7 Thoughts about Power Rangers
On August 28, 1993, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premiered on Fox Kids. I was eight years old and whether or not I was the intended demographic for the show, I was instantly hooked. It all started with five teenagers with attitudes summoned by Zordon to defend the world against evil forces led by intergalactic baddie Rita Repulsa. Jason Lee Scott (Austin St. John), Kimberly Ann Hart (Amy Jo Johnson), William “Billy” Cranston (David Yost), Trini Kwan (Thuy Trang) and Zack Taylor (Walter Jones) called on the power of the ancient dinosaurs and became a team of superheroes called the Power Rangers and the world was never the same.
Nearly twenty-five years later, those of us who became acquainted with the Power Rangers discovered there would be a reboot of the franchise in the form of a gritty re-imagining of the original team. While initially thrilled about the idea of seeing my childhood superheroes on the big screen, a part of me wondered just how loyal this new film would be to the original source material. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a totally kick-ass TV show but even the most die-hard fan has to admit there were some problematic elements in regards to the original series, many I will address later on in this recap.
On March 31, 2017 a couple of friends and I went to our local theater and saw the new film, Power Rangers. One of my friends admitted he was not even born when the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first debuted and my other friend announced he would have been too old to watch such a show despite only being four/five older years than me. I expected them both to hate it and even braced myself for disappointment of epic proportions. The three of us exited the theater two and a half hours later each raving about how amazing the film was. Below, I will list seven thoughts I have in regards to the film. For those who have not seen the Power Rangers, there will be spoilers in this post. You have been warned…
- In the original series, Zack, Trini, Billy, Kimberly and Jason all knew each other and were the best of friends before becoming the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In the latest film, our heroes know of each other before discovering Zordon (voiced by Bryan Cranston) but they are certainly not friends. Jason (Dacre Montgomery) is a football star before he winds up in detention (and with an ankle bracelet) after a brush with the law. It is in detention where he meets Billy (RJ Cyler) and Kimberly (Naomi Scott). Trini (Becky G) is a recent transplant in Angel Grove and Zack (Ludi Lin) is a loner who rarely attends class. Instead of Jason being the rallying force behind the five teens coming together, it’s actually Billy who is responsible for the event that eventually leads them to each other…and the power coins.
- These ain’t your older brother and sister’s Power Rangers. Our heroes have been re-imagined as more of a modern day Breakfast Club. Jason is a star athlete who loses everything after a prank gone awry. Jason is prone to fits of anger which often-times leaves him incapable of leading the team. However, underneath all of the muscle and bravado there’s a good guy there will a strong moral core who feels the weight of fear, a fear of disappointing those he cares about, most importantly his father (David Denman). Our dear Kimberly, like Jason, used to be one of the popular kids until a sexting scandal rendered her an outcast at Angel Grove High. Billy is a bullied autistic teen who spends a lot of time at the rock quarry because it reminds him of his dad. Trini, the new girl, wrestles with the fact she is not normal like her parents and her two brothers. Zack is trying to deal with the fact that his mother is sick and could possibly die. Instead of our rangers having that established relationship with each other, we get to see them get to know one another before tapping into the power that will ultimately transform them into the Power Rangers.
- One of the things my friends and I would joke about in regards to the TV show was how Jason, Trini, Billy, Zack and Kimberly always were together wearing clothing the same color as their respective ranger identities. Anyone with eyes and a shred of common sense in Angel Grove could have put two and two together and figured out these five were the Power Rangers. The movies pays homage to this concept by having each of the rangers wear a pop of color corresponding to their ranger’s color. It’s both effective and subtle.
- Morphing is like totally hard, you know? The five of them discover the hidden power coins in the rock quarry and develop superhuman abilities almost immediately. Summoning the armor they will ultimately don in their battle against Rita Repulsa and Goldar takes a lot of time and even after a lengthy training montage (WE NEED A MONTAGE!!!!) our teenagers with attitudes are still not successful in becoming the rangers. I actually like this idea of them not being able to become rangers right away because it forces our characters to learn one another. A team is only effective when it accesses the strengths and weaknesses of it’s individual members. It is only after they are able to truly bond with each other they are able to tap into the power that morphs them into Power Rangers.
- Rita Repulsa is freaking terrifying. So yeah, the original Rita Repulsa was a total bad-ass but I never really found her particularly scary. The film’s version of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) is wicked and not above murdering any and everyone who gets in her way. Rita even goes as far as to kill one of the rangers. No joke. Another added detail I quite enjoyed about the character was how she was the original Green Ranger who served alongside Zordon, the original Red Ranger. This also makes me wonder, when they debut the Green Ranger in the sequel (of course there will be a sequel) will it be Tommy Oliver…or Tommie Oliver?
- The Zords were awesome. I enjoyed the sleek look of the design and their free range of movements. In the TV show, most of the Zords were reminiscent of actual tanks and were big and blocky and a bit cumbersome. One of my favorite moments in the film was the creation of the Megazord and how each Power Ranger controlled a particular part of the machine, i.e. the legs, arms, etc. It really took some coordination between all five rangers in order for them to control Megazord.
- The last thing I want to address in regard to the Power Rangers film is how cool it was to see a black nerd character on the big screen. Growing up, I always resonated with the character of Billy because my favorite color was blue and Billy was very intelligent and he wore glasses. Billy was this nerd character who was accepted by those we would call popular. As the resident science geek, Billy also plays a vital role to the team. Another thing I thought was pretty cool was Billy being autistic in the film. I was talking to a coworker of mine yesterday and we were talking about the importance of having visibility in regards to autism in TV and film. Her son is autistic and how coll is it he has someone like him on the big screen as a superhero. Another thing I would also like to point out is the importance of having a LGBT character in the film. Trini is not only the new girl but she also likes girls and because of her sexuality she feels somewhat detached from her family. I also detected a bit of something brewing between Trini and Kimberly. Then again maybe it was all in my head. However, I was so glad they did not play out any kind of romance between any of the rangers in this film. I know there were talks about Kimberly and Jason possibly being romantically-involved in the film which would be a great departure from canon but first and foremost Power Rangers has always been the story of a group of friends coming together to save the world. I would be interested to see if future films do further address Trini’s sexuality because how great would it be to see a young woman fully embracing her sexuality and being a total bad-ass in the process. I know there will be a part of the fandom who will wonder why there needed to be an autistic ranger or a lesbian ranger. Some will even ask, why did they have to make Billy black? These are the same people who flip out whenever there is a character introduced on Sesame Street who has two dads or two moms or a parent that’s incarcerated. Representation is so important because in order to eradicate homophobia and racism and bigotry in our society, we have to acknowledge these people exist! So thank you Power Rangers for going there.
I am thirty-two years old and I have never felt more like that eight year old sitting on the floor of my living room watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers than I did last night sitting in that movie theater. I recommend Power Rangers to all of you who share the same memories as I do in regards to the TV show. Even if you were never a fan of the show, the story is amazing, the acting was great and it was packed with action. My friends and I definitely had a great time and this is a film I would definitely consider seeing again in theaters and also purchasing once it comes out on DVD. If you have any thoughts or comments in regards to my thoughts, fill free to comment.