matter found on the surface of Mars. Of course, things can’t be as simple as that. Within a short time, this strange life-form begins evolving, putting the lives of the crew at risk.
The cast for this movie is surprisingly strong for what seems to be a standard sci-fi thriller. Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal all lead this movie and are put through the cosmic ringer as they try to figure out how to fight this mysterious alien.
I can’t help but marvel at how this movie dealt with the realities of space. This wasn’t the standard space thriller where the crew can use gravity to their advantage. Instead, for the entire run-time, the cast is afloat on the ship, pushing off and floating through corridors. The filmmakers put plenty of work into making this feel attached to the world and time we are in now.
That reality also relates to the general feeling of tension throughout the movie. Far too often, a space movie feels fantastical and so when there’s a threat, you never actually worry all that much. In Life, if you mentally escape into the movie, you will feel the worry this crew does about the alien reaching Earth at some point. You understand their desperation to stop it, no matter the sacrifice.
The main problem lies in the fact that we’ve all seen this movie before. Life takes from great movies (The Thing and Alien), but still just remains just good. There are minor twists that improved its quality and made it feel somewhat unique, but it is still a shadow of dynamic ’80s and ’90s sci-fi thrillers.
Choose Life, but maybe wait till it’s available to rent. B-