Power Rangers, a live-action children’s TV show that features spandex-clad superheroes will soon be rebooted as a major motion picture that is scheduled to be released in March of next year. The Power Rangers franchise has been kept alive through various TV series iterations ever since it made its debut on Fox in 1993. Despite its campy tone and stylised fight sequences, the original Power Rangers TV show was criticised for being too violent for children, however, I watched it and I turned out just fine (only two criminal charges pending). Of course, now that a reboot is in the works, questions about the level of violence in Power Rangers are cropping up once again. After all, when popular children’s shows like Transformers and G.I. Joe was rebooted for the big screen, they turned out much darker and grittier than the original TV shows. The upcoming Power Rangers movie will follow this pattern established by other kids’ TV shows that have been adapted for the big screen.
The Power Rangers story is very simple, it follows five ordinary high school kids with attitude 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, our heroes quickly discover that they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so they will have to band together as the Power Rangers before it is too late i.e. join the Zords and call down the power-sword (turn to the camera, pose and que villain explosion in the background)
With the first teaser trailer dropping, we were shown a few things about the film and story. Mainly that Lionsgate has chosen to add filler to a very basic story and will be giving us five backstories for each of the rangers. In a nutshell, they’re all troubled teens with no real purpose in life until they find some alien stones and get superpowers (kind of feels like the story of Chronicle). With this, they discover their new abilities, come together, find the command center and try to stop the villain. The trailer is over two minutes long and as a Power Ranger fan it did not excite me, the 30 second TV opening did a better job than this trailer.
My biggest issue with the trailer is the filler; for one it doesn’t need to be there, how many times do we have to be shown the character’s backstory which no one cares about, for a 2-hour movie having 5-character backstories will hurt the overall experience for the viewer. I know it’s an origin story but everyone knows the story of the Power Rangers any kid from 1993 onwards has seen an episode and knows the what’s going on. The second live-action TMNT film is the best example of this as they learned what didn’t work in the first one and gave the fans a fun, exciting and nostalgic thrill ride for the sequel, but seriously fuck the first film.
The question of “tone” was brought to the forefront earlier this year when a mature and violent fan-made short film about the Power Rangers surfaced on the Internet. Directed by Joseph Kahn, the violence-filled 14-minute short shows various members of the Rangers team as embittered adults after having spent their youth defending the earth from the alien witch Rita Repulsa. To say that the unofficial short film puts a more adult spin on the Power Rangers universe would be an understatement.
The explicit short film is filled with over-the-top violence and drug use: A coke-snorting Black Ranger cavorts with half-naked models before single-handedly killing a group of North Koreans. The Pink Ranger is roughly interrogated by other members of the Rangers team are shown being assassinated in various gruesome ways. So will the upcoming Power Rangers movie from Lionsgate take any cues from the unauthorized fan-made film? Don’t count on it. Although many fans embraced the more mature version of the Power Rangers seen in Kahn’s tribute, reactions from the various parties involved in the official movie suggest that the upcoming film will be nowhere near as extreme.
Saban Brands, the company that holds the rights to the Power Rangers franchise who are working with Lionsgate on the upcoming reboot, already expressed its displeasure with the gory fan film by hitting it with multiple takedown notices at the various websites where it was hosted. Although Saban later relented and allowed the film to remain up, it seems clear that at least one of the major parties that will determine the direction of the new movie is not in favour of a darker Power Rangers universe.
According to Variety, original series co-creator Haim Saban is one of the producers on the upcoming reboot. Both Saban and fellow co-creator Shuki Levy were involved in the two previous Power Rangers movie adaptations. Since both of those films stayed true to the spirit of the TV series, it’s probably safe to assume that the upcoming movie won’t feature Rangers doing lines of coke or close-up shots of bullets exploding out the backs of people’s heads.
On the other hand, the new Power Rangers movie definitely won’t be as childish as the original 1990s TV show. In an interview, actor Bryan Cranston who (if you can believe this) is playing the Rangers commander Zordon, compared the new version of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy:
“This is as different as re-imagining as the ‘Batman’ television series as it became the ‘Batman’ movie series. You can’t compare those two, and nor can you compare this movie version of the ‘Power Rangers’ to that television series. It’s unrecognizable for the most part. There are tenets of the folklore that you hold onto for sure, but the inspiration is different, and the sensibility of it, and the approach to the filmmaking is completely different.”
The director Dean Israelite’s own comments about the script also suggest that the new film will not attempt to re-imagine the Power Rangers as a group of dark, brooding superheroes. “I read the script and was really surprised by it and thought there was a really cool, contemporary, mature but still playful, buoyant and fun take on the material, and was updated in a really interesting way”.
Finally, the trailer raises more questions than gives answers, as a Power Ranger fan, I am still excited to see what Lionsgate do with this reboot but the ripoff chronicle backstory has me worried. I do hope the film does decently as I would like to see a sequel with my favourite Tommy “The Evil green ranger” in it. The rebooted Power Ranger movie comes your way March 24th, 2017.