Expanded Universe: A closer look at The Power Rangers announcement

Initially I was hesitant about covering this as it is only superficially connected to comics, and I have in the past sneaked in mentions. But encouraged to by the team I thought I would address the new that Saban Brands – the owner of the Power Rangers announced on Wednesday that it had partnered with Lions Gate Films with hopes of creating new movies based on the original Mighty Morphin seasons of the show.

The Announcement

The internet seemingly exploded on Wednesday after the press released which via Lions Gate Films in which the LGF CEO Jon Feltheimer is quoted as saying “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Haim Saban and his team to maximize the potential of this immensely successful and universally recognized franchise… “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.

The original Might Morphin Power Ranger movie (1995) and Lion Gate Film's current heavy hitter The Hunger Game series (2012 - )

The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie (1995) and Lion Gate Film’s current heavy hitter The Hunger Game series (2012 – )

He further added that it would be focused around the first 3 seasons aka “Mighty Morphin” but gave no word on whether this is a reboot or a continuation but on the face of things that seems as though it can only be a good thing for those hoping foe a MMPR film… but are Lions Gate Films and the Power Rangers the best fit?

Where is the show at now?

Well for many years […between 2001 and 2010] the show was owned by Disney before being reacquired by Haim Saban through his Saban Brands company, for years the show treaded water at Disney with the show being cancelled after Power Rangers RPM in 2009 and the following series being a retooled version of the original Mighty Morhpin series [switching out some of the dated effects for example]. It seemed like that would finally be that until it was reacquired and plans were announced to air future shows on Nickelodeon in blocks of around 20 episodes a season in comparison to previous seasons which had almost twice as many. This quirk has meant that unlike previous seasons some of which had twice this number of episodes, now seasons are split across two. This was evident with their relaunched show “Samurai” which after it’s short series run became Super Samurai which carried the characters over.

This new way of spacing out seasons remains in place as with the previous season Mega Force becoming Super Megaforce the season after. The key difference being the Japanese footage used originating in different shows. Super Megaforce is currently 8 episodes into its run with a planned anniversary show expected as the last episode [celibrationg last years anniversary], this show is said to feature the return of rangers past and present with one of those [Tommy Oliver] originating in the first season or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

A recent image from Super Magaforce taken from JDF’s website.

In February it was announced that following Super Megaforce that the show will be retooled as “Dino Charge” – its 22nd season overall , a series that will see the return of a Dinosaur motif.

What does it mean?

Well the main hurdles that need to be crossed to make this happen are fairly obvious, those hurdles are budget, a sketchy continuity to work with and the cast involved.

Firstly the budget if fully invested could deliver a franchise as large as Transformers – It fits that all age bracket and would be very reliant on effects to realize that, however LGF have a track record of creating modest budget films with exceptions like The Hunger Games which itself was budgeted at around $78 million in contrast to Transformers budget of almost twice that figure, where as Pacific Rim is reckoned to have cost even more than that with an estimated $190M budget – it begs the question are Lions Gate the right fit for this over a studio like Paramount the who currently make the Transformers and GI Joe movies or Legendary Pictures with their Kaiju heavy films like Pacific Rim or Godzilla. It is probably worth recognizing that previously LGF owned the rights to Man Thing, Ghost Rider and The Punisher which have since then have lapsed, thus avenues for cashing in on the Superhero movie boom are limited. To use a cliche in this case Lions Gate Films will have to spend money if they hope to make money.

There is also the question of continuity even if the intention is to create a film centered around the Mighty Morphin team… Which one?, the first 3 seasons were blighted with creative decisions that were made to utilize the most of the original sentai footage, creating placements for further Bandai toys and cutting down on costs [which was none more evident than when they jettisoned half the cast into the second season when they asked for a pay rise]. The point is there is no unified story to draw from, it’s a story that stretched into future seasons, that as of this current series still running. Obviously this would require skilled writers and a director to create a semblance of a plot to build a “franchise” out of… and that is before you consider whether it will continue the story or reboot the series.

As a footnote it is worth mentioning that the idea of re-imagining Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the modern day has been the aim of the team behind the “MMPR Fan Film”. The long gestating crowd sourced project has sought to take classic elements from the series and realize them in the style of a grittier reboot. The plot details are said to center around the modern day Earth which has fell into war with the reemergence of Lord Zedd, the past and present rangers are in exile or perhaps even dead – this forces the military to recreate the technology used by the first team as part of Project Ranger.

The last hurdle is of course the casting, so much of the appeal of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was tied in the fact that the team – at times poorly written – they were clean cut and each played the part [as stereotypical as they may be] as very likable, there was always one to appeal to any tastes and so strong has that appeal been that future seasons not centered around the Mighty Morphin team weren’t met with quite so pleasant a response, seasons like Dino Thunder, Operation Overdrive, In Space and Wild Force to name a few have had to rely on brief appearances from Mighty Morphin cast members to appeal to fans – either to create that one special episode or in the case of Dino Thunder as they struggled for ideas. It’s hard to imagine other actors playing those roles – the idea of someone like Taylor Lautner as Tommy or Shailene Woodley as Kimberly is enough to make even the most casual or lapsed fans see red.

There is definitely a market for this film with the amount of ‘nostalgia porn’ hitting theaters increasing with Transformers and GI Joe already firmly established and upcoming reboots of Ninja Turtles, Jem and the Holograms and Masters of the Universe soon to join them. I have always thought it was only a matter of time before the obvious happened and Hollywood gave Mighty Morphin Power Rangers another try, although I will remain skeptical until the film gains some traction and details begin to emerge.

The writer of the piece was:
GK AVGary Kane (GK)
Gary tweets from @Kanoclassic

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