It’s hard to say exactly when it happened, but at some point the world called out for gritty Power Rangers….. and, by god, those calls are being answered in spades. From the ultra-dark Power/Rangers, to the MMPR webseries, to Saban’s own theatrical reboot, the world is getting all the Gritty Rangers it can handle. Zordon of Eltar sets itself apart from the others, with its focus on rebooted origins and massive scocurrently ilm feels huge, spanning an entire galaxy with multiple planets along with a healthy dose of fan service; but is it actually a good film?
Zordon of Eltar is director Cisco Davis Jr’s follow up to Teenagers With Attitude, a re-envisioning of the original Power Rangers. ZoE serves as an origin story for Cisco’s “reboot” that borrows heavily from original Power Rangers lore. The film is littered with references to characters, planets and events of the original series; some of which are being seen for the first time. This is a film that truly knows its audience, though its inside-baseball nature will make ZoE impenetrable to newcomers.
The film’s greatest strength is its creative use of the Power Rangers license itself. From the Green Ranger-style vests worn by Dragon Empire soldiers to Zordon’s White Ranger-esque battle helmet, writer/director Cisco does a great job re-purposing classic elements in interesting ways. We even get to see multiple past iterations of Alpha as well as an older form of Saba (not yet a sentient scimitar). Despite these high points, not all of ZoE’s reworked elements work to its benefit.
Rebooted Goldar and Rita, pretty cool
Rebooted Scorpina…. not so much.
The quality of character designs varies greatly from character to character, sometimes within the same scene. While characters like Zordon, Goldar and Divatox show a lot of care and creativity, many of the secondary characters look like uninspired cosplay (and the less said about Scorpina, the better). Unfortunately, those inferior designed characters stick out like sore thumbs whenever they’re on screen and serve to detract from the film’s considerable production value.
Speaking of production value, this film stands above the majority of fan films out there in its presentation and scope. It spans an entire galaxy, stopping off on multiple planets and featuring space ships, cgi monsters and a Dragonzord. The film’s use of digital environments allows it to be sprawling and visually diverse, but with great power….
…come sentences, too cliched to finish.
We live in an age where computers and greenscreen can make anything possible, but it also makes things feel sterile and lifeless. While the environments are beautifully rendered, it’s always obvious that the actors are standing in a greenscreen studio reacting to nothing. The digital locations also limit the actors’ ability to move around. Most scenes involve characters standing motionless, talking back and forth with little to nothing in the way of camera or actor movement. The film also has no practical effects whatsoever, something of a disappointment considering the source material’s low-fi effects contributed greatly to its charm. The CGI isn’t bad, per se, it just feels like a missed opportunity that could have added a lot of personality to the film.
The Dragonzord got a makeover.
While the film’s premise is strong, the actual script is often found wanting. Scenes often drag on for far too long and are suffocated with exposition. The dialogue itself is decently written but the actors deliver it in the most bland, passionless way possible. Scenes that need dramatic impact, often land with a monotone thud; possibly a consequence of not having an actual location to react to. Even traditionally over-the-top characters like Divatox feel subdued and lifeless in this version. The acting in the original series, while objectively dreadful, was at least endearing and made the show more likeable; something that ZoE would have been good to replicate.
Probably this film’s greatest sin is its action, or lack thereof. ZoE has precisely ZERO fight scenes! The closest it gets to having anything resembling a fight is Zordon awkwardly throwing kicks at CGI creatures. Aside from a fully cgi zord attack, the film barely has any action whatsoever. What we’re left with is an actionless, overserious, expositionfest with pretty cgi and some amusing fan service. It’s impossible to imagine Power Rangers without the campy action (or action of any kind); with this, ZoE missed the most vital part of the franchise it’s paying homage to.
Zordon Of Eltar is nothing if not ambitious, but that ambition does just as much harm as good. Cisco already has plans to continue with the series but it’d be wise to put more emphasis on the things that made the original series so endearing: great action, creative practical effects, fun characters, and a brisk pace. This is a premise that has great potential, but the execution is poorly focused.
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