A Power Ranger’s fan film is taking the internet by storm thanks to a dark dystopian take on the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” that features impressive production value and two known actors. The film features violence, suggestive themes and language that usually are not associated with the Power Rangers franchise which is traditionally aimed at a younger demographic. While Saban Entertainment has filed a cease order and effectively taken the film down from Vimeo, it still survives on Youtube and on various sites for people to download. While the reactions online have been divided, there is a wide range of viewers who absolutely adore the 15 minute film. The overarching debate should not be whether director Joseph Kahn and producer Adi Shankar have the right to create a fan film about the Power Rangers, but instead we as a society should be analyzing our fascination towards the dark and gritty re-imaginations of nostalgic properties. Why is there such an attraction for American consumers to want darker versions of stories they grew up with?
“Realistic” or modern re-boots can be traced to various points in film and television history. While the 1990’s were a dark time for comic books, the television industry saw a rise in animated superhero shows such as “X-Men: The Animated Series” and “Batman: The Animated Series”. While both shows retained some adult themes, they were both heavily marketed for children. The film franchises based on superhero characters at the time also followed the same tone with colorful and somewhat outlandish costumes and plots such as “Batman and Robin”. Things would change with the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” in the 2005. The beloved film franchise returned the Dark Knight to his darker roots amid a departure from modern Batman interpretations in the comics. Hollywood took notice of the modernization of the Batman film franchise with the production of darker re-boots of other properties such as “Alice in Wonderland”, “Snow White”, and “Spider-Man”. Those films were launched to mixed but overall successful results.
Darker versions of nostalgic properties obviously sell in America. The question is why? Why do we as a society crave the dark and gritty? Why do we want to rid ourselves of imagination and color which we embraced so dearly as children? There are a lot of potential reasons for our obsession with “modernizing” childhood figures into a darker fiction. One of the contributions could be our economy. Amid the most devastating recession in United States history, Americans just don’t have much to be happy about. Darker franchises reflect the current state of the audiences and the mindset they view fiction in. Things don’t always resolve themselves in real life like they do at the end of each episode in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”. So as a result, people take their ideologies and current stature in life and incorporate it into their work of fiction much like what Kahn and Shankar did with their fan film. The world in “Power/Rangers” is not a happy one, with betrayal and death dominating the story. Much of it reflects what many Americans still feel from the recession after losing their jobs and struggling to recapture the glory they once had when the economy was booming.
Power Rangers represents much more than many realize. The franchise exists on the basis of friendship, dedication and many other positive traits that institute things we would like to see in our society. Yet, audiences still demand deception, profanity and whatever else “Power/Rangers” attempts to represent in their distorted future. While from a literature standpoint, the premise is certainly interesting in its exploration of child soldiers, it seems ultimately misguided in its attempt to age “Power/Rangers” into what the filmmakers deem mature. What they misinterpret is that Power Rangers is in fact a very mature franchise in that it promotes all the right themes for not only children, but for adults as well. Why wouldn’t we as members of our society want to help each other? Why wouldn’t we want to feel like part of a team?
As someone who covers the official Power Rangers franchise and has interviewed their producers, directors and actors, I have often criticized various production aspects of the show. Without a doubt, the re-use of Super Sentai footage and lack of quality acting has made the show nearly un-watchable in recent years since Saban re-acquired the franchise from Disney. If fans desperately wanted to make a fan film showcasing what they wished the production value should be -like, then they should by keeping within the context of the original source. It goes to show, do fans who want a dark re-boot of a franchise really understand what they are asking for? If a re-boot compromises everything the original material stood for, then is it even really the same material that fans loved in the past?
I for one appreciated the production value of the fan film until I realized that the film was produced by Adi Shankar who is actually a well endowed and successful Hollywood producer whose filmography includes 2012’s “Dredd” and Liam Neeson’s “The Grey”. This was in no way a small production from no-name filmmakers scrapping a budget to create a fan film. Given that fact, Shankar is still a fan of many comic properties that has given him inspiration to create what he calls bootleg films for his Youtube channel.
What I ultimately was disappointed with was the interpretation of what Power Rangers stood for to the filmmakers of the fan film. Fans of the show, and to a greater extent Super Sentai, will no doubt understand what I am implying.
In a previous article which was featured on Examiner’s portal page, I talked about the greatest superhero franchise people had never heard of, Super Sentai. I described the franchise as embodying teamwork, friendship, family and overcoming adversity. And above all, tradition. Power Rangers to a lesser extent also showcases all of those aspects. Of course, I have to give the fan film the benefit of the doubt as it lasted for a whole 15 minutes. It’s very difficult to convey various themes in that short amount of time, but from what they did do, it certainly didn’t seem to adhere to the tradition that Power Rangers has garnered over the years.
What did you think of “Power/Rangers”? Do you think we as viewers have an obsession with dark re-boots? Let me know in the comments below and on Twitter!