Remakes/reboots get a pretty bad rep for pretty justifiable reasons. While movies like Magnificent 7 and Ghostbusters are usually smart enough to distance themselves from the original movies (except when it comes to marketing, apparently), a lot of other remakes end up just screwing things up.
But y’know what’s really weird even for a remake? Doing one while the original franchise is still ongoing.
Having been launched in 1993 as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the original franchise is, in fact, still very much alive as Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Sure, the name has changed but the events over last 24 seasons (that’s right—twenty-four!!) are all still very much in canon, with even old Rangers occasionally popping up in the show.
Oddly enough, this isn’t too different from the choices made during production of the first movie. 1995’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers the movie also used the same name and brand, however the look and feel were a significant departure from the series and even saw an alternate introduction of their new Ninjetti powers.
Nevertheless, it helped that the movie at least featured the same actors as the series, and even though the movie itself was not set in the same continuity of the series, the early episodes of the third season reconciled the the status quo of the movie by offering a more in-tone take on the origin of their new powers.
Either way, let’s keep in mind that the original movie never saw a sequel.
But the new Power Rangers movie seems to be a different beast altogether… and it looks divisive at best. And while my initial reaction to the first trailer was primarily negative, later spots and a peek at the original working script has given me some hope…
Here’s a look at all the changes and whether it’s a good change or not (from a grade of “Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi” for bad, “Go Go!” for average, “Mighty” for good, and to “Morphinominal” for great).
Change Grade: Mighty!
Aside from violence and its title (“Morphin’” sounded too much like “morphine,” apparently), a regular criticism of the original Power Rangers was its supposed racism.
With Zack, the African-American character, as the Black Ranger, and the late Thuy Trang, a Vietnamese actress, playing Trini the Yellow Ranger, the show was accused of being racist by way of assigning them to suits of racially profiled colours.
Fact is, that was’t how it was meant to be. The Yellow Ranger was originally portrayed by Hispanic-American actress Audri Dubois Marchionno, who can still be seen in the alternate pilot “The Lost Episode.” Apparently, her request for a higher pay led to her being hastily replaced by Trang, not giving the producers much time to consider the racial implications.
Similarly, Walter Jones was initially cast as the Blue Ranger (with David Yost cast as Black), but their roles were switched when the producers felt that the fighting styles and technique (quick, grappling movements) of the Black Ranger in the Japanese source footage would make more sense for Jones, given his talent for dancing–something that was heavily incorporated into the Zack character.
The movie, however, sees far more diversification with Billy returning to being African-American, Zack now being of Chinese descent, Trini portrayed by Becky G who has her roots in Mexican ancestry, and Naomi Scott who is British and Gujarati-Indian.
With the Power Rangers TV show still maintaining the “one token Asian and one token African-American” system till today (with some exceptions here and there), the movie’s conscious effort is no less than remarkable.
Better yet, they understand that there’s more to represent than just race, ‘cause…
Change Grade: Morphinominal!
In a world where bigots and idiots have united to decry the 10 seconds of Olaf making eyes at another man while Hermione decides to explore the kinkier aspects of Animagi by getting it on with Prince Polyjuice-Potion-Gone-Wrong, it is clear that now, more than ever, we’re in need of greater LGBTQ representation on the big screen.
While I don’t yet know this for sure, it seems to be official that the new Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is either bisexual or lesbian. Of course, small-minded twerps across the world have now come together to weep about how a movie primarily targeted at kids recognises, and even endorses homo/bisexuality, by way of having a hero as one of them gay folk. Because, why would we want future generations to be more inclusive and tolerant…
But diversity extends beyond race and sexuality, and this iteration fully understands that thanks to the new Blue Ranger. While Billy Cranston’s always been a genius (he built a frikkin’ flying car in the original series!) the movie goes a step further to explain why his mind may work differently from his peers–Billy’s autistic.
For those who remember, Drax of Guardians of the Galaxy sort of became the unintentional representation of autism in a superhero movie–the first to do so. While it remains to be seen whether Marvel picks up on that thread or if any other superhero movie decides to make that move first, I’m glad that Power Rangers has decided to do so.
After all, what else do the Power Rangers represent if not diversity and acceptance?