The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was one of my favourite TV series when I was younger. Watching it as a child, I enjoyed the bright colours, the fight sequences, the Zords and the positive moral messages that were included in every
episode but watching it as an adult, I think it’s more about watching fit blokes in tight spandex. But moving on from that, I know I have said in the past that I am vehemently opposed to remakes but in this case it’s different. The Power Rangers has been a continuing series for over 20 years with a new batch of teenagers appearing in each series. The Power Rangers could arguably have been rebooting itself over and over again since the original series ended. But this film is a proper reboot, as in rebooting the original series with the original characters. In time, I will explain why this is the right kind of reboot but I will start like I always do with a rundown of the plot.
65 Million Years Ago, Red Ranger, Zordon (Bryan Cranston) and his fellow rangers are defeated by the evil Green Ranger, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). With his last moments, Zordon manages to stop Rita and bury both the Power Coins and the Zeo Crystal deep in the Earth in the hopes that one day, a new group of heroes will find the coins and protect the Earth and the Zeo Crystal for when Rita returns. Cut to modern day and 5 strangers; Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Trini (Becky G), Billy (RJ Cyler) and Zack (Ludi Lin) meet up in a gold mine for different reasons and accidentally uncover both the Power Coins and Zordon’s ship. They are told that Rita Repulsa has awoken and will gradually regain enough strength to raise Goldar and uncover the Zeo Crystal and when she does, all life on Earth will be destroyed. Along with Alpha 5 (Voiced by Bill Hader), the teens are put through their paces so they can
achieve the ultimate goal of morphing into the Power Rangers. Ultimately, it takes a tragedy for them all to come together and face both Rita and her massive golden boy for the ultimate showdown.
As mentioned before, this film is a reboot but it’s the good kind of reboot that takes the series in a new direction. The biggest difference is it’s massive diversion in tone from the original series. The first series of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was camp and colourful and fun whilst the film has a grittier tone and is much more character focused. The series shied away from delving extensively into the minds of the main characters because kids don’t really care about that. The originals character traits were very much on the surface and each character represented a specific type of person. Jason was the tough jock, Kimberly was the ditsy cheerleader, Trini was strong-willed, Zack liked his
hip-hop and Billy was the nerd. In the film, each main character has their own internal conflicts and difficult personal lives to such a degree that becoming a Power Ranger gives them a strong sense of self worth and what’s great about that is that each of their issues is something that each audience member can relate to.
Jason was a rising star in his high school football team and after a prank goes wrong, he is kicked off the football team, his future is questionable and he is put under house arrest. He is also ordered to go into detention where he meets the kids who will eventually become his team mates. Kimberly’s story-line involves the controversial subject of cyber-bullying but rather than being on the receiving end, she’s the one dishing it out, albeit unintentionally. She’s tossed into detention and is desperate to escape the person that she thinks she is becoming. The character of Trini was a hot topic in the news because she is the first LGBT character in the series and in my view, she is the most interesting. Before arriving at Angel Grove, she was constantly forced to move about by her parents and it is strongly hinted at that it is because of her sexuality. They want her to be ‘normal’ and she just wants to be herself. In being so restricted by her parents, Trini herself has become unwilling to make new friends and denies herself any relationships so she is initially hostile towards the other Rangers. But over time, she opens up a little bit and accepts the others as her friends. Along the same topic of interesting is Zack. On the surface, he seems to be fairly arrogant, unhinged and altogether a bit of a dick but when he gives the others a glimpse into his world, it is revealed that he lives a fairly isolated life. He is a full time carer of his sick mother and is absent most of the time because he is afraid of coming home and finding her dead because then he will be on his own. Only in meeting the other Rangers does he discover that he will never be alone. And finally, there’s Billy. Billy in the film doesn’t deter too much from the Billy in the TV series. He is incomprehensibly smart, bordering on autistic, he’s constantly picked on, avoids confrontation and just like the Billy from the TV series, he is so fucking adorable. It’s impossible not to give Billy a penthouse house apartment straight in the heart mostly because he can’t believe his luck that he has some friends. In fact, I have a soft spot for all of the main characters and I don’t hate any of them.
