The epic adventure, Saban’s Power Rangers follows five ordinary high school kids who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, the unlikely group of teenage heroes are the only ones who can save the planet, but first, they have to band together in order to harness their super powers and become Power Rangers.
By the end of the first act of Power Rangers, it would seem the makers behind this reboot of the martial arts superheroes from the widely popular 90s television series want to express a message to all the juvenile delinquents watching. Then again, would any rebellious miscreants really be watching this in the first place? Although I was pleasantly surprised by the movie in the end, even I dragged my feet going into this. But, whatever, the filmmakers clearly want the outcasts, the unruly and the misunderstood to know they are special because those disruptive, defiant feelings of angst are actually a deep-rooted energy source for good. All one has to do is find four other troublemakers, ignite explosives at a gold mine, discover the five brightly-colored Power Coins hidden beneath rock layers and a spaceship powered by the consciousness of another Power Ranger who died 65 million years ago and voiced by Bryan Cranston. Do all those things, and that troubled teen is on their way to becoming a bona fide, honest-to-goodness superhero.
Except for redheaded bullies with hair that looks as though it were licked by a cow but didn't bother to comb it and mean popular cheerleaders. They are not welcomed. A line has to be drawn somewhere.
But in order to separate our five would-be heroes from that lot, we are shown they are not really bad kids, starting with Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), the school football star and local celebrity apparently. There's a scene of him riding his bicycle across town, and people stop to stare while traffic literally moves out his way. A failed prank resulted in house arrest and Saturday detention for the rest of the school year. There, he meets two of his future teammates, Kimberly Scott (Naomi Scott) and Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler). Scott did a very bad thing ruining a friend's trust, and Billy . . . ? Well, he's the typical highly intelligent nerd who really loves playing with explosives. In a mix of plot convenience and cosmic fortuity, the last two Rangers, Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin), were already unwinding in search for some peace of mind at the quarry when the other three made a big boom, disrupting their tranquil meditation. In this world, apparently, mischief-makers take a break from all the, you know, mischief by doing yoga or admiring nature.
In fact, these post-Millennials only occasionally look at their phones, entirely dependent on how those devices help in moving the plot along, making these five characters rather unique conceits of pure fantasy. In one scene, Kimberly even crushes her phone with her bare hands, first to demonstrate her new power granted by her purplish pink Power Coin and second as some metaphoric act of defiance, related not only to the bad thing she did but also to encourage younger viewers to unplug. This isn't outside the realm of possibility since part of their learning to morph as a team is in large concerning their behavior, troubled homes and trying to figure out their place in this big, scary world. While Billy discovers a sense of belonging among people who like him as he is, Jason begins to value the meaning of being a leader. Zack realizes the importance of spending time with loved ones rather than running away due to fear, and Trini comes to terms with who she is in spite of her family's strict conservative views. As is to be expected, this all comes to a head in one pivotal, emotional scene around a bonfire on the eve of a villain set to destroy their home.
This is arguably the most surprising aspect of Power Rangers, a reboot of live-action series I never cared for or even watched — mainly because I was too old and past the targeted demographics. Each of the characters is a unique personality with genuinely troubling problems that explain their delinquent behavior and perspective of the world. From a script by John Gatins (Flight, Kong: Skull Island), South African director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) don't simply have the kids become a team, but he has them earn it, starting with learning to get along and using their anger for something greater than themselves. When Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks chewing up the scenery with wicked delight) shows up, she functions as an emblematic example of what that unchecked rage can become; she used to be a Green Ranger until her anger and greed completely consumed her. Sadly, as entertaining as much of this is, the movie never feels as though it takes off during the final battle. The story teeters between serious teen drama and cheesy campiness, but never fully embraces either while still remaining strictly focused on an endgame. In the end, it's made from various good parts, but it just never fully morphs into the hoped-for Megazord spectacular.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings Power Rangers to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region A locked, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an animated menu screen with music playing in the background.
The mighty morphing power rangers battle to save Ultra HD Blu-ray alongside a stunning, reference-quality HEVC H.265 encode in Dolby Vision, marking it the first live-action film on a physical media with Dolby Vision HDR. For anyone without a Dolby Vision-capable HDR-display, the disc will default to HDR10.
I couldn't imagine an already demo-worthy Blu-ray being bested, but here it is, a 4K presentation that handily outshines its SDR counterpart and looks slightly better in Dolby Vision than the HDR10. Don't get me wrong, the HDR10 encode is gorgeous with much to love and gush over, and the difference between these competing HDR formats is not as dramatic as the jump from the HD version. In all honesty, they are pretty subtle, but there are differences nonetheless.
