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