There are some noticeable differences to the canon to make the story fit a film format. For example, Rita is no longer an Empress with some dumb servants who has been imprisoned on the moon for 10,000 years, she used to be a Ranger and betrayed her team in favour of more power. Even Zordon used to be a Power Ranger and has ulterior motives for getting the teens to morph. In the TV series, the teens were already friends but in the film, they don’t know each other and there are some hostilities on display. The point being that they have to learn to both like and trust each other for them to be able to morph. Goldar has returned in the reboot but not in his original form. In the series, Goldar proved to be a formidable foe but also had a voice. In the film, he’s a massive, lumbering creature that doesn’t have a personality and is completely under Rita’s control.
The concept of morphing is also different as the Rangers aren’t given morphers and they all have to stand on these platforms that surround the morphing grid in order to bring out the colourful armour. When Billy tries to break up a fight between Jason and Zack, Billy unknowingly morphs and only when he’s made aware of it, does the armour fade away. I assume that once they have control over it, they morph instantly without have to look up to the sky and shout out the name of their dino-zord. Another interesting concept is the effect that the Power Coins have on the Ranger’s bodies. They do become very strong and impervious to damage. Jason breaks off a piece of his sink, Kimberly can crush a phone with her bare hands and Billy can rip a door straight off its hinges. They can climb mountains at remarkable speeds and jump across canyons. They can do all of this without morphing.
Although it’s different, none of this is a deal-breaker for me. It’s all fine as long as it’s in the context of the story. However, because this film was released in 2017, it does mean that I had to put up with the horrible sounds of modern music or ‘shit-hop’ as I’ve branded it. You know what I mean; it’s not fun, it’s not clever, it doesn’t stir up any emotion, it’s just a useless beat with pointless lyrics that doesn’t mean anything, just the kind of thing that those insufferable young people like to listen to these days. Listen to me, I have become an old codger, haven’t I? Let’s go back to talking about the superheroes in brightly coloured costumes that like to punch things.
Along with the differences come the similarities and references to the original series. The designs of the new costumes bears a striking resemblance to the original design, in terms of the helmets anyway. The three rules that the rangers must abide by do stay the same. The original series also spawned a number of recognisable and famous quotes. ‘It’s morphin time!’ is spoken by Jason, Alpha throws out a few ‘Ay Ay Ay’s and also says ‘Go Go Power Rangers’ but what I could have done without is the original theme tune playing straight after. Don’t get me wrong, it’s in my top ten of ‘Greatest Theme Tunes Ever’, it’s just a jarring shift of tone. Although the rumour of cameos from the original cast was disputed, Jason David Frank (Tommy Oliver) and Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly Hart) return briefly as Angel Grove residents.
One thing that should also be noted is that apart from Ludi Lin (Zack), none of the actors have any martial arts or gymnastics experience which was a criteria for the original casting sessions. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because it’s more in line with the story that these kids are normal, everyday and above all, flawed. That’s what is key. They’re not perfect but they’re ready to step up, grow up and save the world.
They may not be as proficient in martial arts but the one thing that the new cast have in common with the original cast is that they are not very well known. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was one of the first acting credits to the original cast and it sky rocketed them into international fame. The same will be true this time around for this cast. This is the film that they will be known for and ya know what? It’s not a bad way to get started in the business.
Power Rangers (2017) had a budget of $100 Million and made it’s money back, taking in $141 Million at the box office. It’s not the best and on top of that, the film received mixed reviews from critics with some calling little more than a platform for product placement and others criticising the wavering tone. However at time of writing, Power Rangers (2017) has achieved the top spot for DVD sales and rentals in the first week of its home media release and thus the question of a sequel was raised. Personally, I hope there is a sequel. There’s a lot of potential on display and I would like to see the old villains such as Lord Zedd take on the Rangers. Having said that, one thing that I hope they don’t put in the sequel is Bulk and Skull because quite frankly, the original Bulk and Skull just cannot be topped.
It’s a reasonable theory that the films poor performance could have been due to the PG-13 rating and thus missing it’s usual target audience of snotty nosed kids. Here’s my thought on this and my final thought in general. I feel that this incarnation of the Power Rangers is not aimed at kids but rather at the fans of the original series who are now grown up and would welcome the more mature content. There’s 20 years worth of a television series that’s aimed at kids but nothing for the fans who have held on for that length of time. For me, it’s a welcome return to nostalgia and an excuse to start watching the Power Rangers again… not that I ever needed one.