For one, primaries are more vibrant and have a slightly gaudier zest to them in Dolby Vision, and this is apparent in the way the green of grass and trees or the blue sky shines with a bit more pop. Several exterior shots come with that much sought-after looking-out-the-window effect, especially the extreme wide shots that take in the whole town or the surrounding environment, and facial complexions are more revealing and lifelike than before. When the teen superheroes don their uniforms, each color radiates with more intensity and flash, particularly the Red Ranger who glistens under the sun like a cherry tomato. The same goes for secondary hues appearing brighter and more true-to-life than the Blu-ray while only a tad perkier than the HDR10. The cold open with the original Power Rangers is a great example of this as viewers can distinctly make out more shades of colors in the bodies of the aliens. Also, compared to the HDR10 version, Rita's emerald green costume appears more vivid and intense in the sunlight while exposing black lines and very subtle hints of yellow. Meanwhile, Goldar and Rita's golden staff come with a dazzling, realistic sparkle. The Morphing Grid, too, flashes with more luster and fervor, showing better distinction between the various colors than in the HDR10, where it look a bit more misty and cloudy. Rita's rock Putties also show a pinkish purple glow between the cracks, and Alpha 5's swirling eyes reveal small details within the vortex.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the 2160p video also impresses with a pitch-perfect and brighter contrast, keeping the action and drama endlessly vivid and optimistic. From beginning to end, whites are beaming and wash over every scene with an intense luminosity without hampering other areas of the picture. Specular highlights are phenomenal for a live-action film, providing the Ranger uniforms, Rita's staff and various other metal objects with a more realistic glow and roundness when light bounces off them. And even here, the Dolby Vision shows an improvement as that same glow seems tighter and more controlled, revealing a better outline and definition in those objects. When the sun shines on faces, the furrows and pores remain discrete and are not engulfed by the glow. A good example of this is when the teens finally morph and the intensely bright light of the Grid overwhelms them. In the Dolby Vision, the wrinkles and creases in the clothes are distinct whereas in the HDR10, some of that is sadly lost. Better still, brightness levels deliver even more luxurious, inky-rich blacks, providing the image with gorgeous three-dimensional quality and an appreciable cinematic appeal. Individual black hairs remain separate from each other, the mesh lines in Alpha 5's arms are resolute, and the darkest portions of the frame never ruin the finer details. And again, the opening battle shows Dolby Vision being the winner in this area, as one can better make out the clouds and mountains in the dark background while the debris in the foreground is slightly sharper.
As mentioned in the Blu-ray, the movie was shot on the Red Epic Dragon camera system, capable of up to 6K resolution and later transferred into a 4K digital intermediate, and on Ultra HD, the transfer is delivers razor-sharp definition in the clothing and costumes. Even the threading and stitching in the Power Ranger uniforms are better defined while every smudge of dirt and blemish on Rita Repulsa's surprisingly sparse outfit is made more plainly visible. The tiniest object aboard Zordon's spaceship is resolute and distinct in the distance, the internal wires of Alpha 5's robotic body are clearly delineated, and the lettering on buildings and signs are surprisingly more legible than before. The CG animation is highly detailed even during the craziest action sequences, which are typically done at 2K resolution, but reportedly, the filmmakers shot the superhero actioner with 4K HDR and Dolby Vision in mind. In either case, the little bits of debris are discrete while the oozing lumps of gold in either Rita's staff or Goldar's body come with small cracks and imperfections.
The ragtag group of juvenile delinquents wreaks havoc upon a small town with the Blu-ray's same, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that utilizes the entire soundscape on various occasions.
The most surprising aspect of the design is how often the ceiling channels are employed, not only during explosive action sequences but also in several of the more mundane, dialogue-driven moments. When Jason visits Billy, mom's voice can be heard in the top rear, or while the kids are training, the sound of water dripping and tiny pebbles fall all around the entire room. There are also several scenes of conversations echoing into every speaker, adding another layer of realism. When the action erupts in the last quarter of the movie, debris flies in every which direction and Pink Ranger's Dinozord flies overhead with flawless panning, generating a terrifically satisfying dome-like soundfield.
Amid all the mayhem and destruction, vocals remains distinct and crystal-clear, never drowned out by the thundering commotion. The mid-range, too, exhibits superb detailing, delivering every ear-piercing blast and racket with marvelous precision and fidelity. Metal scrapes against metal with striking, high-pitched clarity that never distorts while fragments and debris from buildings discretely sprawl across the soundstage and into the front heights. The low-end is particularly noteworthy and impressive, providing the design with a shockingly authoritative presence during the explosive action and powerfully emphatic beat to the music. Most surprising of all are the several unexpected moments of ultra-low bass in key sequences, digging well below 20Hz with some appreciable decibels (bass chart).
Audio Commentary: Director Dean Israelite and screenwriter John Gatins discuss the various aspects of the production with a few insights on the characters and plot themes while comparing the original show.
The Power of the Present (HD, 140 min): Nine-part documentary touching on every facet of the production imaginable, starting with the young cast sharing memories of the original show. Made from a mix of cast & crew interviews, BTS footage and film clips, the rest of the series discusses the differences in the reboot, the casting, the costumes, the fight choreography and more.
Rangers Then to Now
Building the Team
Beyond the Rangers
Rangers, Welcome to Training
Ranger in the Wild
It's Morphin' Time
Power Balled: Music and Sound
This Is Your Destiny
Deleted Scenes (HD, 34 min): A collection of eighteen deleted, extended and alternate scenes.
Outtakes (HD, 4 min).
Walking into Power Rangers with the lowest possible expectations is probably the best way to watch the reboot of the widely popular 90s television series. Starring Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader and a young talented cast, the superhero actioner is surprisingly entertaining with a poignant coming-of-age drama centering around a group of troubled teens struggling to find their place in the world.
The movie debuts on Ultra HD with a stunningly gorgeous 4K presentation in Dolby Vision HDR and an equally satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack, sure to please enthusiasts. With the same strong collection of supplements as the Blu-ray, the overall package is surprisingly recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.