Okay, this is not the movie I wanted, but I was surprised by how much I found myself liking it. It is not perfect. Has a number of issues, minor and major, when you think about it. But overall, I think what surprised me the most about it, which also made me appreciate it even more, it how it isn't a "dumb" movie. This film doesn't treat its audience like we're stupid. It does ask us to suspend our disbelief in a lot of places, but never outright insults our intelligence.
Recreating Angel Grove as a smaller town instead of a big city may at first sound iffy since that would prevent us from seeing any giant monster/giant robot skyscraper destruction, but honestly, I ultimate felt that that was more beneficial to the movie in the end, as having smaller-sized buildings prevented the collateral damage from seeming as obnoxious and distracting as it was in such films as Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Man of Steel. And regardless of the lack of skyscrapers, the sheer enormity of both Goldar and the Megazord was still made very clear and very impressive in this movie. Though, while I agree with those who wished that we could have seen more of the Megazord transformation in clear view, I did rather like the surprise reveal approach that they went with instead, as it made for a fun "Oh slag" reaction from everyone. Maybe in a sequel we'll get a more traditional onscreen combination sequence.
One of my biggest fears going into this movie was how much emphasis it would put on the teenage angst of the rangers. The last thing I wanted for this movie was for it to become a depressing emo fest devoid of any joy or levity in the rangers' civilian lives. And at first, it started to seem like it might go in that direction, what with the detention scene and those girls insulting Kimberly in the girls' restroom. What's more is that Billy's autism at first seemed to be played so hamfisted and artificial that it began to frustrate me seeing his condition played the way it was, being a diagnosed person myself.
However, once the film began to really explore the rangers on a more personal level, having them share their inner demons with each other, that when the film finally formed a more personal connection between the characters and the audience. I just didn't like how long it took for the film to do so. And yet, I say that but, honestly, that introversion that took so long for the film to break the ice between the characters and the audience is very realistic. A lot of teenagers in real life can be and are closed off individuals who take a while to open up and let others into their lives, much like how these rangers took forever to let us, the audience, into their own lives. That's not only a touch more believable portrayal of teens than any season of the show has done, it's also a touch more deeper than what the show has done. These characters have skeletons in their closet that the each must overcome, but which served to enhance their roles in the story, the characterizations of their individual personalities, and their developmental growth throughout the film.
What's more is that this particular depiction of the rangers as a dysfunctional team, along with many other aspects of this film, feels like a deconstruction of the common tropes of the show. In MMPR, Zordon got stuck with a team of goody-goods who made the Saved by the Bell cast look subtle, while here, he instead gets a team of actual misfits who bear more of a resemblance to The Breakfast Club, and I say that in the best way possible. What's more is that, unlike in the show where morphing and fighting come almost naturally to any new ranger team (thanks in no small part to use of Sentai footage), these rangers instead have to train how to fight and morph, needing to learn how to morph and to earn the ability to morph itself. Zordon doesn't just hand the ranger equipment over to these teens on a silver platter, he doesn't even think that these teens are right for the job, only begrudgingly accepting these "children" as the new rangers at first. Thus, the rangers instead have to prove their worth both to Zordon and to themselves through a growing process. Said process even shows just how in over their heads they are when they decide to confront Rita by themselves at a point when they aren't ready to do so. And because they weren't ready, there was a consequence that they had to suffer, one that any ranger team on the show rarely ever had to endure.
Making Goldar into a non-speaking monster didn't sound appealing to me at first, but it ultimately didn't bother me that much in the movie. In fact, there were some moments in which I noticed some little nuances and subtleties in his bahavior just through his body movement. During the zord fight when the rangers first think they've killed Rita, Goldar notices Rita's fallen body and stops fighting the zords to lend some of his gold to her to heal her injuries. And later when he picks her up right after the zords combined into the Megazord, before Rita fused with Goldar to augment his power, it almost looked like Goldar picked up Rita not mainly for the purpose of her fusing with him, but because he wanted to protect her. I might need to see the movie again to notice more, but it was these little moments that led me to believe that Goldar did have some degree of a will and an awareness of his own.
That said, for as little personality as Goldar had, Rita didn't have much either. But frankly, this movie making Rita interesting was hardly a concern of mine since, having seen how dysfunctional the rangers were, I knew good and well that the rangers needed the most focus and development and wanted them to get as much as possible. Sure, that meant sacrificing any attention needed to be given towards developing Rita, but Rita in the show was never really that interesting anyway. She was basic there and she's basic here, but it didn't bother me. She felt less like a character and more like a force for the rangers to overcome, and I kinda felt like that worked more towards the benefit of the rangers' development. Although, I did like the fact that Rita attacked Trini in her own home, as though as finally satisfy all those critics of the show who have asked "If Rita knows who the rangers are, then why doesn't she just attack their homes?" Another point of deconstructing the TV show.
Backing up to Zordon a bit, I liked how frustrated a character he was. Here is a person who has literally lost everything besides his very being. Everyone he knew and loved is dead, killed by one he once considered a friend. He put his faith in the Morphing Grid that it would choose worthy successors for the Power Ranger powers, and is instead given a bunch of inexperienced, undisciplined, dishonorable youths whom he sees as unworthy of such power, and yet wants to believe that the Morphing Grid didn't make a mistake in its choosing these five kids, for his faith is one of the few things he has left. What's more is how he at first manipulates the rangers, wanting them to morph so that he can restore himself to life, which creates a rift between himself and the rangers once they find out, which in turn leads to the rangers making their aforementioned mistake of confronting Rita before they're ready, which they paid the price for. It is through all this that Zordon has to redeem himself once the rangers manage to finally open the Morphing Grid, enabling Zordon to free himself. And yet, Zordon sacrifices his freedom to save Billy's life instead, mending the rift that had formed between Zordon and the rangers earlier.
Finally, let's take a look at the nerdy fanservice we got out of this movie. The 90's MMPR: The Movie version of "Go Go Power Rangers" played when all five zords were deployed. Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson were among the cheering crowd of civilians near the end. Jason's dad mentioned "Mariner Bay" and "Reefside" as the names of coastal locations in Angel Grove. As Goldar gets bigger, Rita declares "Make my monster grow." Alpha, of course, uses his iconic "Ay yi yi" at least twice in the film. Zordon quotes the three Power Ranger rules almost word-for-word from their original MMPR uses. The Megazord is formed when the zords get pushed into a fiery pit by Goldar, calling to mind the scenes from certain MMPR episodes (most notably the fifth part of "Green With Evil") of the zords emerging from fiery underground pits before combining into the Megazord. And of course, Tommy Oliver is given a soft introduction in the mid-credits scene.
And for some external references, Billy referred to Spider-Man and Iron Man when speculating what kind of superheroes they would be as Power Rangers. Spider-Man's spandex-clad appearance is comparable to those of the rangers of the TV show and of Super Sentai, and his Japanese Tokusatsu series was done in the same vein that Super Sentai and later Power Rangers would become known for. Meanwhile Iron Man's suit is what many were making comparisons to with the ranger suits of this movie before it came out. And a yellow Camaro gets tossed at Goldar at one point, with Billy yelling "Sorry, Bumblebee!"