I can’t really say I “grew up” with Power Rangers. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers began two years after I
was freed from graduated high school. My worry would be that it would more resemble the parody dub of Dynaman, a few episodes of which I caught on Nickelodeon during a special showing because I kept missing the full series on Night Flight back when it was a past-my-bedtime package show on the USA network. Frankly it wasn’t my kind of comedy and hearing the heroes talk about their “gadget watches” constantly was annoying. Instead MMPR went for a more campy approach and it worked. Later shows have backed off from that with a few exceptions as the show became more serious, but wasn’t striving to be realistic. It’s science fantasy peppered with “kid logic”, which given that this is a show for kids is a good thing.
Now we’re hearing that Netflix has taken Power Rangers Dino Fury away from Nickelodeon, and there is question as to whether or not there will be another kids show…which I’m sure there will be or else Hasbro blew a lot of money for nothing. Rumor also speaks of the possibility of a “mature” take on Power Rangers, in their continuing quest to ruin everything remotely Japanese when the parent company isn’t involved. I saw one commenter excited by the news and I’m sure there are plenty of others that are. I am not one of them. Apparently fanfilms or creating an original Sentai-style team isn’t enough. Once again it’s about the marketing, using an already popular name rather than having faith in your own ideas to find an audience. This however is the least of my problems with the idea of “Power Rangers for adults”.
First let’s go over what Power Rangers is or at least has been since its inception. The franchise is built around five (later six, though in some shows there are more or less Rangers depending on the footage or whether or not they want to create a US original Ranger) “teenagers with attitude” who battle aliens, ancient monsters, and villains from other dimensions. Some teams and villains are more science based, others more magic based, but usually some mix of the two overall. They have colorful “not spandex” costumes (don’t ride me, Dr. K), ride in robotic vehicles that combine into a super robot that they never use on their own past episode 2, if that, and cool weapons that don’t actually look like they would hurt but make for really neat role play toys for the kids. While the original series was one long continuity made up of four series and a miniseries plus one of the first two movies released (the first Power Rangers movie is non-canon, replaced with the five-part episode “Ninja Quest”), now we have two seasons worth of shows with revolving teams and themes, the latest two finally playing with the established lore of the long continuity. We’ve even gotten a couple of alternate universes so we can create our own Terminator homage world where humans ultimately win and another where the dinosaurs are written back into the modern world, kind of like Dino Ranch.
Despite some seasons being more serious than others, “seriously” is a relative term. Some of these monsters and their abilities are goofy as heck, thanks to the “Super Sentai” series made in Japan by Toei being used to save money via Japan’s action footage but replacing the actors with American (or now New Zealand) performers and stories more in line with Western culture, while still mixing in what remains of the Japanese culture in the source material. How do you translate this into something for grown-ups?
You can’t. It’s not “realistic” enough.
There was a fanfilm I haven’t watched but was making the rounds for a while called Power/Rangers. It attempted to depict something more realistic. From what I’ve heard this included everything from PTSD to the Black Ranger being a druggie. The more recent Power Rangers movie also took a more real world approach (though not as dark), while also pulling tech designs straight out of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, giving the kids “normal” lives and families, and suffering the usual modern live-action superhero problem of being scared of bright colors. These were all attempts at “realism” and that was their big mistake. While the fanfilm was just an attempt to do something interesting and different, the theatrical movie fell short of even recouping the $100,000,000 budget, only making $142,337,240 because of worldwide showings. In America it didn’t get past $85,000,00. There could be all kinds of reasons for it but my question is why do adults need their own Power Rangers?
Think about how many superhero programs there are for kids right now. Disney Junior has PJ Masks and Spidey And His Amazing Friends, which is basically still PJ Masks with Marvel characters who get to do superhero and supervillain stuff in the daytime. Nickelodeon has the sitcom Danger Force, a spinoff of Henry Danger, and maybe The Thundermans is still airing but I think it’s all reruns. I’d have to care about it first. There’s also Rainbow Rangers if you stretch the definition of “superhero”, the Paw Patrol occasionally get to use superpowers, and some of the other shows may do a superhero themed episode as well. PBS has reruns of Wordgirl and Super Why as well as Hero Elementary, about superheroes in elementary school but no secret identity, while the same company behind Rainbow Rangers also makes Superhero Kindergarten which is similar to the PBS show only without the education value or quality. That’s maybe six superhero shows and a few shows that use superheroes, not counting reruns, and the only ones not made for preschoolers are comedies, including Teen Titans Go!.
Now look at what adults currently have for superheroes. Not counting something like Pennyworth, which is about characters from superhero stories but not a superhero show itself, there are a lot of superhero shows for adults. The “Arrowverse” alone already has a higher count than the kids offerings. Watchmen had a TV continuation, though that may also be stretching the definition of “superhero”. Meanwhile streaming services are full of original superhero shows for adults, some of which may air on regular TV if they need something to air, like when Stargirl moved to The CW. Netflix’s Marvel shows were made for adults, and they’re moving to Disney+, who already has shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is another haven for adult-targeted superhero shows. Amazon Prime has live-action and animated shows all not for kids while Netflix has The Ultraman, a version of Ultraman for adults. This franchise has plenty of adult fans but these are kids shows in Japan and it’s sad there hasn’t been an airing for kids in the US since Ultraman Tiga unless you turn the subtitles on for Tsuburaya’s postings or show kids the TokuSHOUTsu streams with subtitles built-in. There’s nothing in English.
