Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Haim Saban and Lionsgate recently announced that they will be teaming up to reboot Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers for the big screen. If, like me, you grew up in the nineties then the chances are you were a Power Rangers fan. That being the case, your feelings on rebooting it may vary, but I for one am cautiously optimistic about it. It’s certainly a franchise with a lot of cinematic potential.
As a childhood fan of the original series, I have my own thoughts as to how Power Rangers could be re-imagined for modern movie goers. While you could certainly just take the broader concepts of the series and tell a completely original story, it seems a shame not to draw upon some of the show’s storylines for inspiration. Let’s look at some ideas for how the plot of a reboot could unfold.
There are a few components of the TV show that should be a part of any potential reboot, whatever story it may tell. First of all, let us not forget that the Power Rangers themselves weren’t the only regular characters on the show. It seems unfathomable for Zordon not to appear to bestow the Rangers’ powers upon them and serve as their mentor.
I would begin the movie with a prologue detailing at least some of Zordon’s history, elaborating on his conflict with Rita Repulsa. As far I’m concerned the issue of whether or not the main villain of this reboot should be Rita is not open to debate. It simply has to be the case. Familiar members of her entourage should also appear, such as updated versions of Goldar, Squatt, Baboo and Finster.
The prologue shouldn’t consume much more than the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie and could be narrated by Zordon. Lord Zedd should be incorporated into it too, mentioned as being the evil overlord to whom Rita answered. But I don’t think Zedd should feature heavily in the movie beyond that. I’d prefer to save him for the long haul and gamble that there will be sequels allowing for him to eventually emerge as the ultimate villain.
An origin story for the power coins could also be given, with the option to include a Ninjor cameo or re-imagine their creation entirely. Perhaps Zordon commanded an ancient force of power coin wielding warriors to combat an army of evil monsters under Rita’s control. This would also potentially allow for brief scenes of Zords clashing with armies of ancient monsters.
The end of the prologue would document the climax of the original war between good and evil, showing how Rita and her minions were imprisoned and how the cost of victory resulted in Zordon being trapped in a time warp. Zedd, believing both Zordon and Rita to be dead, is said to have shifted his attention to the conquest of other parts of the universe. This climactic battle could take place on Earth to explain Rita’s obsession with our planet and why Zordon is based here in modern times.
The setting moves then to the present day. Taking cues from the opening of the franchise’s first episode, “Day of the Dumpster”, Rita escapes from captivity after 10,000 years and establishes a base of operations within striking distance of Earth. Segue from this to a scene introducing Alpha 5 and the command centre. Zordon has been keeping watch over Rita’s prison throughout the millennia and detects her escape. The time has come for the remaining power coins to be passed on to a new generation of heroes.
The most important of the components of the TV show that absolutely need to be a part of this reboot are the identities of the Rangers themselves. If this movie is indeed going to be based specifically on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, then the protagonists have to be Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack and Trini. This is non-negotiable in my eyes.
Having said that, as a kid Tommy was my favourite character and he more than earned the right to be considered just as important a part of the definitive Ranger team as the original five members. However, as was the case in the TV show, I’d favour seeing him start off as an antagonist before becoming a protagonist. With that in mind, one way of introducing all six of the first season Rangers in the new film would be to adapt elements of both “Day of the Dumpster” and “Green with Evil” into the plot; the latter being the five part arc that introduced the Green Ranger as a villain turned hero.
So after Zordon’s declaration that the power coins must be passed on, we cut to a youth centre in the fictional city of Angel Grove, California. Here we meet the new versions of Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Zack. This scene could also introduce new versions of familiar supporting characters such as Bulk and Skull and Ernie, the youth centre’s owner.
After taking a few minutes to introduce the characters, our five recruits are teleported to the command centre by Zordon and brought up to speed on what it is they’re being asked to do. Meanwhile, Rita discovers that Zordon is still active and intends to re-imprison her using a new team of Power Rangers. She makes a declaration of her own in retaliation. Zordon doesn’t have all of the remaining power coins. Before she was defeated, Rita managed to get a hold of the green coin and she intends to fight fire with fire. To keep Zordon’s new Rangers busy while she rebuilds her evil army, she will recruit a Ranger of her own to combat them. Enter Tommy Oliver.
