Power Rangers Movie Villain Challenge: Finding The Right Tone For Rita

The updated Rita Repulsa in the Power Rangers movie was a tough balancing act between campy and scary.

Rita Repulsa is the definitive Power Rangers villain. Even with over 24 years of big bads, Rita stands above them all as the most recognizable and iconic villain of the Power Rangers franchise. Director Dean Israelite, who grew up watching the series as a kid, remembers her fondly. “There is something outlandish about her but in a wonderful way,” he told us.

When the new movie was announced and Elizabeth Banks was cast as Rita, fans and casual viewers alike were shocked. A big Hollywood actress taking on the role of a character that was primarily known for cackling and having her lines dubbed over? What would she bring to the role?

Well with the movie out now, the reaction has been mixed. Some praised her for bringing some cheesy fun to the more grounded movie while others think she wasn’t scary enough. Her early appearances in the film painted her as a dire threat but some would say she’s a little hard to take seriously when she’s munching on Krispy Kreme. 

Portraying Rita as both campy and scary was, “absolutely a conscious decision,” says Israelite, “Elizabeth and I talked a lot about (that) and we were a little scared.”

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Israelite knew they’d be opening themselves up to criticism because Rita could be seen as campy or silly but he strongly believes that Banks was able to tow the line between, “something that is dramatic and truthful and something that is hilarious and it all feels real.”

He remembers that during filming, Banks tried a bunch of different ways of portraying the character. “There were versions of her that went too far and took you out of the movie and there were versions of her that felt too tame and didn’t feel old enough and we got a good balance.”

Writer John Gatins says a lot of the cheesiness of that character came down to making the sure that they didn’t have little kids running and screaming out of the theater in fear.

This recalls the controversy that surrounded Rita’s replacement on the original series, Lord Zedd. Introduced at the beginning of season two, Lord Zedd was a much scarier and more threatening villain that blew up the Rangers Zords’ right off the bat. Parents complained that he was too frightening and the show quickly toned him down into a more jokey character.

Gatins believes that those types of complaints were very much on Saban’s mind when crafting the movie. They wanted the film to play both to the seven year old kids in the audience and the super fans.

“We had to have her play both sides of that fence to a certain extent,” Gatins told us. “You want those scenes to be genuinely scary but the spirit of the show comes through and she’s like a little bit of a wacko.”

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If you’re a fan of the original series you’ll probably love the cheesier side of Rita. If not, the tonal difference in the character might leave you with a bit of a headache. Overall though, the movie version of Rita is a loving update to the original character that fans continue to enjoy to this day.

Shamus Kelley really needs some Krispy Kreme now. Follow him on Twitter!