Power Rangers was released earlier this year, giving a fresh take on the franchise that many of us grew up watching. Gone are the Lycra suits and bad monster costumes, and in comes a group of relatively unknown teenage actors who really embodied their roles. Each from differing backgrounds, the five banded together to form the Power Rangers, and were forced to work as a team to defeat the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).
Director Dean Israelite made a movie that managed to appeal not just to fans of the original franchise who were looking for a nostalgia kick, but also those who were new to Power Rangers, such as younger viewers who were thrilled by the action sequences and intrigued at the character's backstories. Right now, the future of the franchise is uncertain, but the good news is that Power Rangers is now on home release. To mark the occasion, Screen Rant spoke with Israelite about the process of making the movie, why he hid the Megazord transformation, and Power Rangers' future.
What did you take away from the process of making Power Rangers?
Dean Israelite: I think every time you make a movie, just in terms of your understanding of how to approach every scene, from a directorial standpoint, in terms of the characters and the blocking, and the way you’re going to shoot it to try and most effectively convey the essence of the scene, I think you get better and better at it, at isolating what the scene is, and then using the tools you have to create it. No matter what the scope of the movie; whether you have two people in a room, or whether you have seven characters two of which are CG, and you have visual effects crossed over with physical effects, crossed over with stunts, you’re always trying to find what the essence of the scene is, and to get better and better at articulating that.
On a more rudimentary level, technically I learnt so much from the movie. I was having conversations that I’d never had before. I’m having conversations about how we’re going to rig the stunt players, and how that’s going to cross over with our actors on a location that’s incredibly logistically challenging. To add to that, we’re going to have to understand how to shoot it because in nine months’ time, the visual effects landscape, when we put it in, is going to look a certain way, and how do we shoot it now, not knowing exactly what that’s going to look like? I don’t think you have to have answers, necessarily, to all of those questions, in a sense that you have professionals around you that are good enough to guide you and to answer all of that, but you need to understand the conversation that’s being had. Ultimately, everyone’s in their own department, trying to achieve what their department needs to achieve. [As director] it comes down to you to make sure that once all of those things are done, that the essence of the scene is being communicated. No one else is in charge of that but you. You’re having to negotiate very complex set ups and still try and retain the simplicity of the drama that’s at the heart of every moment.
Was it a very conscious decision to have the five central characters such different background stories, but also ones that are very relatable? Was that something you always knew you wanted at the core of the movie?
Dean Israelite: Yes, definitely. My pitch, basically, on the movie was that it needed to be a coming of age story. That these kids needed to shed their teenage armor in order to find acceptance in the skin they belong in, and those skins are the Power Rangers suits. So the idea of the Power Rangers simply becomes a metaphor for growing up. [Writer] John Gatins and I would always talk about if we were making the Breakfast Club today, what are the issues that teenagers would actually be facing, and we knew we needed to be truthful to those issues.
Do you think that the PG-13 rating harmed the success of Power Rangers, that maybe parents felt it wasn’t suitable to take their young kids?
Dean Israelite: Yes, definitely. Definitely. And not only do I think it, but there’s been market studies on it, and the findings have been that if the movie were rated PG- I don’t want to go into the specific numbers- but if the movie had been rated PG, there would have been more traffic. I think parents were unsure if they could bring their kids to the movie, which surprised me, because the movie is a tame PG-13. We did a lot of preview screenings, and to me, it felt like a seven-year-old might be scared, but in a good way. They liked that they were scared of Rita, but they still came out of the movie enjoying it, they liked what was going on. I think we really tread that line well, so it was disappointing that parents didn’t know that they could take their kids to it. I’m hoping now, with it coming out on DVD and Blu-ray, and On Demand, that parents will feel more comfortable. That maybe they’ll check it out for themselves and then see that it’s suitable.
Is there a reason you hid the full Megazord transformation? Is it something you’re maybe saving for subsequent movies?
Dean Israelite: The reason we did that was the drama of the moment was meant to be creating a feeling where if you knew the show and you saw…there are five shots, I think, of the transformation, and if you know the show and I’ve seen it in audiences, where they point at the screen and they’re like ‘oh my God, I think it’s happening. I think something’s happening.’ But if you don’t know the show, and even if you do, it’s ambiguous because it looks like maybe the Zords are breaking apart. In reality, they’re merging together, and it’s trying to service the drama of the moment, trying to get the audience to the point where maybe they think that these kids are just being pushed into the pit that’s full of fire and it’s ripping them apart, and then allowing for the reveal of no, here is the result of their sacrifice for each other.
Is there anything you wanted to put in the first movie but you couldn’t, or had to discard and are maybe saving for subsequent films?
Dean Israelite: You know, there was a lot of discussion at one point of Lord Zedd being in this movie. We didn’t have the real estate for it, and I didn’t want to dilute the storytelling, so Lord Zedd definitely has to make an appearance in the franchise, he’s a fan favorite. Obviously Tommy, we tease him at the end, he’s probably the most beloved Ranger of all. It was a little risky of us, I think, not to put him in the first one, but I think it leaves so much potential for a sequel with Tommy. So there’s all these elements that I don’t think we necessarily wished we had in the first one, but we always knew they could make an appearance as we build out the franchise.
Apart from Lord Zedd, are there any other classic Power Ranger villains you’d like to bring in in the future?
Dean Israelite: I think Lord Zedd is the main one if I’m thinking about the sequel. I don’t want to promise things that we’re never going to deliver.
Rita’s quite a tough act to follow. She was such a brilliant villain in the first movie, so for anyone who comes in after that, it’s going to be quite tough.
Dean Israelite: Thank you, I appreciate that. I was very proud of what we did with Rita, and I loved Elizabeth (Banks) performance. It was interesting, because it’s been a little polarizing, which I knew it would be, because we took a real risk with her. We said she’s got to be absolutely crazy, and I loved that.
Do you think that a second movie, and possibly more movies after that, are likely to happen?
Dean Israelite: I hope so. It’s obviously not up to me, but I know the studio (Lionsgate) and Saban are talking in earnest about it, and are trying to push forward. They’re having a discussion.
Five ordinary teens must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove - and the world - is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it's too late, band together as the Power Rangers.
Power Rangers is out on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD from June 27th