When “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” landed on television sets in 1993, it resonated with fans in a way most series can only hope to. Its mixture of lighthearted moments, over the top characters and flashy action set pieces has proved to be a winning formula over multiple seasons and iterations. The franchise even spawned two feature films, which mostly stuck to the same formula with the added bonus of having more money to spend on special effects.
Now, nearly 25 years after we first visited Angel Grove, “Power Rangers” morphs back into theaters courtesy of Lionsgate — but these aren’t exactly the same soon-to-be-Rangers fans grew up with. The initial teaser trailer leaned heavily into the “teenagers with attitude” theme, showing members of our central cast getting in trouble with the law, relegated to wearing an ankle monitor, and stuck in after-school detention. Fans were quick to dub this reboot the “Sci-Fi Breakfast Club,” and it looked like this reimaging was skewing closer to realism and a darker approach than the original. The question then hung over the film, will the Rangers will get a faithful film adaptation that updates the characters and maintains their spirit?
That convincing may have arrived with the release of the first full trailer. Seeing a trailer that portrays the “Power Rangers” with slightly less camp, but not totally dark and gritty is just what the franchise needed. Finding the right balance between “less camp” and “dark and gritty” is tough to pull off, but Lionsgate appears to have done it. In the long run, these will both be good moves for the franchise. While the original series and subsequent iterations have been able to take themselves more lightly, that tone works best on television. If a film isn’t a comedy, then it comes off looking weird in the final product.
There were many highlights to take away from this newest trailer, things which have raised our hopes that the film “gets it.” It provides the first clear look at Bryan Cranston’s Zordon, we see Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) in full-on villainous action, and we witness the debut of Goldar as the Rangers’ Zords battle the oversized, gilded bad guy. We finally hear Bill Hader’s take on the revamped Alpha 5, and we catch a glimpse of the Rangers’ Megazord form. The only prominent character we haven’t seen yet is the evil Lord Zedd, but it’s possible his debut will be saved for the end of the film, or an after-credits, sequel-teasing scene.
An example of a franchise that made the successful transition from campy television series to feature film is “Transformers,” a franchise that mixes in silly moments with spectacular action set pieces, something “Power Rangers” has the potential to do with its Megazords. A few of these humorous scenes in the trailer prove the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but does offer something the televisions shows can’t. For example, there’s a race-based joke between the Blue and Black Rangers, and Trini’s mother demands that she pee in a cup for a drug test after the Ranger explains that she’s now got super powers.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has spearheaded this technique for years. A trademark of MCU films are the comedic gags that bring laugh out loud moments to theaters year after year. But Marvel films never devolve into camp. As a result, despite their trademark humor, no one can claim the Marvel movies don’t have a hint of realism in them.
Fans that are worried about losing what makes “Power Rangers” unique have another reason to remain calm. The very concept of “Power Rangers” means it will always have lighthearted moments, something we can see in the trailer thanks to Banks’ delightful, scene-chewing dialogue delivery. Being campy is embedded in the Power Rangers DNA; after all, a film that revolves around five teenagers who are granted superpowers and ride oversized mechanical creatures can only be so realistic.
There will be a contingent of fans that feel alienated by all the changes in “Power Rangers.” However, the diehards will be among the crowd on opening weekend because they won’t be able to help themselves. There is something to be said for supporting a product you love, even if you enter a new iteration with reservations. Once these fans step inside theaters, it will be up to Lionsgate and Saban Brands to win them over. Positive reactions can begin to spread by word of mouth, and box office estimations will climb upward.
At this point, all signs point to “Power Rangers” being better than initial expectations. Steps have apparently been taken to remain faithful to the source material, while the addition of a larger budget means better overall quality. The first trailer proves fans should eagerly anticipate the release date of March 24, 2017. Zordon’s words at the end of the trailer ring true: “This is your destiny. This is your time.”
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