FilmSpace: Power Rangers; The Lost City of Z; Aquarius - reviews

CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson takes a look at the big movies of the moment

ANOTHER reboot, a trek through the jungle, and one woman’s quest to stop redevelopers makes for a varied week in cinema.

Power Rangers ★★★☆☆

Who is this 2017 interpretation of Power Rangers for? With a 12A rating, grittier action than its TV counterpart, and a surprising amount of swearing, it’s hardly kid-friendly. The grown-ups have been bombarded by so many updates and reboots (Ghostbusters, 21 Jump Street, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) that saturating the market further seems like folly.

Thankfully, it’s no Transformers. The action, when it finally comes, is coherent and tactful, more like a tug of war than an all-out mêlée. Each of the Rangers are flawed, but in that youthful adolescent way, and not in the vein of Michael Bay’s deeply unlikable characters.

And this is a character-driven film. It’s a superhero Breakfast Club, as the teens attend detention, begrudgingly tolerate each other, and end up having to save the town and therefore humanity itself.

It’s a superhero Breakfast Club, as the teens attend detention, begrudgingly tolerate each other, and end up having to save the town and therefore humanity itself.

The fight (singular) doesn’t come until the last twenty minutes. The journey there involves alien mythology, a joke about masturbating a bull, a starring role from Krispy Kreme, and some proper backstories. Russia has rated this modern Power Rangers tale an 18 due to the suggestion Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is queer. Billy, the Blue Ranger, is openly autistic.

Growing up, people wanted to be the Power Rangers. Kids want to punch baddies in the face, but with more epic adventures than ever thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, today’s youth are more engaged than before. This representation is sticking it to the baddies who say being queer and having mental health issues is something to be ashamed of.

So this Power Rangers is for the 90s kids – the ones with the toys, who still wake up with the theme tune in their head, and who dreamt of being a part of the gang. But it’s for the 21st century kids too, who are antagonised for who they are. Oh sure, it’s silly, nonsensical, and arguably unwarranted – but it’s proud of what it is, and it’s a damn good time.

The Lost City of Z ★★☆☆☆

Based on a true story, The Lost City of Z documents Colonel Percy Fawcett’s adventures to the Amazon as he seeks to uncover a hidden society he has named Z (zed, not zee). It is the turn of the 20th century and what can be considered new is becoming increasingly rare. Fawcett is starry-eyed at the prospect of being the first to find something untouched by the British.

The years go by and with each failed attempt he longs to try one more time. He has ignored his family, tested the patience of The Geographical Society, and is ageing.

What ought to be this wonderful and passionate adventure story ends up feeling like a trip on a replacement bus service. Where some have offered the film is “old-fashioned”, others may opine it’s “boring”.

What ought to be this wonderful and passionate adventure story ends up feeling like a trip on a replacement bus service.

Charlie Hunman is outshone by Robert Pattinson, here playing Corporal Henry Costin, Fawcett’s traveling companion. It means the film’s nebulous is dull and without magnetism – Pattinson is more interesting but this isn’t his story. Sienna Miller is outstanding as Nina Fawcett, Percy’s wife, and a real brushstroke of colour in a monotonous trek.

It’s a story spanning 30 years that feels like it takes 35. For all it has to say about attitudes towards indigenous groups of people, colonialism, and the central sense of adventure, it is constrained by a plodding pace and an unsympathetic protagonist.

The Lost City of Z in its current format does not work. Maybe it should have been marketed as a biographical feature. Maybe it should have been a short TV series. As it is, it feels longer than its runtime, is visually unappetising, and is just a bit rubbish.

Aquarius ★★★★★

Sônia Braga’s performance in Aquarius is the only one that keeps pace with Isabelle Huppert over the last 12 months. Her Clara is being forced out of her home by developers who want to knock it down and replace it. She is the last one left in the apartment building called Aquarius, and she isn’t going anywhere.

It’s a siege film that cares deeply for the woman on the front line. Clara is a middle-aged cancer survivor, an ex-critic, a mother, a sexually active single woman, and she is battle-hardened. She is isolated in her home, giving the perception of vulnerability, but is steadfast against the developers and those who have a vested interest in her giving in.

She is maternal and a gracious host, but in an instant becomes stoic and defiant in the face of malignant motives.

And it is deeply political. The cast have criticised the Brazilian government, leading to speculation its bid to be put forward for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars was sabotaged. Audiences have erupted with anti-establishment chants as the credits roll. Clara’s defiance is in keeping with that of Brazil, which the filmmakers say has suffered a coup.

It’s the film’s sense of community that warms its foundations. Clara knows everyone in town, and they go dancing, they have a gossip, and she sleeps with who turns her on. The sexual revolution has stuck around, even if the actual revolution is currently having a moment. She is maternal and a gracious host, but in an instant becomes stoic and defiant in the face of malignant motives.

Aquarius’s antagonist has a universal familiarity. Humberto Carrão’s Diego is the developers’ representative, as charming as he is smug and powerful. He’s not used to hearing no and has friends in high places. In Clara he’s met someone who is as unshakable as her home itself. Aquarius is one of 2017’s best.

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