Power Rangers is the third film installment of the popular kids program Power Rangers that ran on the FOX network from 1993 and now continues 24 years strong. The series used footage from the Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger that aired on Japan’s Asahi network produced by Toei Studios.
How the 16th season of a longtime running show featuring superheros became a sensation in North America is very much owed to Haban Entertainment, an American/Israeli company that would purchase Japanese entertainment product and dub it for the English world-wide market. Along with Bandai Entertainment that did merchandising such as toys, it was a formidable enterprise.
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a TV series featured five teenagers given powers by the wise Zordon to combat a extraterrestrial threat in the form of the evil Rita Repulsa. The California setting interspersed with Japanese shot action and fresh faced American actors made for great kid entertainment.
The TV series spawned a movie in 1995 called Might Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie featuring the TV cast. It did well enough at the box office but the critics were fairly negative. A second movie was released in 1997 called Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. It fared worse in critical response as well as box office and the show retreated back to its TV stronghold.
The nostalgia for 1990s entertainment inspired the original producer Haban to re-imagine a new Power Rangers franchise and a number of producers and writers passed through the development stage. There are five writers listed which is not usually a good sign. Eventually, John Gatins (Real Steel) was listed as final writer and Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) was director. It is obvious both were chosen for the fantasy. teen and superhero characteristics of their other Hollywood fare.
A new group of actors was enlisted to suit up for the Rangers and some cameos of old cast were sprinkled into the story. The selection of some name actors cast such as Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) as Rita Repulsa and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Zordon generated excitement. For Cranston it was a return to the Rangers as he voiced Twin Man and Snizard from the original series.
The 1990s Power Rangers was shamelessly kid fare but today’s audience while nostalgic now look for something more in their movies. Dacre Montgomery playing Jason the Red Power Ranger, Naomi Scott as Kimberly the Pink Power ranger, Becky G as Trini the Yellow Power Ranger, RJ Cyler as Billy the Blue Power Ranger and Ludi Lin as Zack the Black Power Ranger all have back stories. They are all high school students sentenced to detention.
The audience might feel that there are several lifts from a number of movies and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, the young actors tasked with carrying the story are likeable and relateable. The plot of the story is that the previous Power Rangers who were humanoids died defending the earth 65 million years earlier. In the re-imagined movie version, the teenagers are all drawn to the same site where they discover coloured coins that give them powers. While this is happening, a fishing boat pulls up the body of Rita Repulsa who is not quite dead from her last battle.
The fun in the movie is watching the teens figure out their new powers and learning something about themselves and what being a Power Ranger is. The audience learns one of the heroes in on the autism spectrum while for the first time in the genre, one of the five is openly gay. Training of the kids if done by android Alphas 5 (Bill Hader) while a pixelated Bryan Cranston as Zordon tells the recruits they will never get their armoured suits if they won’t work together.
Meanwhile Rita (Elizabeth Banks) is tearing up the kid’s hometown of Angel Grove creating the moment when the teens become true Power Rangers working together. At this point the movie is a special effects extravaganza marked by the Go, Go Power Rangers song in the background. The Rangers ultimately have to use Zords and Megazords to fight Rita and the forces she sends against our heroes.
Enjoyment of the Power Rangers movie will come from not thinking too deeply on it. If it has a failing, it is that is a whole bunch of things wrapped up in one story. However, if the audience is set for silly fun, a little nostalgia and a lot of action, they are likely to be entertained by what the new teen Power Rangers are doing. Bring your popcorn!
This has been a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations