May 15, 2014

Cinema Rant: Power Rangers

It seems that no property is safe from rebooting hell (or heaven), even properties that are as campy as Power Rangers. The rebooting of the Power Rangers brings tears to my eyes for more than the obvious reasons and it feels like it will get worse before it gets better. This is a rant, hence the title Cinema Rant. So, this will get a bit personal and more than likely go off on tangents.

A week ago Lionsgate, who's partners with Saban (the primary distributor of Power Rangers franchise), announced the rebooting of the beloved kids television show. The only people who love the show are the die hard fans of the show, and people who saw the show when they were kids and never watched it again. If you loved the show as a kid and tried watching the it as an adult, you'd have more than a bad taste in your mouth.

For anyone who never grew up watching the Power Rangers and this is all alien to you, let me dive into the nerdism of it all. The original Might Morphin' Power Rangers follows a group of five teenagers (six in later seasons) who are given superhuman powers by an inter-dimensional being. These superhuman powers are usually symbolized by animals or prehistoric creatures. Along with the powers, come colored costumes, personalized weapons for each teenager, and a nifty mech near the size of Godzilla, called the Megazord. These teenagers would use their powers as a team to fight monsters created by the villainous Rita Repulsa who lived in a base on the moon. Not bad, right? Well, not entirely bad.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the show's original title and was an adaptation of the Japanese show Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. The American version used stock footage of action scenes from the Japanese show, while using a multi-cultural and often stereotypical American cast. The show's first problem was the fact that it was a show for kids. Characters were one dimensional, the dialogue was shoddy, the show was campy and intentionally childishly comedic, each episode had some kind of message to teach kids and every episode used the same story format. Sadly, when I was a toddler I watched this show and was entertained. It goes without saying that the format worked for children. It was enough awe and spectacle to keep me watching through season 3 and even Power Rangers Turbo. Now, in my twenties, I'm a bit ashamed of the show due to its overly campy nature and horrible dialogue. I remember watching an episode a few months ago where Zack Taylor (Black Ranger) showed off his break dancing skills for almost an entire episode. There's an episode where Rita Repulsa creates a walking, talking fish to defeat the Power Rangers. It would have been easy to defeat the fish - just burn the f@#$er - but instead the Power Rangers have to battle the bastard twice.

To an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter, a modern adaptation of Power Rangers doesn't sound like a bad idea. I came up with the concept after watching Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Every year the story grows and grows. The first story was of course in the same vain as the original show. After a total rewrite and more movie going experiences, I finally created the perfect Power Rangers story for any viewer to watch and enjoy. After I created it, I learned that it wasn't time for this film. Mainly, because I'm a proud guy who would want to be in control of the entire thing (or at least direct the film). I'm still that proud guy. I'm waiting until I get my carte blanche so I can throw them this, or that's how it should've been. With the announcement of Lionsgate recreating Power Rangers, my dreams are crushed. Fortunately, I'm a glass half full type of guy, but unfortunately there's no real way of being happy with the situation. If Power Rangers bombs at the box office, the property will be stored somewhere underground and never resurface, but if Power Rangers is a success there is no telling what will happen.

That huge lead-in finally brings me to the destruction of Power Rangers brought to you by Lionsgate and its press release:
SANTA MONICA, Calif.May 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company, andSaban Brands, a strategic brand management company that acquires and builds global consumer brands, are partnering to develop and produce an original live action feature film based on the iconic Power Rangers property, it was announced today by creator of Power Rangers Haim Saban and Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer.  The announcement marks another step in Lionsgate's continued commitment to build a broad portfolio of branded properties and franchises with global appeal. 
Saban launched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a live action television series more than 20 years ago, and the series has been in continuous production ever since.  It has subsequently grown into one of the world's most popular and recognizable brands, with toys, apparel, costumes, video games, DVD's, comic books and other merchandise.
The two companies noted that, with an extensive and extremely devoted worldwide fan base as well as a deep and detailed mythology, the Power Rangers are primed for the big screen.  The new film franchise will re-envision the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a group of high school kids who are infused with unique and cool super powers but must harness and use those powers as a team if they have any hope of saving the world. 
"Lionsgate is the perfect home for elevating our Power Rangers brand to the next level," said Saban.  "They have the vision, marketing prowess and incredible track record in launching breakthrough hits from The Hunger Games to Twilight and Divergent.  In partnership with the Lionsgate team, we're confident that we will capture the world of the Power Rangers and translate it into a unique and memorable motion picture phenomenon with a legacy all its own." 
"We're thrilled to be partnering with Haim Saban and his team to maximize the potential of this immensely successful and universally recognized franchise," said Feltheimer.  "The Power Rangers stories and characters have been embraced by generations of audiences for more than 20 years, and today they are more powerful than ever.  We have the ideal partner and the perfect brand with which to create a motion picture event that will resonate with moviegoers around the world for years to come."
I am worried on many levels.

1.  What does "re-envision" mean - Part 1? It means that no matter what the screenwriter writes, the producers are looking for a film designed for teenagers that will feature attractive women, attractive males, very limited character depth and a story that will result in a low budget.

2.  Story? Again, the producers will have the final say of what the story will be. Expect hotties on both sides of the gender spectrum and expect the very least in everything, from costume to set design. The story won't have much depth. It will follow a basic point-by-point process and won't be as ridiculously fun as the television show, and will more likely take itself too seriously.  Lionsgate stated in their press release, ". . .a group of high school kids who are infused with unique and cool super powers but must harness and use those powers as a team if they have any hope of saving the world." Note that it has been strongly rumored that Max Landis (Chronicle) has been brought on to write the script, and has possibly turned in a first draft to the producers. With the above splice from the press statement and the rumored Max Landis credit, this film seems to already have its story down and it seems very high school oriented. Anyone who has ever watched the show would realize that the high school aspect wasn't always a prominent part of the story.

3.  Budget?  Given the Power Rangers property's critical mess, Lionsgate will probably be aiming low. Lionsgate has a record for creating low budget first installments (Saw - $1.2 million, The Hunger Games - $78 million, Twilight - $37 million, Kick-Ass - $28 million).  Remember, the horrific set designs from The Hunger Games? Those were still made on a $78 million production budget. Now, think $30-50 million production budget and you have yourself a hot mess.  But, what can you specifically expect from a Power Rangers movie from a production company that declares that it will "re-envision" this brand?

4  What does "re-envision" mean - Part 2? You can only guess at this point. I don't expect to see the Megazord, I don't expect to see colored costumes or any symbolism of prehistoric creatures or animals of any kinds. I can't see Zordon, the inter-dimensional being who gives the Power Rangers their superhuman abilities. I can't see Alpha, Zordon's assistant who controls the Command Center. I can't see Rita Repulsa. Sadly, I can't see anything from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I see a lot of high school and a lot of teenage arguing.

Why you do this to me?

Can you see any hope for Power Rangers? Do you have any thoughts on how the film will turn out?

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