In 1993 when The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers hit American television screens, I was six years old and loved dinosaurs, pastel colors, robots, and fighting. The Rangers delivered on all fronts. I remember my sister and I coming up with dinosaur spirit animals of our own and fighting hordes of Putties in the backyard with sticks as swords.
Two years later when the movie dropped, my excitement could not be contained; especially when the Rangers became ninjas! How cool was that?! I mean, the spirit animals took a hit (A frog? Really?), but NINJAS.
I was down with the Power Rangers…until they became shapes in Zeo.
As an adult (though that has been the subject of much debate), I have tried to go back and rewatch the Rangers on Netflix, but found myself – not surprisingly – well outside of the target market. I couldn’t even get properly nostalgia-d during such dramatic and pivotal episodes like the creation of the Green Ranger.
Then I hear word of a new, “dark” Power Rangers makeover video flying around the internets and I gave it a look. It is embedded below for your viewing pleasure ICYMI (NSFW, BTW):
- We’ll take things in order of appearance, which means we start with guns. Rangers with guns, specifically. In the show, they were equipped with and fired guns, but what is depicted above is not the light-firing, spark-inducing guns of the show. They’re the kind that cause heads to explode and, more importantly, they’re directed at human beings. A big Ranger no-no. I’m pretty sure Zordon covered that in his briefing.
- James Van Der Beek’s character Rocky makes two interesting points:
- That the Rangers are children asked to fight a war. As a six-year-old kid, they might as well have been adults…but as an adult, that particular truth was not lost on me. They may be “teenagers with attitude,” but they’re still teenagers. I work with teens. Trust me: They’re not the people for this particular job – a subject I will return to below.
- Rocky points out that Rita made Tommy to fight against the Rangers, which is a genius angle from which to work a movie like this one. He (Rocky) goes on to talk about how Tommy’s mind must be fractured after all the side-switching he did during the series. In the tug of war between good and evil, Tommy was the rope. I’d be intrigued by a movie that stuck to this angle rather than the surprise Rita reveal.
- The ravages/consequences of children participating in war as the Rangers did is portrayed excellently in this video. They’ve done more than age over the years, they’ve changed, and drastically and tragically so. Course language, drug use, and psychoses in abundance – most notably in Zack, who has become a danger-junkie. (Unrelated – The Hip Hop Kido bit is hilarious and very 90s.)
- Bulk and Skull make a cameo that stings a bit, too, as Bulk says, “We got a little tired of being made fun of…” Throughout the show (at least as far as I ever watched), Bulk and Skull are portrayed as the bullies, but they are just as equally bullied by the Rangers. Bulk’s line is an eery echo of what is heard often from the mouths of bullied teens who turn to violence to solve their bully problem – from those who push back to those who bring guns into their schools. Its a dark extrapolation, to be sure.
The Power Rangers makeover isn’t the only children’s property to get this grittier look either. My best guess is that since the six-year-olds of the 90s are now the money-spenders of today, higher-ups are trying to cash in on us again (you know…since we drained our parents’ accounts buying toys from our favorite TV shows two decades ago). We left the target market and they want us back. That, of course, carries within it the assumption that our now decades old love of these franchises has endured strongly enough to merit our fandom again. The trouble is that what they’re churning out isn’t what I fell in love with as a kid.
Some might argue that they’re trying to foster a new audience and fan-base, and that has been true of other franchises (one of which I point out here), but I’d counter that that’s clearly not what is happening in this particular example. There’s too much prerequisite history needed to grasp the gravity of what is taking place.
What did you think of the teaser? Would you buy into the feature-length film as its presented? What are your thoughts on the gritty reboots of the children’s shows of yesterday?
PS: Where are all the sparks?!