There are several options as to how Tommy could be introduced here. For the sake of convenience, one option would be to introduce him along side the other five Rangers as part of their friend group and/or as Kimberly’s boyfriend. If Rita forces Zordon’s Rangers to fight someone they care about, it could make for a conflict with a lot more emotional weight and consequence. However, the major problem with this scenario is that if Zordon picks five friends out of a group of six, what is it about Tommy that makes him less worthy to wield one of Zordon’s power coins than any of the rest of his comrades?
The second, and perhaps better, option then would be to introduce Tommy in a way similar to the series; as the new kid on the block. One method of doing this while still tying his introduction to that of everyone else would be in a martial arts tournament taking place at the youth centre. In this scenario, our first glimpse of Jason could be in a sparring match with Tommy.
The two come out of the match on equal footing and complement each other’s skills before Jason returns to his four friends, noting how impressive the new kid’s abilities are. Add to that a throwaway comment by Kimberly or a glance that suggests an attraction between them to maintain their romantic subplot.
While Zordon attempts to sell Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Trini and Billy on the idea of becoming superheroes to defend Earth against the forces of evil, Tommy is abducted by Rita, brainwashed and made to serve as her own personal Power Ranger.
Tommy and Goldar always seemed to have a personal vendetta against each other in the series and I would play upon that in the movie. Have Tommy report to Goldar or train under him to set up their mutual disdain when Tommy eventually turns against Rita. While Goldar oversees the progress of the Green Ranger, Rita has Finster working hard on creating the first in a new army of hideous monsters to help her rebuild her empire.
Under Goldar’s supervision, the Green Ranger leads a squadron of putties to terrorise Angel Grove resulting in the Power Rangers’ first call to action. They morph to engage the Green Ranger and putties in combat, at the same time getting to grips with the new powers that they have been given. This escalates into Tommy raising the Dragonzord from the ocean to lay siege to the city. The Rangers summon their own Zords and the Dragon and Megazords clash in battle.
The Rangers eventually figure out Tommy is the Green Ranger and manage to break Rita’s brainwashing, convincing him to side with them. As in the show, Rita’s control of Tommy could be maintained by the Sword of Darkness, with Jason destroying it and liberating him.
By this time, Finster has finished crafting the first of Rita’s new monsters and she sends it to eradicate all six Rangers and Zordon. I have no real preference as to whether one of the many monsters from the show are used or if it’s something completely original. There could also be more than one to raise the stakes. The only specifics I would give are that whatever the monster(s) is, it should be more menacing than the tongue-in-cheek ones from the show and I would use no more than three, if there is to be more than one featured.
Now that all six Rangers are united, their Zords work together to fight the monster(s). There are several options as to how this could play out. The Dragonzord could merge with the other Zords into one of the configurations from the series; The Dragon and Megazords could fight side by side; or, if you really want to cram the Zords in, Titanus and the Ultrazord could be introduced for the battle’s climax.
Whatever way it plays out, the Power Rangers destroy Rita’s monster(s), winning their first major victory against the forces of evil. After the battle they return to the command centre, where, with Zordon’s approval, Tommy accepts Jason’s invitation to become a permanent part of the team. The six Rangers are now united and have accepted their calling as defenders of Earth.
In an epilogue, our six heroes have returned to the youth centre where everyone is talking about the attack on Angel Grove and wondering who the mysterious saviours of the city are. Bulk and Skull resolve to uncover their identities.
Meanwhile, at Rita’s base of operations on the moon she is vowing revenge when she’s interrupted by a holographic (?) transmission from Lord Zedd, announcing that he is aware she is back and enraged by her defeat. He has returned to personally take charge of the fight against Zordon and his Power Rangers. The camera pans out to show a huge shadow descending upon the lunar landscape, revealed to be caused by Zedd’s colossal Zord, Serpentera, flying towards the base. The end. Whether Zedd’s return is a post-credits tag or not is optional, but it might have more of an impact if it isn’t.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume there’s going to be a trilogy of movies. Working with that assumption, I’m going to investigate loosely adapting “The Mutiny”, “The Green Candle” and “Green No More” for part two. The former was the three part story that introduced Lord Zedd to the TV show, while the latter stories saw the Green Ranger lose his powers for the first and final times, respectively.
Zedd’s creations and methods would present a much greater threat to Zordon and the Rangers. An early confrontation between the Rangers and Zedd’s forces could result in heavy damage to the Zords and the need for the Rangers to retreat. Zedd is also outraged upon his return that Rita herself is responsible for the creation of one of the Rangers. However, because Rita created the Green Ranger, she also possesses the means of destroying him, appeasing Zedd in the process. She has a way to drain the Green Ranger’s powers. Elements of “Green No More” could be fused with elements of “The Green Candle” here.
Rita’s method of destroying the Green Ranger powers means that every time Tommy morphs, his powers drain further. When Zordon learns of this, he recommends that Tommy refrain from using his powers until they can get a handle on the situation. Tommy is left with no choice though when he’s abducted by Goldar and brought to Zedd’s dark dimension – based on the realm in which Rita kept the Green Candle in the series. The idea is that Goldar will engage Tommy in combat, forcing him to use and deplete his powers.
Billy and Alpha eventually find a way to infiltrate the dark dimension, but at the same time Zedd unleashes more of his monsters on Angel Grove. Jason orders the other four Rangers to take their Zords and attempt to hold off Zedd’s forces while he rescues Tommy. Together Jason and Tommy subdue Goldar and escape back to the command centre, but Tommy’s powers have been weakened to the point of failing. As Jason leaves to join Kimberly, Zack, Billy and Trini in the fight, Tommy is forced to stay behind in the command centre.
Once again, Zedd’s superior forces overwhelm the Megazord and Tommy insists on joining the battle despite warnings from Zordon that his powers may fail him at any time. The Dragonzord and the heavily damaged Megazord are able to save Angel Grove, but in the process the Green Ranger’s powers are destroyed and the Dinozords are damaged beyond repair.
While the Rangers have managed to beat back Zedd’s forces for the time being, they’ve lost their Zords and one of their own in the process. The movie ends with Zordon telling Alpha that in order to defeat Zedd, they must harness the power of thunder. Add to that a post-credits scene in which Zordon and Alpha are in a lab in the command centre drawing up blueprints for a new Ranger; a White Ranger.
As well as the main narrative of the fight against Zedd, there are some smaller subplots that I’d maintain throughout part two. The comic relief would come in the form of Bulk and Skull’s continued quest to uncover the identity of the Rangers. The romance between Tommy and Kimberly would also be built upon. As with the end of “The Green Candle Part 2”, Kimberly comforts Tommy after losing his powers and they finally end up a couple.
At the beginning of part three, the Rangers are concerned because Zordon and Alpha have gone AWOL and the threat of Lord Zedd and Rita still looms. Billy goes to the command centre to investigate and accidentally discovers that Zordon and Alpha are creating a new Ranger. Before he can investigate further, he’s called to action by Jason.
Zedd, uncertain of what other defences Zordon may have, plays it safe after defeating the Dinozords and sends squadrons of his putties to Earth as a test. When only the five Rangers themselves show up, Zedd is satisfied that Zordon has no unexpected surprises up his sleeve.
When Billy informs the Rangers of his discovery in the command centre, they’re surprised, with Kimberly citing how unfair it is that Tommy is being replaced. They’re then summoned before Zordon, who apologises for his absence and reveals that he and Alpha have been working hard to create new and improved defences against Zedd. The White Ranger is unveiled and everyone is ecstatic when it turns out to be Tommy. That’s not all though, Zordon and Alpha also have a new Zord armada for the Rangers to fight with – the Thunderzords.
Believing the Rangers to be Zordless, Zedd sends more of his forces to attack Earth and is surprised when they are met and defeated by the Thunderzords. For the final act then, Zedd decides to descend upon Earth himself in Serpentera to defeat Zordon and the Rangers personally and lay siege to the planet.
