With this week’s re-launch of Sailor Moon in the form of the beautifully rendered anime Sailor Moon Crystal, we at Dork Shelf thought it’s about time to talk about one of the major influences on the Sailor Senshi: another squad of five multi-coloured soldiers from the 1990s, the Power Rangers.
Lionsgate and Saban announced in May that they’re planning on bringing us a new Power Rangers Movie.
Of course, Power Rangers has never stopped since it launched its first Putty off of a nondescript seaside cliff in 1993. New seasons, with new casts, storylines and parent-bankrupting merchandise have spilled out of Saban and, for a time, Disney without fail for more than 20 years.
Films are different, though. The only two American-produced Power Rangers films in 1995 and 1997 are maligned by long-time fans for their shaky grasp of what made the series popular in the first place.
Important is this line, then, from the press release: “The new film franchise will re-envision the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a group of high school kids who are infused with unique and cool super powers but must harness and use those powers as a team if they have any hope of saving the world.”
Mighty Morphin’, then. Teenagers, likely with attitudes. All this really tells us is this isn’t going to be a showcase film for the current on-screen show, Super Megaforce, or whatever happens to be on the air at the time of release – but we’re not going to rule out potential cross-promotional appearances, since Japan does this with their Super Sentai franchise at least twice every year (more on that later).
So, with so little information at the time, here are five things we’d like to see in a new Power Rangers film (other than, presumably, five Rangers).
RECOGNITION OF ITS SUPER SENTAI ROOTS
As you’ve probably heard from anyone on Bandai’s Power Rangers Facebook page, the original show is based on the Japanese Super Sentai series. Mighty Morphin’ Season One lifted footage of the Rangers, monsters and robot battles wholesale, and filmed the out-of-costume scenes themselves, effectively making one show with the camera work of half of one. It’s gone on this way since the beginning, with some American seasons mimicking their Japanese counterpart’s storylines, too.
We’d like to see some acknowledgement of its Super Sentai roots, whether with the appearance of one of the current Sentai actors from Japan, or even from the Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, the show that was the basis of Mighty Morphin’s first season.
Viewers are savvier than in the early 1990s, and have acces to news and even entirely translated seasons of Power Rangers’ Japanese precursors – which have, I’ll add, started a good 15 years before the first episode of Mighty Morphin’. It’d be borderline insulting not to include at least a tip of the hat.
THE BASIC POWER RANGERS FORMULA
When people look back on the Power Rangers series, they probably have a few very specific things in mind. These shows had a set formula to their programming. At its most basic level: a group of youths are given powers by a leader, often mystical in nature, to defeat a group of villains who summon monsters of the week to wreak havoc on mankind. Grunts are beat up with reckless abandon, and a climax involving the super-sized monster and a giant robot piloted by the Rangers (called Zords) cap off the episode.
These are the basic tenets of the franchise, and to ignore them would be a bad idea. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same as the old monster-of-the-week format that we’re used to – recent Super Sentai season Go-Busters adopted a more fluid plot structure that still stayed true to the series’ ethos. But the over-the-top villains and a Megazord or two are a must if anyone is to recognize this as Power Rangers.
Jason David Frank, who played the original Green Ranger and made appearances in half a dozen subsequent Rangers shows, said last year at Comic Con that he would like to see a The Dark Knight take on his character in a movie. We love you, Tommy, but no. No no no no no.
Power Rangers is, above all else, a show for young kids and tweens. It’s right up there with Pokemon and Captain Planet as far as having a simple, yet important life lesson in nearly every episode. Whether it’s teaching a young kid who sucked at baseball never to give up or the discipline gained through martial arts training, Power Rangers is at its strongest when it has both a teachable moment for kids, and gives them a flashy battle to light up their imagination.
We really don’t need more than a PG rating here, folks. I would grant that tie-in video games and comic books could explore this side of the franchise, especially with its older viewers, but the core films should be for the families, as they always have been.
A SEMI-COMPETENT RANGER CREW
The Power Rangers always kick ass with martial arts, weapons or magic when in their powered-up Ranger gear. But in their civvies? That’s a mixed bag.
Most of the lead characters in Mighty Morphin’ had some sort of martial arts background, which allowed them to have fights out of costume with some level of verisimilitude. Even Zack had his ridiculous “hip-hop-kido,” a dance-based style that was years ahead of Eddie Gordo’s capoeira in Tekken.
Those that weren’t trained, however, made for some strange and awkward scenes. Bookish Billy bumbled through a season’s worth of fights before receiving proper martial arts training.
Perhaps the new team of Rangers-to-be could be students at their high school’s martial arts class. You can definitely have a great mix of personalities and characters while at the same time giving the viewer a reason to believe that they would be chosen for a physical and undoubtedly violent mission. Just being a “teenager with attitude” isn’t enough.
A DIVERSE TEAM OF RANGERS
This is about behind-the-scenes factors as much as on-screen ones. It isn’t hard to find stories from the set of the original Mighty Morphin’ show that revolved around bullying and typecasting from its producers and crew members. David Yost, who came out a few years ago as gay, said he left the show after being called a faggot one time too many. Johnny Young Bosch, who played Adam Park in later seasons, said he and other cast members were regularly taunted for talking about religion amongst themselves.
And in case we forgot: the original Yellow Ranger was Asian, the Black Ranger was Black, and the Red Ranger was of Native American descent.
This isn’t just a problem in the American show, either. The 2013 season of Super Sentai, Voltasaur Sentai Kyoryuger, only featured one female Ranger – there are usually two girls and three guys in the initial five-member team. Their reason? They wanted to portray this new team as “the strongest ever,” and guys represent strength, to them, more than girls. Come on.
One of the main lessons in Power Rangers is about teamwork – and yes, differences – beating all the odds. Let’s have a cast with strong-willed guys and girls, from different backgrounds and life experiences come together to defeat a world-threatening evil.