The Power Rangers series is an odd one. It started out as one of Saban Entertainment’s many attempts to re-dub a Japanese kids show for American audiences and turned into a juggernaut spanning 21 seasons, comics, videogames, and most importantly, three movies. Something about these rainbow spandex warriors connected with kids far more than Big Bad Beetleborgs, Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, or VR Troopers ever did.
With Lionsgate’s (distributor of many big and current teen franchises like Divergent, The Hunger Games, Twilight) and Saban’s recent announcement of a brand new Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers film, I revisited the show to try and figure how a new movie would work. Here’s how to do it juuuuuust right.
[This piece was originally written when the Power Rangers reboot was first announced two years ago! I still feel the same way as I did back then.]
1. Start over from the beginning.
In the press release, the new film is classified as a “re-imagining” of the old show. This makes perfect sense given most of the audience of the first couple of seasons have now grown up and are willing to thrown down major cash on a nostalgic property. The problem with this is, those same people have too fond memories of the show. They’ve built it up to some pedestal, so any new film is already needing to prove itself. What most of you all out there need to remember is, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is really, really bad. Bad dialogue, bad acting, and some of the most 90s situations you’ll find on children’s television.
But that’s also not a bad thing. If we go into this new movie with an open mind, and the new film starts over from the beginning, then we’re in for a good time. So to be successful, the reboot needs to use the bankable names of the original five (maybe six) “teenagers with attitude” (Zack, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, Jason) because those are the names we’ll remember. Most old fans won’t remember who played those characters, so it’s not important to bring the actors back, but we will remember the names. Start over from the beginning, tell the same simple origin story (teenagers are chosen by a floating space man to fight monsters), and we’re golden. No need to reinvent the wheel.
2. Don’t bring back old actors from the show.
When movie studios “reimagine” properties, they cast an entirely new set of people to play the characters we all know and love. That’s going to be the case here. In order to completely separate itself (and thus create a new universe of movies), keep the television actors away. For example, Jason David Frank (who played Tommy in over 242 episodes of Power Rangers, and is arguably the most popular actor in the series) is already lobbying his fans to write to “lion gates” in order to get in the new movie. If they have to bring him (or anyone) back, and chances are they will, make sure it’s only in a cameo capacity.
Maybe have Tommy run the juice bar (like in the Wild Force episode, “Forever Red”), pass the torch to the new kids, and then disappear forever. As much as we might like the guy, seeing a thirty year old man run over in a tight spandex suit for a kid’s show (like he is in the upcoming Power Rangers Super Megaforce finale) is kind of sad. Besides, the new kids watching this movie won’t really know or care who Jason David Frank or any of these older actors are.
3. Use actors who can believably do their own stunts (and real suits!)
One of the reasons Power Rangers became such a hit was because it delivered on things we’ve never had before. Although the acting and dialogue were bad, it had great action. It had cartoon action brought to real life, and it was pretty f**king cool. The series also still has some of the best fight choreography around. It’s important to bring that back. Can you imagine what the fight effects could look like with a larger budget? Remember what the fights looked like in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie? Never mind, those were terrible. But a bigger budget could lead to bigger things. It’s simple. Keep the suits real, but CG everything else. Like any other superhero, it’s all about tangibility.
And that comes from the actors too. In the show, the teens would still kick butt out of the suits. Story wise, it shows the audience the effect of the power coins, and quality wise, it helps the audience attach the person to the hero. It’s very important for us to remember who’s in the suits. It’s not enough for people to put them on, we have to believe people are in them.
4. Have a good villain.
Whether the new film goes with Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd or even Ivan Ooze, it’s important to have a memorable bad guy. Once again, don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t create a new, generic villain for the film unless the right person is behind it (Paul Freeman was the only reason Ivan Ooze worked in the movie), and there’s plenty of material to draw from so there’s no reason to create a new one anyway. If I could have it my way, I’d go for Rita Repulsa. She’s the greater villain since she posed a threat, her powers led to the “Green With Evil” storyline which introduced a sixth ranger, and she has some of the best catchphrases (“You’re giving me a headache!” “Magic wand, make my monster grow!”).
If they went that route, they could introduce Lord Zedd for the sequel (just don’t make him overtly dark or scary, remember it’s for kids!), lead in to their wedding, Serpentera, and the possible stories are endless. All I’m saying is the material is there, so Lionsgate would be wise to use it.
5. Do it for the kids.
This is hardest thing to say, but this new movie isn’t going to be for me or you, it’s for the kids. Although the name is there to get butts to the seats, Saban’s probably trying to make this work into a children’s franchise. It’s going to be an all ages affair, so don’t expect a dark and gritty take on these heroes. No blood, no adult situations, and the word “kill” will be replaced with “destroy.” But that’s the way it’s always been, and it’s always worked, so no reason to be worried about that now.
As long as the new movie gets the tone right. That’s actually the most important thing on this list. Please don’t take this movie seriously as nothing about the Power Rangers is serious. And even when the show decides to lean toward heavier subjects, it’s only because they’re destroying all of the current zords to introduce a new line of zords/toys to kids.
6. Don’t forget to have fun.
With the rising amount of gritty reboots these days (just look at Man of Steel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man, and Transformers), I’m a little worried about how this’ll turn out. Power Rangers has survived all these years despite its bevy of bad decisions because it’s so lovably goofy. It’s always so sincere about its laughably bad puns, heavy handed messages of protecting the environment and teamwork, and telling its stories with a half baked seriousness. Although every week a new monster threatens to destroy the world, there’s still time to ride dirt bikes as part of the high school dirt bike club or something. It just all meshes together in a tone that works for everyone.
There’s action, comedy, giant robots punching other giant things in the face, and lots of attractive men and women. If the new movie gets even one of those right, that’ll be morphinominal.