By now, most people who grew up in the 1980s and ’90s are probably used to hearing about pop cultural relics of their childhood being pulled off the shelf, dusted off, and given a makeover, in order to hook a new generation of young consumers on the same product. This summer, for example, the fourth of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies will hit theaters, along with a live-action reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise that is produced by Bay – and now, we can officially add the Power Rangers franchise to that growing list of upcoming film reboots that have both feet dipped into the pool of nostalgia.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is an American children-oriented sci-fi/fantasy/action TV series, which premiered back in 1993 and went on to become a much larger cultural phenomenon than expected. The show blended original material with stock footage from the Japanese series Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, to tell the tale of five ordinary teenagers who – via their wise leader Zordon – are given the necessary means to battle evil alien invaders, hell-bent on conquering Earth. That includes being equipped with the power to “morph” into super-warriors with incredible fighting abilities, as well as having the ability to summon (and pilot) giant robots called Zords (which can also be combined to form the “Megazord”).
Once the show ended its run in 1996, the franchise was rebranded simply Power Rangers; essentially every year since then, a different iteration of the series has been released, with each season covering a self-contained story arc under a new title and featuring other heroes and villains alike, as well as certain recurring characters and actors. The Power Rangers brand, in other words, has always been alive and thriving in some form over the past two decades, as a multi-platform intellectual property that has included toys, video games, books, and even live-action theatrical releases – with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie released in 1995, followed two years later by Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (the first being a moderate box office success, the latter a flat-out bomb).
Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer and Power Rangers co-creator Haim Saban have officially announced that their respective companies – Lionsgate and Saban Brands, respectively – are working together to produce and develop “an original live-action feature” based on the Power Rangers property. Here are the official statements by Feltheimer and Saban, explaining the reasoning behind their collaboration:
“Lionsgate is the perfect home for elevating our Power Rangers brand to the next level,” said Saban. “They have the vision, marketing prowess and incredible track record in launching breakthrough hits from ‘The Hunger Games’ to ‘Twilight’ and ‘Divergent.’ In partnership with the Lionsgate team, we’re confident that we will capture the world of the Power Rangers and translate it into a unique and memorable motion picture phenomenon with a legacy all its own.”
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Haim Saban and his team to maximize the potential of this immensely successful and universally recognized franchise,” said Feltheimer. “The Power Rangers stories and characters have been embraced by generations of audiences for more than 20 years, and today they are more powerful than ever. We have the ideal partner and the perfect brand with which to create a motion picture event that will resonate with moviegoers around the world for years to come.”
All things considered, from a filmmaking-as-business standpoint, relaunching the Power Rangers film brand sounds like a reasonable idea, on paper. Seeing how it’s a property steeped in nostalgia for consumers now in their 20s and 30s (as was mentioned before), a Power Rangers feature could be more of a box office titan in the current age of pop culture, especially now that geek entertainment is king. Likewise, the never-ending run of Power Rangers television programs is a testament to the ongoing popularity of this particular sci-fi/fantasy mythology, as far as the current generation of youngsters is concerned.
Similarly, in a time where more and more people are willing to be vocal about the issue of equal representation in nerd culture with respect to ethnicity and gender – see the demands for more diversity in the casting of superhero movies, the upcoming Star Wars films, and so forth – Power Rangers wouldn’t require any significant changes to its usual lineup – which, traditionally, features two women and 3-4 men, of varying race – to keep up with the times, so to speak. Indeed, from the very beginning the series was designed to cast a wide net, in term of demographic appeal.
With respect to how the Power Rangers brand will be re-imagined for a live-action feature releasing in the 21st century, many fans may be quick (and, to be fair, justified) to assume that Lionsgate and Saban will go “darker and grittier”. However, it is also possible (arguably, more likely) that the film reboot will be closer in tone and style to something like Pacific Rim (itself, no stranger to comparisons to Power Rangers) – cartoony, yet not openly aware of its own innate campiness, so as to avoid ostracizing the juice box crowd. In part, such matters will depend on who is ultimately recruited to write and/or direct the Power Rangers film reboot.
If nothing else, though, it’s probably safe to assume that the production values, fight choreography, and visual effects in this upcoming reboot are likely to be a tad bit better than those in the Power Rangers movie from the mid-90s:
We’ll keep you updated on development for the Power Rangers movie reboot.
Source: Lionsgate/Saban Brands