In Defence of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers

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You may or may not know that there’s a new Power Rangers movie coming in 2017, for those of you who grew up in the 90’s then there’s a good chance that you’re at least a bit intrigued by this. While little is known about the upcoming movie right now, we can still take a trip down nostalgia lane and explore what made the original show so endearing. Certainly for me, reflecting back on the series as an adult has made me think differently about it.

Interestingly, my first opinion on Power Rangers was that it had failed to deliver. I had seen an advert on TV for this new show, which seemed to be about butt kicking superheroes with awesome powers. When I actually watched the show I was somewhat disappointed as there was a lot of slapstick comedy, dodgy, unbelievable baddies and the Megazord……well it was very obvious that it was someone in a blocky suit wearing silver gloves. In fact, it felt like the butt kicking aspect was the smallest part of the show, and that was what had enticed me to watch it in the first place!

Looking back now, I can see that part of the problem was that I was probably a bit older than the target audience at the time. Despite my initial disappointment, something about the show made me want to persevere with it and see what else it had to offer. I had a minor blip when I came across an episode which involved an enemy called the Pudgy Pig. This was essentially Porky the Pig in a roman guard’s helmet. His mission was to rid the world of food, and even ate the ranger’s weapons at one point. I couldn’t take much more of that and switched off from the show for a few weeks. Something drew me back to the show though and I got really hooked when a multi part episode called “Green with Evil” was shown. There was more drama in this part of the series, and despite the ongoing slapstick comedy elements, which did nothing for me, I really got hooked and saw the series’ improved potential for entertaining, interesting story lines. I finally felt like I was starting to get what I thought I was when I saw the first advert. In addition to the improving storylines, a new rock inspired soundtrack started to accompany many of the fight scenes. The music was catchy and helped to build the atmosphere more. More plot twists and good writing would accompany the show including a “will they, won’t they” between Tommy and Kimberly, and Tommy losing and subsequently regaining his powers.

The first season came and went attracting a huge audience to it, and with the second season arrived with further intriguing storylines and characters such as the initially impressive Lord Zedd, the re-emergence of Tommy (previously the Green Ranger, who lost his powers for a second time) as the White Ranger and new, more powerful Zords for the Rangers. I failed to continue my interest by the time season three rolled around however. I couldn’t put any particular reason on it, but it just didn’t seem as good any more.

Much like Transformers, I consider the first movie too be the peak of all things Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. It had been wonderfully adapted to the big screen and whilst obviously aimed at children, had something for everyone and elements that could appeal to all age groups. The story line was set apart from that of the series and I much prefer the movie’s take on how the Rangers get their ninja powers to how this is portrayed in season three. To summarise, the movie felt more mature, and of course there were some great action scenes.

Whilst I had fond memories of Power Rangers from my childhood, I always had a lingering sense that it could have been done better. Given the nature of the make-up of the main baddies-a witch (Rita Repulsa), some mutants and Lord Zedd (he just looked very right as a bad guy-he was the real deal when he first appeared on screen) the show could have potentially been a bit more serious and aimed at a more mature audience. The Rangers themselves have powers derived from long extinct animals, most of them are martial arts experts, all are athletic and their leader is……well he’s a huge head trapped in a time warp, but something about it created a feeling of something mystical and awesome. I’m thinking along the lines of the once slap stick style batman shows, evolving into the dark and awesome movies we know today. The reality of Power Rangers was that it just wouldn’t have ever been made that way because most of the initial footage used for it was taken from a children’s show under a different name (Super Sentai). Herein lies the potential for the new movie…..but more on that later.

