It’s Time for a Fresh Take on Remakes
The Mighty Morphin teens hope to rescue the world from exhaustive franchises.
By Mari Landgrebe, Texas State University
I know, I know.
“We don’t need another superhero movie,” you’re thinking. “I’m still trying to keep up with all the other ones.”
Yeah, I get it. Trying to keep up with the timeline of a franchise can be taxing, especially when each superhero gets their own movie series, and then a bunch of them get together for a team movie series. And then there’s a TV series offshoot based on that. It can be a lot, especially if the source material is still coming.
And who needs a movie about a TV show that’s been on the air, in some form or another, nearly consecutively, for over 20 years? Haven’t color-coded teens had enough? Can children’s TV networks no longer contain them? Must Hollywood push out a “Transformers” and “Avengers” style mash-up like the new “Power Rangers” movie?
It’s about damn time, says every Gen Y kid who watched the Saturday morning kid’s lineup, had the branded shirts and fought with their siblings and friends about who got to be the Red Ranger (or the Pink Ranger, if you wanted the skirt).
“Power Rangers” has been a staple of children’s television since the early 1990s. After the original “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” first aired in 1993, almost every new season has changed themes, characters and locations. It’s a cult classic that’s flown under the radar for generations, standing the test of time in children’s programming.
The new “Power Rangers” movie, set to release March 24, isn’t the first time the franchise has made a bid for box office bucks, with two theatrical releases in 1995 and 1997 attempting to build on the popular series. This latest venture will be the biggest enterprise of the lot, an updated homage to the series worthy of the big screen. Like the new “Star Trek” movies, instead of picking up from where the previous titles ended, “Power Rangers” updates and pays homage to its origins.
Instead of following the TV series’ lead of new heroes and villains, Saban Entertainment and Lionsgate are bringing the original goody two-shoes 90s show into the present, developing a grittier, more realistic (for a superhero movie with aliens) version for theaters. The characters are more complex, evidenced in the second trailer by a parent’s demand for an at-home drug test, a steamy make-out session and less cheese all around.
That’s not to say, though, that there isn’t some cheese.
Like any good action movie in this day and age, there will certainly be sarcasm, wit and humor. However, “Power Rangers” is at risk of coming off flat, a dangerous but common concern for any cinematic venture with source material from the past. In the new trailer, the five teenagers jump into a cavern pool and each calls out the color that glows around them. That kind of exposition, if consistent throughout the film, will cause a lot of eye-rolling from nostalgia-seeking adults and kids alike.
There’s a lot going for the remake/update, mainly the update part. Instead of spandex and bike helmets, these Rangers get actual armor. Yeah, it’s a missed chance for tightly-clad booty shots, but there’s already a lot of spandex in the various superhero realms. They also retain their powers when not in their morphin glory; in the original series, the Rangers regularly took karate classes, but didn’t have heightened strength and abilities until they morphed.
The new “Power Rangers” deals with regular kids learning to fight by introducing a holographic training system, which seems apt, seeing as how they’re expected to fight aliens. It’s also a smart way to display advanced alien technology, in keeping with the trends of tactic response holograms seen in other movies.
What fans and avid moviegoers are rightly concerned about is the very aspect that’s most exciting about the reboot. Super-powered teens, high-tech armor, holographic technology, alien invasions, major boss battles—this is all stuff now regularly seen in the comics-turned-movie franchises.
Tony Stark has a wicked array of enhanced armor suits and regularly utilizes holograms; the Flash is a human with meta-human abilities, and “Pacific Rim” is all about advanced, anthropomorphic fighting machines taller than buildings. “Avengers,” “Transformers,” “Superman” and a slew of other action blockbusters feature aliens in some form or fashion.
So, what can possibly set “Power Rangers” apart from the rest? To be honest, that remains to be seen. The franchise creators envision six sequels, but it’s up to the new film’s reception whether a second title will be ordered.
There hasn’t been a lot of marketing for the film; with three months left before the release, only one full-length trailer has been released. A VR experience has come out, which banks on the popularity of VR but potentially limits its audience. Posters are featured in theaters and a new toy line provides a peek at the updated Zords, the Rangers’ fighting machines for when their enemies inevitably supersize.
That may just be the point. “Power Rangers” has always been a niche franchise, even as geek culture has risen to mainstream popularity. The lack of advertising for the movie could be a move to limit the fatigue of protracted hype. Many movies ride a long publicity tour that traditionally, at least for me, lessens my excitement for when the film finally gets to my local theater.
“Power Rangers” stands to combine the various aspects of other superhero action films, while still maintaining its roots in the original series. “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” itself has been an American remake of the Japanese “Super Sentai” series, even cutting in footage from “Super Sentai,” such as the overgrown boss battles that require the combination of the Zords into a Megazord. It’ll be a difficult balance to maintain standard superhero fare and the elements that make “Power Rangers” unique.
Even if the movie doesn’t earn big in the box office or decent from critics, fans will surely enjoy this modern take on the cult classic.