Arts, Column

Power Ranger Danger: Just the Same or Brand New

As a boy born in 1995, there aren’t many movies or TV shows left that I would want to see revived. Many of the Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon cartoons that captured my intrigue in the late ’90s and early 2000s are products of a by-gone age. No one wants to see Jimmy Neutron and Timmy Turner with cell phones or the Angry Beavers dealing with radical effects of climate change. These images melt parts of the brain if you focus on them for too long.

There is, however, one show with an upcoming reboot that Saturday morning FOX 4 Kids viewers are sure to shed a single tear of joy in anticipation of—the new Power Rangers film. With an already-chosen cast of relative newcomers to the Hollywood scene, and this week’s first look at Elizabeth Banks’ revamped Rita Repulsa, fans are most likely submerged in a viscous mix of giddy excitement and unavoidable skepticism—or at least that’s how I’m feeling about the whole ordeal.

A large part of me feels that this reboot just doesn’t need to happen. Power Rangers seasons up through around 2002 (the Wild Force era) had such an imbued, natural campiness that I can’t conceive of a major motion picture either reimagining or imitating its nature very well. I guess it helps to have original creator Haim Saban on-board the project as a producer, but with the found-footage failure Project Almanac director Dean Israelite helming the film, Power Rangers fans don’t really have any reason to invest their hopes and dreams in this reboot.

In 2016, it’s really difficult to picture what a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers reimagining could possibly look like. The show never really moved away from the huge plastic monster suits that the actors used to wear in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but I think those would just look silly on the silver screen. Would Rita Repulsa’s henchman, Goldar, still have a rubber snout that just kind of tweaks when the actor talks, or would they try to make him a CGI character? If they did make monsters like Goldar CGI, would that distract from the aesthetic that Power Rangers fans know and love? I’m not sure, but it’s hard to visualize either outcome.

It’s not like this picture of Banks is very helpful to me in crafting a picture of what this movie could look like. In the good ole’ days, Rita Repulsa had this outfit that made her look half like a witch and half like a live-action Pokemon, but Elizabeth Banks’ costume looks like she’s the new Xenomorph model for a new Alien movie. Once again, I’m hit with this conflict of whether the new choice looks better than the old and whether the old would have worked at all in the first place. Rita Repulsa always looked ridiculous, but should the new Power Rangers filmmakers have embraced that quirkiness, or have they made the right move with choosing a different look?

None of this accounts for the film’s action scenes, arguably one of the most iconic aspects of Power Rangers. What would Power Rangers be without its horrendously over-exaggerated reactions and wildly satisfying sparks that flew off of characters every time they were punched? Would the new film try to bury these emblematic visuals, or would it take them on whole-heartedly? It seems, once again, I’ve only been able to offer up a litany of questions without providing any answers to them, and there’s no way I could answer them correctly—I don’t think anyone could.

It’s a tricky business bringing the Power Rangers into a modern film. The Power Rangers series has such a unique, beloved look, tone, and playfulness that I can’t see being transplanted into a two-hour film. The writers, costume designers, and special effects team need to find a precise balance between the corniness of the original series and the CGI-driven, melodramatic nature of today’s blockbusters.

But the bigger problem is that the people behind this reboot are trying to revive a sensation that’s long-dead. The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers belong to the age of Tonka Trucks, furbies, and Disney Bill Nye. It’s hard to throw our modern tastes at something like this and, with every choice the Power Rangers people make, fans are either going to think they went too far out of their way to make the new film just like or totally different from the original series.

Featured Image By Associated Press

April 20, 2016

3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Power Ranger Danger: Just the Same or Brand New”

  1. i’m very skeptical of this movie and the rita repulsa picture only makes it worse. i get that making her look exactly same as she did isn’t feasible, not would it be wise. however, they should have kept some elements of it in order to keep her recognizable. at this rate, it would have been a better option just to create a whole new villain. how it stands now, it’s no better than just trying to pass ivan ooze off as lord zed.

  2. I view this movie as being for two audiences: the first are people like us who enjoyed the original shows; the second are people who have little to no idea what Power Rangers are. To hit mass appeal, I reckon there are a few lessons they could take from Marvel.

    Given that I’m an adult now, I certainly hope they don’t keep the same campiness; maybe a nod to it would be funny, I don’t know.

  3. I think a lot of your questions were answered by the original MMPR movie. It had CGI villain and zords (the 1995 effects are awful today, but they were good for the time). The costumes of the Rangers were completely revamped — they were inspired by but clearly different from the TV costumes (I thought they were awesome as a 9 year old). The Rangers had new weapons and abilities that were never in the show. The action scenes were filmed specifically for the movie and did a lot less of the sparky explosions that the show was known for and actually included a lot more unmorphed fighting than the show did.

    It all worked, but the movie also used the actual Power Rangers that were then on TV. A fancier but different movie version of the same characters isn’t too hard to get on board with. But will people accept a reboot of the original characters and story with new actors and likely different characterizations? And are the filmmakers even targeting the demo that is now-adult MMPR fans, or is this just going after kids to get even more young PR fans? Those are the key questions in my mind.

    Of course, none of the questions matter if the movie isn’t any “good,” whatever that means for a MMPR reboot in 2016.