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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Power Rangers 2017 Character Breakdown

Edited by Robert Beach

One of the things I like to yammer on about the most in these articles is the growing cultural force of ‘90s nostalgia. I love ‘90s nostalgia because it’s an actually emerging force that we’re witnessing take shape and dominance over the entertainment medium in real time. Additionally, I grew up in the ‘90s, so a revival of classic ‘90s fair is a lot more appealing to me than all the ‘80s reboots we got during the ‘00s. 

"‘90-stalgia" as I call it has been a cultural force for awhile now but 2015 was really the year it came to dominate our lives in a genuinely meaningful way through the smash hit of Jurassic World. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Goosebumps film will be another major moneymaker to cement the ‘90s hold on the box office. However, the real crest of this particular wave will most likely be coming in 2017 with a rebooted Power Rangers film. Even though we’re still 2 years out, details are already filtering through with the first major announcement being a character breakdown sheet of the 5 main rangers. 

Original Article here:
If you didn’t want to read the complete breakdown, here’s the important take away: Power Rangers 2017 is going to be grim and gritty. All of the teens are carrying a forklift’s worth of emotional baggage and the most checkered of pasts. This is a pretty terrible choice from where I’m sitting for a multitude of reasons. I was never a huge fan of Power Rangers as a kid, but as an adult, I’ve always held a deep-seated respect and admiration for the series. 

Power Rangers has been running consecutively in one form or another for 25 years; that’s not an achievement to be easily dismissed. Though not the sole reason for its success, a big part of what’s helped Power Rangers to endure for over 2 decades is that the show is so incredibly earnest in its cheesiness. The various Power Rangers over the years may not have been paragons of character creation, yet they did come from a much more rewarding school of thought. Rather than trying to make them dark and brooding and “edgy,” the Power Rangers have always just been good people trying to do the right thing and be their best self. 

Broken Psyches Conflict With The Origins 

Ditching that character grounding for heroes that are more about broken emotional psyches struggling against their own personal baggage strikes me as missing the point of Power Rangers. At their core, the Power Rangers aren’t intended to be reflective of the real world and real people in it. They’re intended to be an example to strive for. A good point of comparison is Captain America. Captain America is essentially perfect, and I don’t just mean physically. Captain America holds a strong moral code; he always does the right thing, and he doesn’t believe in moral compromise for a greater good; he always finds a better way. 

Cap is not meant to represent the choices we face in real life; he’s meant to be a source of inspiration for how we make our own choices. Trying to strip that away from him would be to make him not Captain America; it’s too fundamental a point of his identity. The same goes for Superman, which is why Man of Steel was so frustrating and alienating, it stripped out too much of what made Superman who he is.  I acknowledge that adaptation has to bring changes, but there’s only so much you can take out of a character and have them still be that character. This is too much.  

Misuse of Tone 

Worst of all, this kind of grim and gritty character creation is such an obvious crutch for the filmmakers. This is part of why I so often oppose grim characters coupled with realistic settings. In a good adaptation, these things might be included as a way to facilitate a more adult tone as a step toward injecting the proceedings with actual meaning. I get that way of thinking and when it works; it works like gangbusters. Dark Knight works because it uses the gritty story, grim characters, and realistic boundaries to tell a story about the disconnect between what we want our heroes to achieve and the lines we won’t allow them to cross. 

More often than not, however, these affectations end up there to give the illusion of depth and age without actually adding any kind of subtext. A great recent example of this is Fantastic Four 2015, which darkened the characters in a gritty story with very realistic boundaries. The entire visual and narrative palette of the film is designed to tell the audience “this is an adult story,” and it’s framed as “comic books have grown up.”  But the final film is curiously inert and shockingly empty with little-to-no deeper themes or insights.  

It’s still possible Power Rangers will be a good film with engaging insights despite this deeply disappointing casting approach, not a very encouraging start.  Additionally, the reboot is being penned by Robert Orci, one of the worst authors currently working with a bad habit of draining the uniqueness out of ideas in order to make them more palatable to a mass audience.  

It just seems to me that we’re headed towards another Star Trek ’09 type situation where so much of the source material’s identity and positivity is stripped away to facilitate simplistic arcs and a serviceable action coated in franchise trappings. If that happens, it won’t be the worst fate to befall the series; it’d just be a major shame because Power Rangers deserves better. 

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