While the original five Rangers attempt to hold Serpentera off with the Thunder Megazord, Tommy finds himself in a final one on one confrontation with Goldar, who he finally defeats and kills once and for all. The issue of killing may have been taboo on the TV show due to its target audience, but I don’t think it should be a problem for a big screen adaptation that takes itself more seriously.
Following Goldar’s defeat, Tommy and the Tigerzord join the battle against Serpentera. Given the scale of the threat, if you want to keep things as realistic as possible, the military could also be involved. But the Power Rangers would be the only ones capable of saving the day, ultimately destroying Zedd and Serpentera. Zedd could either meet his demise along with his Zord or by taking the Rangers on in combat personally following Sepentera’s fall. Either way, the Rangers would manage to take him down permanently by working together to overpower him.
This leaves the Rangers to do clean up duties. With Zedd and Goldar gone, they are able to recapture Rita and return her to her prison. But before doing so, they’re able to make Rita finally free Zordon from the time warp in which she imprisoned him eons ago. The trilogy ends with Zordon returning to his homeworld of Eltar, promising to return if needed. He could either relieve the Rangers of their powers or they could keep them lest evil rear its ugly head again some day.
Leaving Rita alive also presents two possibilities. The first is that the third part really is the end and the audience is given closure with Zedd dead and Rita under eternal lockdown. But in this day and age, studios are all about sequels if movies bring in the big bucks so they might wish to progress beyond three movies. The second possibility presented by Rita’s fate then is as a link to a fourth movie in which her family take over as the new villains of the series; specifically her father, Master Vile, and brother, Rito Revolto, both of whom were introduced in the third and final Mighty Morphin’ season. Rito even destroyed the Thunderzords, paving the way for the Ninja and Shogun Zords so there’s plenty of material there to play around with. For this article though, I’m only going to work with plot ideas for three films.
Let’s finish by looking at some other important aspects of a Power Rangers reboot besides the plot. A big question is what sort of tone the movie should have. I’m sure we all remember that the TV show never took itself too seriously. Most of the time the villains were comedic and moronic rather than serious and threatening. One would expect this not to be the case in the reboot if it hopes to hold its own against the rest of today’s popular superhero movies.
The reboot should be as serious and realistic as possible within the framework of its own fictional universe. That being said, it should not be dark and gritty. It can take itself seriously and still be fun. The best examples for it to follow tone wise are probably movies like The Avengers and those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.
As I mentioned, there is scope for some comic relief characters, such as Bulk and Skull or even Squatt and Baboo. Maintain their essence from the series, however do not make them as over the top ridiculous as their original incarnations. Rita herself was also something of a comedic character in the show. Even Zedd became more bumbling as time went by. While Rita doesn’t have to be as serious as Zedd, I think these two should be a lot more menacing and sinister in a big screen reboot. Both characters have the potential to be great cinematic villains, it’d be a shame to mess that up.
As for the Rangers themselves, they should definitely be kept true to who they were on the show. Jason needs to be noble, disciplined and believable as a true leader. Tommy had similar virtues to Jason – the reason he was chosen as Rita’s Ranger – but he also needs to be humble. I’d have no interest in seeing any kind of rivalry for leadership between him and Jason. They should be friends. Kimberly should have the same outgoing personality and kind-hearted nature she had on the show. Zack was probably the most fun and laid back of the original team. Billy can still be the smart one but not as much of a nerdy stereotype as he was at the beginning. It would be better to draw inspiration from what his character became in later episodes; a genius but not a geek. And there was a certain sense of wisdom and spirituality to Trini that I’d like to see maintained in a reboot.
In terms of the Rangers’ costumes, an updated look is fine but I’d like them to retain characteristics of the series versions. A perfect source to draw inspiration from would actually be the first film. Those costumes still hold up fairly well in my opinion. Finally – in relation to the soundtrack – who doesn’t want to hear “Go, Go Powers Rangers!” make a comeback?!
How this announced reboot will actually play out is anyone’s guess for the time being. But as a big Power Rangers fan in the mid-nineties, I figured it’d be fun to share some thoughts and ideas about how it could unfold. Agree with me? Disagree? Ideas of your own? Feel free to leave feedback. And may the power protect you!
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