The pros and cons of a new Power Rangers movie

Feature Pete Dillon-Trenchard 8 May 2014 - 06:15

There's a movie reboot of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers coming. But is it a good idea, ponders Pete...?

There was a period during the 1990s when it was impossible to avoid the unstoppable juggernaut that was the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. I never even tried; my walls were full of posters of the spandex-clad superheroes, my Christmas list was full of robot toys my parents never had a hope of buying, and my stomach was full of whatever food I’d managed to slip into the shopping trolley because it had the Power Rangers logo on it that week.

It is an understatement, then, to say that I was rather excited by yesterday’s news that Saban Brands has teamed with Lionsgate to produce a new Power Rangers movie for the 21st century. But is this going to be a good thing, or should the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, along with Vanilla Ice and shell suits, remain firmly in the 90s where they belong? Although we imagine it’ll be some time before we actually know anything about the upcoming film, here’s a few of the cases for and against…

For: The theme song

Even if you can’t remember anything else about the show, chances are you remember its incredibly catchy theme song. Composed by Ron Wasserman, aka ‘Aaron Waters and the Mighty RAW,’ the tune remains one of the all-time classic kids’ TV themes, so much so that it has been re-adopted by the franchise for the most recent seasons on television. As such, it’s hard not to imagine it getting a big screen outing courtesy of some big rock band of the day. ‘Go Go Power Rangers’ by Kings of Leon for Christmas number one, anybody?

Against: The paper-thin plots

Even the most ardent Power Rangers fan will, if pushed, admit that the storylines on the show often didn’t amount to much more than ‘Slapstick, fight, costumed fight, robot fight, slapstick, credits,’ particularly in its early seasons. Power Rangers followed in the grand tradition of He-Man and Transformers in that it was an unashamed cash grab on the part of Saban, designed to sell the many wondrous and colourful toys which accompanied the series; each episode contained several minutes of repeated footage featuring the teenagers using their power morphers or power weapons, or forming their Megazord - all of which were available in your local Toys ‘R’ Us for as long as it took for desperate parents to empty the shelves.

For: The potential

Oh, but what toys they were. The scant information contained in the press release suggests that the upcoming film will return to the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series, which had at its heart giant robot dinosaurs. Only the most hardened cynic can fail to get excited by that prospect. But leaving the toys aside, Power Rangers was at its core the story of five teenagers recruited to fight in a war between good and evil that was being waged thousands of years before they were born, in whole different part of the galaxy. Give the bare bones of that mythology to the right screenwriter, have them flesh out the rangers into true characters thrown into a battle they didn’t start, and there’s no reason why this film can’t enchant a whole new generation.

Against: There have been two films already

Believe it or not, this will be the third Power Rangers film. The first, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, was released in 1995 and was a modest hit despite lukewarm reviews and a plot which set it apart from the continuity of the series. The second, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, fared less well at the box office (in those regions where it saw a cinema release at all) and was critically panned. Though the first film at least is held in the hearts of fans for nostalgia reasons, both films struggled to capture the magic of the television series - in both films the team spends the majority of the time out of costume, and giant fighting robot action is limited to five minutes at the end, presumably for budgetary reasons. It’s hard not to see those and feel a little sceptical about the new project.

For: Times have changed

Arguably, there has never been a better time for a Power Rangers film. In the show’s 21-year history, there have been three mainstays of the Power Rangers franchise: teenage leads, brightly-coloured superhero outfits, and giant robot battles. And in the 90s, it never felt as though the film studios involved were willing to commit to at least two of those things - the first movie was originally to have featured ranger costumes without visors, as the execs didn’t think people would be interested if the audience couldn’t see the actors’ faces.

Fast forward twenty years and not only are we seeing a resurgence in teen-led fantasy movies with the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but superhero films are a completely different prospect to what they were in 1993; slowly but surely, comic book heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers have been embraced by cinemagoers, without having to be grounded and realistic. Heck, we’re getting a Guardians Of The Galaxy movie! Couple this with the success of last year’s Pacific Rim, and the hype surrounding Godzilla, and it feels as though people are ready to embrace the power.

Against: The fashion

I’m no fashion expert, but I’m not sure any of this was acceptable in the 90s, and it’s certainly not acceptable now.

For: 20 years of history to draw from

Whilst the logical assumption is that the new film will be a straight reboot of the original show, there’s no shortage of stories and characters to choose from in the show’s twenty-year continuity if they decide to go in a different direction. The most obvious choices would of course be the mighty green ranger and the monstrous Lord Zedd, but fast forward and perhaps they might want to use the evil Machine Empire? Or the human space colony based on the space colony Terra Venture? What about the ghastly Psycho Rangers? Or the Time Force Power Rangers from the year 3000? Actually, why not just bring in EVERY POWER RANGER EVER and have them involved in the war to end all wars..?

Against: With great continuity comes great responsibility

It is my experience that the majority of people over the age of ten are not well-versed in Power Rangers lore. As such, very few adults will be going into the film with more than a vague recollection from their own childhood. And the children, the film’s target audience, weren’t born for the majority of the show’s run. This means that more than the slightest whiff of continuity will leave the audience scratching their heads at best, and bolting for the door at worst.

Sadly it also means that original series actor Jason David Frank’s dreams of a solo film starring him as a middle-aged green ranger (He’s previously described his character as the Wolverine of the Power Rangers franchise) will likely be dashed - although this hasn’t stopped him from taking credit for the new film. By all means, bring the old stars in for a cameo - it worked beautifully in 21 Jump Street - but for the new film to be the franchise-starter they’re hoping for, it needs to be a full reboot - keeping it iconic, but accessible. If they choose to bring in too much of the show’s baggage, it could be the last we see of them.

For: It’s morphin’ time!

The reaction on social media has shown that, if nothing else, Power Rangers is a show which still holds a special place in the hearts of people of a certain age. There are still far too many variables to be determined at the moment, and we’re looking forward to finding out more, but if Lionsgate manage to find a writer and director who really understand the franchise and its potential, and if it spends the right amount of money in the right ways, then a new Power Rangers movie could be something very special - nay, morphenomenal - indeed.

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