Speaking of the cinema, what do kids have for superheroes there? The Paw Patrol film was just their usual rescue work just in a big city because now they have a budget. The poorly-researched DC’s League Of Superpets (the fact that they got Krypto as close as they did is a fluke) may be it, and that’s only because I haven’t seen Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse to confirm anything. Nobody in their right mind would think your average five year old would be a good audience for the Snyderverse, which I’m sure makes the Snyder fans happy because they seem to be the type who don’t want kids enjoying “their” stuff. You know, the same guys demanding things like Transformers or Power Rangers for adults but have a fit that there’s a Rambo series for kids. The MCU at best might be something kids would watch but hardly FOR them or even actually qualifiable as “all-ages”. So not only are there little to no superhero COMICS for kids, there’s little to no superhero ANYTHING for kids outside of merchandising. Figure that one out. Even the majority of direct-to-video movies are made for adults, ignoring the fact that kids love superheroes, which is how today’s adults came to love superheroes…when they were yesterday’s kids.
Adults have already co-opted the majority of the superhero genre, a genre that kids love when they get to see it. I grew up with superheroes as a kid, and they were my escape from the bullies and other crap in my life. Good luck with that now. Maybe kids can watch older shows, but even some of today’s non-superhero kids shows seem more like “kids shows for adults” as some critics refer to them. I remember complaining about how Bay’s Transformers wasn’t very kid-friendly and someone responded “kids have too many things”. Well now the adults have them all, like stealing candy out of the hands of children, and they’re thrilled with it.
“Mature” as they use it means cynical, violent, dark, depressing, filled with swearing and sex, and none of the suspension of disbelief that shows like Power Rangers were created around because it doesn’t reflect their take on the real world. It was created for kids with wilder imagination and less understanding of the world, who just want to see superheroes fight monsters with giant robots. They don’t want to think about anyone being in the skyscraper the robot falls onto or how the exploding monster damaged the highway. They just want to see huge, awesome battles and that’s what Super Sentai and Power Rangers were built on. That just doesn’t work in shows for adults. You could create a show like Power Rangers maybe. Fans have produced unrelated versions of sentai style shows and that’s fine. Working from the ground up you can do what you want. Even with a multiverse having a Power Rangers show for grown-ups kind of goes against the lore and certainly against the goal of the franchise, to give kids a live-action superhero show, which had gone out of style during the 1980s.
However, that’s kind where the big issue is. Do we need a Power Rangers show for adults? I mentioned Rambo earlier, but nobody wants to make a Judge Dredd production for kids, or Game Of Thrones, or some of these other properties clearly not created with kids in mind. I’m not the type of person who needs “my version” of anything. I don’t need “my version” of The Boys or the Divergent series or any of that. So why do “you” need a “my version” of something that wasn’t made for you? Remember that argument? Any time someone complains about something like this the response it “it wasn’t made for you”. First off YOU don’t decide what’s made for ME. The original Mighty Morphin’ wasn’t made for me but I still watched it. None of Power Rangers shows were “made for you” either. If you really have that big a problem admitting to enjoying a show made for kids, well tough turkeys. I can watch almost anything if the story, characters, fun, and heart are there though I do have my preferences of tone, style, and genre. A good story is where you find it. I don’t need something not made for my tastes to be made for my tastes. What I “need” is for the stuff I do enjoy to remain the stuff I enjoy and kids deserve the same respect. If “your version” is as the cost of “my version” then I’m getting robbed by people who have a panic attack at the mere thought of the reverse happening to something they like.
Also note that the success of Power Rangers kind of started a resurgence of live-action adventure shows for kids. In addition to Saban’s own offerings you had the GOOD remake of Land Of The Lost, original shows like Hypernauts, and even former Black Ranger Walter Jones’ other kids show, Space Cases. Live-action adventure shows for kids seemed to disappear sometime in my childhood. The last one I can remember is Benji, Zax, And The Alien Prince. You may get one or two movies, but most of the non-superhero action shows are again outnumbering the kid ones. What’s even out now? Disney has The Secret Of Sulfur Springs, maybe Netflix’s Stranger Things but I haven’t seen it and I’m guessing because it stars kids, but with the family hour dead and most of the live-action kids shows being “educational” or sitcoms that break reality with wackiness what’s out there? Doctor Who isn’t a kids show anymore. Star Trek has swearing and people’s eyeballs being removed while the victim is awake (I’m guessing Prodigy won’t have that however, nor Nick’s Transformers series), Star Wars couldn’t care less, and we’ve already talked about how kids are being shoved out of the superhero genre. There are creators nowadays to seem outright hostile to kids and want everything to be “for meeeeeeeeeeeeee” and sadly the audience is on board with that.
So no, we don’t need a Power Rangers for adults, not as Power Rangers, but feel free to make an original sentai-style team, and if it’s good I might enjoy it. Whether or not the proper kids version will continue with or without the sentai footage, in live-action or rumored animation, kids deserve something of their own. We don’t need Sesame Street for adults, we don’t need Invincible as a kids show either. However, let kids have their shows. If you can’t enjoy it, go watch something else. I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures”. I’ll watch a preschool show and be just as entertained as if I watched an adult show…if adult shows today weren’t cynical depression fests where everyone’s horrible but the token and the creator surrogate. Power Rangers was made for kids, still found a way to be mature, could have death in there done the right way, could at times let the hero be hurt or questioning before rising up and saving the day, and all with bright colors, fun characters, and things that make no sense in a realistic or adult story. Let Power Rangers be Power Rangers. Go make your own show!