Why the World Needs the Power Rangers: Twenty Years a Voyage

The Mighty Morphing Power ranger's original logo
The Mighty Morphing Power ranger’s original logo

Five ordinary teenagers with snazzy outfits and a loose interpretation of the phrase “grammatically correct” came into the mainstream and revolutionized what it meant to be the Defenders of Earth. Ever since the first promotional for the retro colored team of teenagers with attitude the Power Rangers have been a hit with child audiences of the 90’s. Adapted from the Japanese Super Sentai series, these rangers have made a staple in American pop culture spanning almost twenty years and kick-starting the success of a brand that has seen its ups and downs.

From the infamous switch of the main cast of Mighty Morphing Power Rangers in the wake of some pretty reasonable accusations of racism due to the color scheme matching the stereotypical interpretations of race; the abrupt leave of the character Billy Cranston’s actor, David Yost, due to alleged homophobic comments and slurs; and the incredibly low viewership of the Power Rangers Turbo franchise that almost ended the five year run, the show has had a legacy of tumultuous history on television. That being said, the rangers still have a strangle hold on the hearts of any boy or girl who knew what you had to do during Recess once one of your friends yelled “It’s Morphing Time”– which, of course, was often followed by a twenty minute argument on the costume color assignments.

Yes, this series has survived the brunt of criticism and the trial of time. Costume stores today are still stocking on the synthetic blend of dyed fabrics that pass as Ranger costumes; toy stores advertise the heavy heap of plastic and paint that flash and easily break that accessorize as the new series’s official “morphers”; and some unfortunate first grader sits in the principal’s office for punching their friend and expecting sparks to flutter about randomly. They’ve been space cops, animals, time travelers, galactic explorers, wizards, cars, and yes, even Kung Fu cats, their resume has expanded so much they can likely give Barbie a run for her money. Though, is it enough for a show with a legacy as old as it is to merely settle for the table scraps of Nickelodeon programming when the actor for the youngest ranger in the show’s history to be old enough to be a father himself?

The Pink power rangers take an edgier turn in Ada Shankar's Power/Rangers
The Pink Power Ranger takes an edgier turn in Ada Shankar’s Power/Rangers

Dawson’s Creek‘s James Van Der Beek and former Battlestar Galatica lead Katie Sackhoff star in Ada Shankar’s Power/Rangers fan film which hit YouTube February 23, 2015 and introduced the concept of a darker, grittier, adult team of rangers and gave both the worlds of nostalgic adults and sci-fi enthusiasts something to crave for in little more than fourteen minutes of footage. Van Der Beek plays Rocky De Santos, the first Hispanic red ranger, as he interrogates the former valley-girl pink ranger Kimberly, played by Katie Sackhoff, for the Machine Empire to locate the Green Ranger, Tommy Oliver. In all honesty, it was a heart racing affair filled with heavy drug-use and graphic spark-less violence with the same complex back story and plot twists one would expect from a Christopher Nolan film. Fourteen minutes. Fourteen minutes of the excellence was all it took to not only ignite the Nostalgia of the arguably greatest decade of the 20th century but realize the injustices done to a franchise as wonderful as this lovechild of Saban Entertainment and the Toei Company.

In the past decade and-a-half alone, remakes have run rampant through the film industry. Some, of course, of incredibly unwarranted and others? Well, they are the godsend you never knew you needed to see. Some criticize this as cheap or lazy screenwriting. A marketing ploy to steal money from an otherwise unsuspecting audience. What does one say to that other than “Well, you went to see it. Right?”. That’s because nostalgia is the mightiest of weapons. Why wouldn’t you want to revisit the entertainment that shaped who you are? That, whether good or bad, taught you the morals you instilled in yourself and kept with you into adulthood because you wanted to be an Indiana Jones or one of Charlie’s Angels.

Post-Christopher Nolan, we learn we can take it a step further and formulate the adaption. The adaption of a classical idea and turn it into a powerful hit the world has never seen before. The nitty, the gritty, the dark, and the edgy. In the past, the beautiful concept of the remake was to reintroduce concepts to a whole new generation and make it profitable for the entertainment industry. Now, the adaption can be used to do that same thing, and make one concept interesting the the previous generation. It is how one immortalizes the specimen and play off the nostalgia while providing new an exciting imagery to get more bang for your buck. It’s not lazy writing, it’s clever. This single production of a fan film has opened a doorway for production companies to get behind.

The Power Rangers as a kid taught the world to believe in something and fight for it, but the entertainment has a duty to revisit that and explain the real life hardships of actually doing that. Those hardships that would of course make for a spectacular new franchise alongside the old one. Nay Sayers may believe it is impossible due to the existence of the more child-like themes in the functioning Nickelodeon series of Power Rangers, but do these ideas dissuade the creators of Superhero cartoons that play during the development of the same series as comics which depict more adult themes from drug-use to brutal slaughter. What about the very existence of characters from Harley Quinn of the Batman: the animated series and X-23 of X-Men: Evolution? Two characters made from children’s programming who became mainstream characters of heavy adult content (Harley Quinn being a cosplaying favorite).