In 2011 I was having a conversation with a friend about shows we used to watch as children, and we got into a “whatever happened to the actors from Power Rangers” conversation. The results of our brief investigations were that I got seriously hooked on a show I had seen that Amy Jo Johnson (the original Pink Ranger) was now starring in called Flashpoint, and I also decided to buy the DVD’s of the old Power Rangers show and see if I still enjoyed them. There are somethings that I used to watch as a boy that I can still take pretty seriously, as the writing was so great that I don’t necessarily view it as something that’s just for kids. I don’t get that feeling when I watch Power Rangers episodes, it definitely comes across as something that’s just for kids, but it does have its moments and certain aspects of it really appeal to me in adulthood.

Whilst the slapstick aspects of the show used to irritate me, I now view them differently. I still think there’s far too much of it in the show, but in a world where there’s lots of negativity in the news and many shows meant for entertainment seem to be contestant streams of negativity, the slapstick element to the show helps it to come across as light hearted, which can be a refreshing break from some modern shows. Another aspect that really appealed to me was that the main characters spend most of their free time hanging out at a gym and juice bar. As someone who likes to keep fit myself, I found it quite enjoyable watching a show where the characters like to surround themselves with health and fitness-it was something I could connect and relate to. Another thing which was very apparent was the amount of positive messages that the show tried to pass on to the influential youths who made up its core audience. Messages include the value of taking care of the environment, making healthy choices and believing in yourself. Watching as a more critical adult I became very much aware of how impressed I was at the athleticism of the actors, not just the ones in the old Japanese stock footage, but the actors playing the current Rangers were really very talented when it came to their martial arts and gymnastics. It got me thinking about how physical their days filming must have been. For me, the tail end of series one and series two were where the show was at its best. During these times the show finds the right combination of (mostly) good stories, action and fun. Series three still failed to capture me, while it did start well and had some good episodes I quickly became bored by it. Some of the ninja power fighting sequences were more special effects than talented martial arts moves, and I didn’t warm to many of the new characters such as Ninjor and Rita Revolto as they seemed to just add more comic relief than substance. There were also some aspects to season three which seemed a bit contradictory, Ninjor for example was meant to be a great warrior, but he was frequently caught being beaten by the baddie of the week’s attacks quite easily, even when he was trying to come to someone else’s rescue!

So the original Power Rangers was a show that was fun but with potential for more appeal to a more mature audience. This is what I hope will be captured by the new movie. With today’s special effects, there’s no doubt that the movie will be visually impressive, but it will be how they decide to tell the story that I think will be the key. A more serious Power Rangers akin to a Marvel or DC style movie that takes a concept originally targeted at children and turns it into an intense, moody movie that adults will love would be fantastic. While messing with original concepts normally annoys the hard-core fan (such as some of those seen in the recent Transformers movies) I do hope they use this movie as an opportunity to “tidy up” some Power Rangers themes which weren’t quite right originally. For example, the Rangers originally drew their powers from extinct dinosaurs and had access to accordingly named Dinozords. However, the Black Ranger’s power came from the mastodon, and the Yellow Ranger’s from the sabre tooth tiger, neither of which are actually dinosaurs. I know It may upset some hard-core fans, but wouldn’t it be more consistent to have these Rangers perhaps draw their powers from a stegosaurus and allosaurus or other suitable dino? If they do something like this, I hope they at least keep it sensible though, a power ranger holding up their Power Morpher and shouting “micropachysephalosaurus” just wouldn’t be catchy enough!

Some good concepts which have the potential to look great on the big screen are: The aforementioned dinosaur related powers-more story depth could be added by explaining how this came about, and the special affects around the dinozords appearing from the depths of the earth would look fantastic. The Power Weapons, which were great as they were as old school style weapons, a sword, an axe, daggers, a lance, and a bow, were a great concept and they combined together to form a Power Cannon. Zordon, looked great in his updated command centre in the first movie and I can only imagine that he will look even more impressive with modern day effects.

So what do you think? Were you a Power Rangers fan, are you looking forward to the new movie? What concepts do you hope the new movie will retain, and what would you like to see them do differently? Alternatively, did you dislike the Power Rangers, but see potential in a big screen re-invention? Leave your comments below!

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