I was raised on Disney Princesses and Barbies, not Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I connected with that adventurous, kick-down-the-door side of myself through these series later in my childhood. The original Power Rangers television series was as cheesy and awkward as its catchphrase —“It’s morphin’ time!” — and one would not expect a kids television show from the 90’s to have the sleek, polished look that viewers have grown accustomed to over the last several years. Yet, the upcoming 2017 movie, which will be the third feature film in the Power Rangers franchise, is exactly that. Directed by Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) and set to be released on March 24, 2017, the recently released first trailer is a jarring departure from our childhood memories despite the fact that the targeted audience knows it’s the same Power Rangers with the laughably bad fake punches and synchronized superhero landings.
The trailer for the film is, for lack of a better word, sexy. It’s as if David Fincher stormed a set of one of the countless Marvel or DC films and simply took over from there. A moody Halsey croons above the action with her song “I Walk the Line,” and the trailer itself is made up of typical shots of an attractive male lead’s torso, high-speed car chases, and a make-out session make up this trailer. It’s sensual, eye-catching, but mostly, it’s angsty. This $150 million investment is clearly not looking to cash in on the 6-11 year old demographic that the TV show targeted; it’s for us 18-24 year old millennials who grew up with the original Power Rangers. The only difference is that our nostalgic viewership also notice such things as cinematography and sound mixing, so Lionsgate—yes, the same Lionsgate that did the “Hunger Games” franchise and the Oscar-nominated “Brooklyn”— upped the ante of the corny, latex-clad Power Rangers and gave us a movie whose style could easily fit a Tom Cruise-driven action flick.
Power Rangers isn’t the only series harkening back to the good ol’ days to get a sleek makeover. This summer’s hit (and everyone’s new Netflix obsession) “Stranger Things” crams references to 80s favorites from Steven Spielberg and Stephen King into every possible nook and cranny the 8-episode series allows. Part of the fun of the show—that is, when you’re not scared out of your mind—is excitedly pointing out the “Alien” references or impressing one another by noting the parallels to Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” not to mention Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s eerie soundtrack that may or may not have come straight from a VHS tape. Disney, too, is commandeering the live-action flick bandwagon by churning out remakes of all of their classics: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Mulan”. Big budgets are supposed to draw big crowds, and how else can they recreate that Disney magic without going bigger and brighter than the original animated movies?
The difference between “The Jungle Book” and “Power Rangers” is indeed that Disney magic. Films such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (2014) and “Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) critically flopped with a whopping 22% and 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively, while The Jungle Book scored 95% on the same film review aggregator. Both TMNT and Superman underperformed at the box office for big budget films of their caliber, and Power Rangers falls into the same category of nostalgic, action figure reboots as “TMNT”, even though it may strive to achieve the same caliber Disney puts out in their live-action remakes.
I enjoyed the original “Power Rangers” series, but watching the 2 minutes and 21 seconds of the new trailer overwhelmed and confused me. The iconic brightly-colored suits of most everyone’s childhood are only hinted at at the very end of the trailer. Or rather, they’re very loosely suggested, as the garish primary colors are replaced by subdued, metallic tones. It’s not sentimentality that the studio is going for, but an angsty revamping that unfortunately gets lost in the whirlwind of dimly-tinted movies about all-too-serious twenty something-year-old high schoolers. Meanwhile, all we really want to see is a charmingly fake explosion and then a very 90s zoom on the five Power Rangers in fighting formation, ready to morph.