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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Power Rangers Logo & Character Pics

Edited by Robert Beach

Every year is defined by a handful of blockbusters that force a question about this moment in pop cultural history. Avengers was about whether or not people would accept shared continuity in a film; Batman v. Superman was about whether or not there could be two shared universes; next year, Power Rangers is set to definitively answer whether or not nostalgia for the ‘90s is enough to sustain a blockbuster.  

We’ve been asking that particular question for a while now with fairly mixed results.  Based on flops like Goosebumps or the X-Files revival, the answer would seem to be no, but the monster success of Jurassic World means we have to keep asking. We’ll be getting another chance to ask the question in a few weeks with Independence Day: Resurgence, though there’s one key difference between that movie and 2017’s Power Rangers reboot: Independence Day: Resurgence actually looks good. 

Obviously, I’m late to the table on this one, and I don’t think I’m going to be smashing any preconceptions here. I think a lot of the recent reveals about the Power Rangers reboot are warning signs that the movie is going to suck. The biggest red flag fluttering over the whole enterprise isn’t in the form of any specific image or revelation, rather the tone of persistent glumness. Everything about the new Power Rangers comes off grim, stripped down, and overly self-conscious. This is especially true in the atrocious character designs, but it runs through everything, even the new logo. 

The logo is impressive in how well it manages to infuse the original with a sense of embarrassment and awareness. It’s clear that whoever is running concept design on this particular look wants the recognition of the original Power Ranger logo (hence the big lightning bolt in the middle of the title), but it is terribly afraid that anything close to the original design won’t be taken “seriously.”  

This raises the question as to why a Power Rangers movie would need to be taken seriously, or at the very least why the logo would need to convey the seriousness of the film instead of just relying on the story and characters to do that. It all just speaks of a film that’s genuinely ashamed of being a Power Rangers movie. One look at the rest of the costume design only serves to confirm that hypothesis. 

So let’s talk about the Power Rangers themselves because this is where the rebooted series really seems to have gone off the rails. Needless to say, the design is downright terrible. It's terrible in so many fascinating ways. Firstly, there are the mouths. I know the original Power Ranger uniforms featured mouths, yet that was a low-budget ‘90s children’s show repackaging Japanese footage for profit. I think the multi-million dollar blockbuster can do a little better design wise.  

Overall, you can see the elements of the original costumes the designers were trying to “pay homage to” here: the mouths on the helmets and the big diamonds on everybody’s chest. The difference in design between the original and 2017 film is a matter of clarity. Maybe these suits look good in motion. Standing still, there is just infinitely too much going on here.

There's strengh in simplicity in superhero costumes, not a weakness. The basic color outlines of Iron Man or Captain America work because they master balance and a clarity of visual, making the character pop against any number of chaotic backgrounds. The same was true of the original Power Rangers. Bright, accenting colors and a big, pastel main color pop against the chaos.  

These Rangers look like Michael Bay’s Master Chief, ugly and blocky designs that include infinitely too much saturation and moving parts. There’s no clarity of form to the characters or their color work. With energy veins and splattered silver among their plated armor look, it’s a muddied visual that’s honestly pretty ugly to look at. 

The only good thing to emerge out of the cluster of release photos would have to be Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa. Even though Banks doesn’t actually look like Rita Repulsa from the old show, her costume has a lot more visual flow, clarity, and pop than the Rangers thanks to the monochromatic green approach. I’m not exactly sure why the designers decided Repulsa’s defining color would be green given that in the show her color was predominately brown. She also lived in a garbage can on the moon (Editor's Note: Read this). Maybe it makes more sense in context.  

She actually looks a lot more like a reworking of the Enchantress from Suicide Squad, which is only fitting because Suicide Squad’s Enchantress looks a lot like someone’s weird reworking of Rita Repulsa.  Look, Banks’ costume may not be any great shakes. it's at least passable for some ultra-villainous intergalectic witch in the style of like Charlize Theron in the Huntsman films. 

A lot of folks have made the point that Repulsa’s green costume could be in reference to the Green Ranger. If you’re not up on your Power Rangers lore, the Green Ranger was a character from the first show that started the tradition of 6th Rangers thanks to his serious popularity.  

He was originally introduced as a villain created by Rita Repulsa with black magic as her own special Power Ranger before he shook off her influence and joined the team.  The story is generally regarded as one of the only genuinely good stories to come out of the first seasons of the original Power Ranger show, and the Green Ranger’s popularity pretty much guarantees he’d find his way into this reboot somewhere. 

Some people seem to think Banks’ Repulsa is playing a fallen version of the Green Ranger, which I could really hope is the case. The cynic in me thinks they’re probably not that clever. What strikes me as a lot more likely for her character is that she stole her powers from the Green Ranger or in the post-credits scene her power leaves her and goes to embody some supporting character that was heavily foreshadowed to play a bigger role in things to come. 

Both of those options strike me as the mediocre cop-out that would be right up this film’s alley. Additionally, the idea of villains being redeemed and becoming heroes seems to be anathema to a modern audience for whatever reason. 

Well, this was a depressing post (Editor's Note: It was). Seriously, I don’t want to hate on the Power Rangers reboot, but it looks like the worst approach to this property following adaptation aesthetics that feel like an unwelcome visitor from a time long passed. Grittiness and “realism” has its place; that place is definitely not in Power Rangers. This is a story about a giant floating head in a jar gathering together teens to fight a space garbage witch with giant robots and mystic kung-fu.  

What’s more, the cynically serious affect floating around these pictures exudes a real lack of confidence in the film’s own identity. It’s a movie that’s afraid to make the audience smile for fear of being laughed at rather than laughed with. Compare that to the cheesy sincerity of the original show, or the comfortable self-acceptance of the (better) later series, and the whole thing just adds up to very poor excuse for the Power Rangers. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong. 

Power Rangers is set for release on January 13, 2017.
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