Saban/Lionsgate's Power Rangers movie reboot has entered into production in Vancouver, with director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) calling the shots from a screenplay that is credited to multiple screenwriters - the writers responsible for Chronicle, Gods of Egypt, and X-Men: First Class among them. Exact details on the storyline that the film's writing team has cooked up remain under-wraps for the time being, but the general premise is the same as the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show that debuted back in 1993 (e.g. is the Power Rangers series being "rebooted" here): a group of five teenagers who reside in the small town of Angel Grove are given extraordinary super-powers (make that "morphin" powers), in order to save their home and the planet Earth alike from a dangerous alien sorceress known as Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).
While the main cast of Power Rangers is as mixed in terms of race and gender as the original Mighty Morphin TV show crew was, the filmmakers behind the upcoming movie have made changes to the ethnicities of certain characters - for the better, that is, so that the Black Ranger is no longer played by an African-American actor and the Yellow Ranger is no longer played by an Asian-American actor, in particular. Israelite touched on that very issue during an interview that he did to promote Power Rangers film, while at the same time offering a tease of what to expect from the re-imagined elements of the Mighty Morphin mythology, such as the Rangers' costumes and the Rita Repulsa character.
Here is what Israelite told EW about how steps were taken to avoid the "race-based color assignments" of the original Mighty Morphin crew with the main characters in the film reboot, followed by the first official Power Rangers cast photo:
“From the very beginning, diversity was a very important part of the whole process. We switched all of the races around, but we made sure that the essence of each of those characters are who they were in the original show, and this really will be an origin story of those characters.”
Pictured in the photo above (going from left to right), we have RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) as Billy aka. the Blue Ranger; Naomi Scott (The Martian) as Kimberly aka. the Pink Ranger; Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt) as Zack aka. the Black Ranger; pop music star Becky Gomez as Trini aka. the Yellow Ranger; and newcomer Dacre Montgomery as Jason aka. the Red Ranger (and, traditionally, the team leader).
Naturally, with superhero franchises being all the rage in Hollywood right now, Power Rangers will have to be able to stand alongside and compete with other franchises and properties that revolve around individuals with super-powers - while at the same, remaining faithful in spirit to its fun and campy TV series origins - in order to both please longtime Power Rangers fans and appeal to the younger generation that is not nostalgic for the Might Morphin Power Rangers characters (or the many subsequent Power Rangers TV series that've aired since then, for that matter). Israelite has indicated in the past that he's very much aiming for a "mature but still playful" tone with his film that is on the level of other mainstream superhero films produced nowadays (those of Marvel Studios come to mind, in particular) and part of his approach includes updating the Rangers' costume designs - with the director having offered EW this tease, with regard to what the Rangers' uniforms will look like in his film:
“We’ve really pushed ourselves to make them feel different from any other superhero costume that’s out there. One key that’s different to the Power Ranger suits is that they’re not really suits that people get into. They’re suits that morph onto our kids, so they already have this almost metaphysical quality to them.”
Lastly, Israelite touched on the casting of Elizabeth Banks as the Power Rangers' nemesis Rita Repulsa in the upcoming film reboot during his EW interview, saying:
“It’s very exciting that we got [Banks], and I think what she loves is the opportunity to really embrace the insanity and deliciousness of Rita Repulsa in terms of how weird and wonderful that character was, and really dive into and consume that character. You should always be off-balance when you’re watching her. Is she insane? Is she totally calculated? Does she know what she’s doing? Elizabeth can toe that line really well.”
Israelite's description of what to expect from Banks as Rita in Power Rangers likewise makes the film's version of the villainess sound more on the level with your average Marvel Studios superhero movie villain - which is to say, still inherently goofy, but not quite as over the top as she has been in previous iterations of the Power Rangers franchise. The Rita character is similarly rumored to be getting a slicker costume design in the movie, with previous reports claiming that this Rita will be a "striking, yet subtly alien-looking woman," in terms of appearance. Although some fans have fairly expressed their disappointment that Power Rangers will be the first case where Rita Repulsa isn't played by a non-white actor, others have accepted the decision to cast an A-lister in the role as being a necessary move - and in turn, expressed their excitement to see Banks play the extraterrestrial sorceress in Israelite's movie.
As to whether or not Power Rangers will prove successful enough to launch a new film series (as seems to be the end goal here for Lionsgate and Saban): we'll find out in just over a year from now, when the movie is scheduled to hit theaters.
Saban's Power Rangers opens in U.S. theaters on March 24th, 2017.
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