The release of the Power Rangers movie reboot is almost here and anticipation is reaching fever pitch among fans of the nineties phenomenon. Directed by Dean Israelite, the movie stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Ludi Lin, Becky G and RJ Cyler as the titular quintet, as well as more well known faces such as Elizabeth Banks as the villainous Rita Repulsa and Walter White himself - Bryan Cranston - as the Rangers' ethereal mentor Zordon.
The Power Rangers trailers and promotional material suggest the film reboot is employing a darker and more serious tone, compared to its campy source material. The characters' costume designs are less cartoonish in this new movie, the Zords look more threatening and the film promises to deal with more real-world issues - as proved by the recent reveal that a Ranger belonging to the LGBT community appears in the movie.
It appears that issues of sexuality and gender won't be the only real-world topics covered in Power Rangers, however. In an exclusive interview with Screen Rant, Blue Ranger actor RJ Cyler speaks about his character Billy - a Ranger on the Autistic Spectrum. Cyler claims:
"I just wanted to show a different, like, viewpoint of people that are seen as being on the spectrum, right? Or people diagnosed with Autism, 'cause it's like I feel like us being outsiders looking in and I take that, I cast my own stone when I say that, 'cause there's a lot that I didn't know before...
I actually sat down and shut my mouth and actually just listened and you know, accepted every bit of information with no judgement... I knew that it was my job to show, you know, that people that are on the spectrum are just regular people, literally, just how we talk, how me and Becky [Becky G, Yellow Ranger] talk, they feel the same way, they have the same emotions, they wanna be loved, that want people to love, they want relationships they want, you know, connections, and it's just like I was really excited to be able to play that 'cause I know it means so much to so many people, 'cause all of us are affected by it... and it's something I feel like we needed to have in this movie to be honest."
RJ's comments are not only confirmation of the more grounded and realistic direction Power Rangers is heading in, but also a strong indication that these issues are not being treated lightly by the actors involved. RJ Cyler has clearly put plenty of thought and respect into his portrayal of a character with autism - and his desire to accurately represent such conditions in the forthcoming movie are commendable.
Some fans familiar with the old incarnation of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers may argue that the franchise perhaps isn't the place for such serious topics and issues to be discussed. After all, the original series was a campy, B-Movie-style romp that laughed in the face of any degree of realism.
However, with the new mature direction the reboot is utilizing, including characters with Autism or who belong to the LGBT community is a natural step and a welcome sign of the progress Western cultures have made since the 1990s. As Cyler himself says, those on the Autistic Spectrum have the same desires and feelings as those who aren't and by adding such characters to the Power Rangers reboot, a message of acceptance and inclusion is given out and - if portrayed accurately and respectfully - that can only be a good thing.
- Power Rangers (2017) release date: Mar 24, 2017