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Rita Repulsa: How Elizabeth Banks Updated the Power Rangers Villain

Rita Repulsa Elizabeth Banks header

The longest running and most iconic Power Rangers villain is the dastardly Rita Repulsa, who constantly works up ridiculous ways to conquer Earth and defeat the Super Sentai team. The antagonist has been a recurring character in virtually every incarnation of the fan-favorite Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers franchise right from its initial television series to the cinematic reboot in 2017.

Portrayed by Elizabeth Banks, the latest big screen iteration of Rita was one of the biggest departures for the franchise yet. Now, CBR is taking a closer look at how the 2017 film updated the classic Power Rangers villain for a new generation of fans.

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WHO IS RITA REPULSA?

Machiko Sago as Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

As the first major villain of the franchise, Rita was defeated by Zordon 10,000 years before the start of the original series and cast into deep space, imprisoned in a dumpster-like cell. In 1993, the cell landed on Earth's Moon, which lead to Rita going free and plotting to conquer Earth and get revenge against Zordon and his Power Rangers. Working with the interstellar despot Lord Zedd, Rita employed her army of monsters and Putty Patrollers to constantly attack the Rangers on Earth as part of her plans.

A powerful witch in her own right, Rita would use her dark magic to empower her minions and make them grow in size and power, often forcing the Rangers to use their Megazords to defeat them. She fell in love with Zedd and married him, and she could usually be seen bickering with him thereafter along with her father Master Vile and younger brother Rito. Eventually, Zordon would bombard Rita with a wave of good energy and turn away from villainy and take on the new title Mystic Mother. In her heroic role, Rita would empower the Power Rangers Mystic Force in their ongoing mission to protect the universe.

Rita Repulsa in the Power Rangers Reboot

The 2017 reboot reimagined Rita as a fallen Power Ranger, portrayed by Elizabeth Banks, who betrayed Zordon and her teammates long ago, before being imprisoned at the bottom of the ocean on Earth by Alpha. Unearthed by Jason's father while on a fishing trip, Rita seeks to obtain the Zeo Crystal, the source of all life on Earth while continuing to hold on to the Green Power Coin which retained her abilities as a warped incarnation of the Green Ranger.

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Gathering gold to revive her monster Goldar, Rita kills Billy after learning that the Crystal is being kept under a donut shop, which leads Zordon to sacrifice his own chance at a full resurrection by reviving him. As the Rangers begin to overpower Goldar with their Megazords, Rita merges herself with the monster only to be defeated and knocked into the cold vacuum of space by Jason and set on a course to collide with the Moon.

HOW ELIZABETH BANKS CHANGED RITA

The magical elements of Rita Repulsa are toned down in the cinematic reboot as opposed to the original television series and its spinoff movies. Instead of working directly for Lord Zedd, Banks' portrayal of Rita had her as a Green Ranger working with Zordon only to betray him and kill her teammates, which ultimately lead to her own eventual defeat. As such, the witch costume of her classic iteration is replaced by a tattered version of her Green Ranger uniform upon her resurgence millennia later.

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While Rita's association with Goldar remains, she takes a much more active role against the Power Rangers than her television counterpart, engaging them herself and merging with Goldar to participate in the final fight against the Megazords. However, the film hints that the villain survives the climactic battle, smiling as she potentially arrives on the Moon to set up her headquarters to continue to attack the Power Rangers from afar.

Much more formidable and sinister than the original television version, the 2017 Power Rangers reboot turned Rita Repulsa into a much more personal foe for Zordon, since she was a former Ranger herself. While the cinematic future of the franchise is still unclear, Rita is sure to haunt the Sentai team in whatever incarnation that will eventually resurface.

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