Continuity requires that this series become a movie. A children’s live-action tv show isn’t enough anymore, not for a series that is old enough to smoke tobacco in most U.S. states– and in Japan, is old enough to be having a mid-life crisis. It is grown, and its audience has grown with it. It is far more productive and reasonable to revisit these age-old characters in a serious light. Not to pass the torch, but to reignite it with all of its glory in tact.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Beauchamp

    The one thing Disney couldn’t kill, The Power Rangers.

  2. Haven’t we outgrown these guys by now? I loved them when I was little, but I was like 5. Comics are one thing, but aren’t Power Rangers designed for a demographic far, far, younger than even them?

    • I think of it this way: some people view Power rangers as a colourful show for pre-schoolers – others view it as an English adaptation of a Japanese show with a slightly older demographic. I sort of think of the Sentai series as Japan’s Doctor Who – a long running series that periodically changes its leads but follows the same formula… both aren’t afraid to kill off characters and both feature a ‘monster of the week’… both have an established science and canonicity and though it’s not true of Power rangers both Super sentai and Doctor who periodically kill off civilian characters. if they target an older demographic they could easily find an audience for this.

  3. Ela Charles

    I’m 27 and I’ve been watching the original series on Netflix. I thought they were going to be lame since I’m not a kid anymore, buuuuut they were still pretty awesome!

  4. When I was little enjoyed Power Rangers Wild Force xD or something like that….

  5. I wish hollywood would get creative instead of doing reboots and cash-ins on people’s childhoods.

  6. zochrane

    Yeah this series has been on for a while and although so cheesy its still action packed as ever. I always wondered if a modern serious movie would work. Will they go the kiddie route like previous movies or take a darker more serious tone similar to most teen action flicks these days.

  7. heartman

    Go Go Power Rangers!!!

  8. Macie Paris

    It would be ironic if this remake turned out to be really good, given Power Rangers has been pretty nonexistent in recent years, and similar big movie adaptations, like Ninja Turtles and Transformers have been complete garbage.

  9. Lala

    I liked the article but you should have included a picture of the power rangers.

  10. Aaron Hatch

    I really loved the Power Ranger short film, and It really bugs me how Saban tried to take it down from the internet, even though it was made with no attentions of making profit.

  11. Shumate

    the only point of a reboot is a way to recash in on a good ip with a well liked beginning…orto remake something that was a well liked property but was done poorly on tv/movie. if its not popular…then you might as well just make a totally new story at that point insteadof rebootimg something that wasmt popular. mostthings arent popular for a reason (though i understamd the wamt to reboot thimgs that got a nad firat attempt).

    thing is, rebooting bad first attempts shows more lack of ideas than simplyrebooting something everyone likes.

  12. dee han

    power rangers is still going? i thought it became extinct along with the dino-zords

  13. I think the new movie would be amazing rated R. Power Rangers for grownups.

  14. aileenmaeryan

    I like that you describe nostalgia as the “mightiest of weapons.” It seems like many shows survive by successfully reinventing themselves in a way that maintains something of the original while adding something new.

  15. MarScherer

    is it legal for a 26 year old to buy a Power rangers movie?
    it’s for my imaginary son

  16. I hope Jason David Frank and the Original Cast make an appearance. Maybe even Zedd as the Villain.

  17. I remember the Power rangers destroyed the Turtles when they came out.

  18. power rangers, nice, Original Cast, make your appearance pleeeease!

  19. Hailtothechimp

    Just about every Friday and Saturday I find myself watching Mighty Morphin and most of the Saban shows and eagerly await every single new episode ever since Saban got the rights back… And I’m 23! Bent watching those technicolor superheroes beat the bad guys always bring some nostalgic joy to my adult life.

  20. silvam

    I don’t know about you, but being a 90’s kid was all about cartoons, especially on Saturday mornings. I remember having a collection of Power Ranger movies, my brother and I were huge fans, we would sit in front of the television for hours watching Power Rangers. The thought of a Power Rangers movie makes me happy, it brings me back to the days of remaking the fighting scenes at my local park with all my friends, dressing up as them for Halloween and yelling “ITS MORPHING TIME!” I could be biased but I think television had the biggest influence on children in the late 80’s and all of the 90’s, this may not be a big success but it will bring memories to my generation for sure.

  21. Diego Santoyo

    The Power Rangers are legendary! Loved watching them when I was growing up!

  22. Although I loved Power Rangers when I was a kid, and I’ve watched every season, I think that the story lines in Power Rangers has gone down hill. From Mighty Morphin Power Rangers until the season finale of Power Rangers in Space, there was a solid story arc. Now, each season barely fits with previous ones. Sure, there are a few that are tied into early seasons – Dino Thunder and Mega Force – but they are few and far between.

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