Let me start off by negating “but it’s not out yet, how can you judge it” comments by saying that no, I can’t judge the final product for quality when I haven’t seen it. I’m not judging the quality of the film. Visually it looks pretty good and the costumes, while looking like they were based on the Green Lantern movie design…
…just a little less organic, they’re not bad. Not what I would have gone with, the original movie suits…
…were better, but that matches the tone their going with. Now THAT I can judge. Guess what I’m a gonna do! Now this is a teaser trailer, not a full trailer, but I’m hoping some of my concerns are addressed in the full trailer, like where are the DinoZords and can Brian Cranston actually pull off Zordon? Still, teasers are another way for marketing to pretend they’re trying to promote the movie properly, but this one is giving me a few concerns. I hope I didn’t just use up all my good images for this article.
What is with this new trend of having an intro to a trailer? Is it to actually give you time to click “skip ad” on streaming sites? That seems counterproductive.
Okay, let’s get the good out of the way first. I do like how the morphing actually looks like morphing, since they are still wearing suits. All of the effects look good. The snippets of the actors acting (only three of which get any decent screen time) doesn’t look terrible. Until we see more, like a full trailer, I don’t have a problem here. Or rather wouldn’t were this an original property. But it’s not. It’s calling itself Power Rangers and trying to base itself one particular series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and on this it must be judged. And I judge it lacking.
First let me remind longtime readers and inform new ones that I didn’t grow up with this series; I was in high school at the time. However, I did grow up with live-action superhero and sci-fi shows directed at kids like Jason Of Star Command and The Secrets Of Isis, and I saw them disappear from television some time in early 1980s. MMPR brought with it a new wave of live-action kids shows for the action crowd. Not only others trying to match the Power Ranger idea, but shows like Hypernauts, the GOOD remake of Land Of The Lost, Space Cases, and a bunch of others. You still get them now and then today, and that’s thanks to the Power Rangers. (Of course we also got crap like Vanpires and Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills, but you take the bad with the good.) And I really enjoyed the series enough that I stuck with it until MegaForce and that’s mostly because it looked like a bad rehash of Mighty Morphin, only missing Mystic Force because it wasn’t my thing and Dino Charge because I’ve been too busy, but I do want to see that one if I can. I did catch the first episode and it looks interesting.
So now that you know where I’m coming from, here’s the problem I have with this: it’s a terrible adaptation. It doesn’t even match the franchise. The director, Dean Israelite, says there will be humor, but outside of not-Bulk knocking himself out on not-Billy’s forehead (I’ll come back to that in a minute) I don’t really see any here. It’s all moody. Not-Jason has issues with his dad. The movie centers on five losers rather than five relatively popular kids (or at least well-liked by their fellow students as the only ones we see messing with them besides Bulk and Skull are Zedd’s secret evil Rangers, and they reform by the end) and they aren’t selected for their skills so much as stumble into them whey they decide to blow up the usual Angel Grove rock quarry. At least they got that right. 1/3 of every fight takes place in a rock quarry of some kind.
And yes, that’s not-Billy instead of not-Zack. Remember how fans stupidly throw fits even today about the first Black Ranger being a black kid and the first Yellow Ranger being Asian? I already discussed why the fallout is more racist than the color selection, but it seems the movie writers took that to heart. So the black kid (on the official Liongate site they don’t have names, just Ranger colors. as of this writing) is the Blue Ranger and Yellow Ranger is Caucasian. And they’re not even really the same characters because the Asian is now male and the Black Ranger. Between this and the Yellow Ranger poster from earlier today you’d think they had something against Trini.
Then there’s Rita Repulsa. Yes, the woman floating over the Yellow Ranger’s head like she was about to make out with her is Rita. She’s going to be more in the field as it were, which I suppose makes sense for a movie–in her previous movie appearances she was either trapped in a snowglobe or complaining about her husband’s snoring–but it doesn’t feel right until the final battle. Goldar is supposed to be in this (no reports on Zedd, Squat, Baboo, or Finster or even the Putty Patrol that I’ve heard or seen) so why is she acting more like a henchman? Even Ivan Ooze only directly attacked the Rangers twice.
But what really hurts this new version is the tone. The original series that this is supposedly based on was light and often goofy, and the franchise since has various levels of both. This one seems to take itself too seriously, however. Instead of good kids chosen to protect the world they’re a bunch of losers and delinquents who stumble upon what I think are the Power Coins. Angel Grove isn’t the bright shiny school it was in the show. It’s more “realistic” (I am getting so tired of that word), just like…and I am NOT the only person to bring this up…the movie Chronicle, about three kids who gain superpowers and use them to mess with people until one teen’s inner demons turns him into a supervillain. Even the creator of the movie made this connection.
So maybe that’s what they wanted, and was surprised when Landis created something closer to the show than his movie. How did that movie do in the Box Office anyway? Well, according to Box Office Mojo the movie cost about $12 million to make and made $64,575,175. Okay, not bad. roughly $52,575,175. However, that movie isn’t Power Rangers and while I’m sure there are fans interested in this movie a lot of nostalgists (again, odd since the series is technically still on), even if they liked Chronicle, aren’t going to see Chronicle but Power Rangers and that’s not what they’re getting.
And here’s the geeky issue: Civilian powers. The Rangers seem to have superpowers without morphing, which most of the Disney shows did and it takes some of the interest out of morphing because you already have superpowers. What does morphing do in this movie?
I’m not against “Americanizing” a concept. I’m a fan of Mighty Orbots, a Western take on Japan’s “giant robot” anime like Golion/Voltron. But Mighty Orbots isn’t Voltron and doesn’t call itself that. In the same vein, and this is the same complaint I’ve made about Battlestar Namesake, had they called it something else and based it on the Sentai formula, even as a deconstruction (another word I’m getting tired of hearing), it might be more interesting to fans and get outsiders to look into it. Instead what we get is more not-stalgia, which is all I expect from Hollywood nowadays. Could it be good? Yes. Will it be right? No. Could it have been better without the name? Probably. Doesn’t Hollywood care? Not really.