Power Rangers: Getting Nostalgia Wrong

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When I was growing up the three pieces of media that most influenced my life were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, and the Power Rangers. Had I grown up in a more gender-understanding time, My Little Pony would likely also be part of that mix, but as it stands I wasn’t allowed to like that one. We live in a world now where the name of the game is nostalgia. All forms of media, especially movies, cost so damn much to make now that having your project bomb can be devastating to the studio producing it. Because of that, studios are betting their money on nostalgia properties from the time older generations were kids since they already have built-in fan bases with disposable income from which to gauge a reasonable expectation of viewership. Sometimes this gives us great things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the return of Star Wars. Other times it makes god-awful shit like the latest crop of DC superhero movies and anything Michael Bay has touched that involved a licensed property.

If you look at all the things that failed over the years to win the hearts of those nostalgic for their original forms, they tend to follow a similar patterns in their mistakes; mostly that they focus too heavily on the visual aesthetic of bringing the old property to a modern age while pretty much ignoring the particular heart and soul of the original that the fans fell in love with. For a great example, the Transformers themselves in Bay’s movies are an amazing spectacle of CGI achievement. I mean, who among us in our youths would have ever dreamed of the Transformers looking that cool? But the films fell flat because the kept the Transformers as background noise so they could focus on Shia Labeouf’s quest to get in Meghan Fox’s pants. Just making our old stuff look new isn’t going to cut it, and I fear we’re in for more of the same with the Power Rangers movie.

After I watched the first trailer for this movie, I was left feeling more aggravated than anything else. I remember tweeting at the time, “Is this a movie about the kids from the Breakfast Club getting super powers?”. Nothing about what I was seeing felt like a Power Ranger’s movie. With the new trailer, I was hoping the inclusion of the suits and Zords in motion would help to amp my excitement. And yea, they looked cool and all, but I still wasn’t feeling it. I took some time after that to ponder on what was bothering me so much. What was it about this that was turning me off? It wasn’t the designs. I think the new suits look awesome, the redesign of Rita is really interesting, and Zordon looks cool as hell! Everything looks great! Well…not everything. I have no idea what the fuck that little metallic abomination was, but it wasn’t Alpha Five.

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Seriously, what the fuck is this?!

Visually, I’m pretty much on board. Much like the Transformers, seeing a modern re-imagining of my beloved Rangers and their kick-ass Zords is exciting. So why can I tell I’m in for disappointment just from seeing the trailer? Well…I think I finally figured it out.

Watch the trailer again and think about the original Rangers versus what you see. At one point one of them says “we’re all screw ups”. There was a reason I got a Breakfast Club vibe the first time I saw this: because they all seem to either always be in trouble or struggling to get their lives together. The Rangers I remember were confident and capable. They did well in school, they were model kids, they volunteered, helped their classmates, taught karate, and even showed empathy to Bulk and Skull-the school bullies. They weren’t trying to put their lives together, they were so capable they’d moved on to trying to help others achieve the same!

This issue cascades into the next problem. Towards the end of the trailer, Zordon says that the Rangers, “were born for this.” Um…no? The Power Rangers were not destined to become what they were. In fact, when Rita was freed and the Rangers were needed, Zordon called on Alpha to find some kids to take up the mantle. Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Zac, and Trini weren’t destined to be the Rangers or any of that Joseph Campbell heroes journey bullshit. They were selected because they were the perfect fit for the job.

Every time I re-watch this trailer, the wrongness becomes more apparent. They suddenly wake up with super powers? The Rangers didn’t have super strength. Hell, Billy had to learn martial arts from Jason and Zack after he become the Blue Ranger because the Puddy Patrol kept kicking his ass! All Zordon gave them was the suits, the weapons, and the Zords. The strength and talent were all their own. This is just another played-out version of ordinary kids get powers and then have to use them in order to defeat the big baddie.

This might all seem like fan-girl whining about it not being a perfect remake, but I think it goes way deeper than that. One of the reason people hold onto nostalgia so much isn’t just because of what we saw and heard, but what those things taught us. It’s about how the show, movie, etc. influenced us, changed us as people. We have piles of stories where ordinary people get some great power thrust upon them because of destiny or whatever and now everything is awesome. Power Rangers had a different lesson. The Rangers taught me that greatness is earned, that callings aren’t pre-ordained. The Rangers didn’t become heroes because they got colorful suits and giant robots. They got colorful suits and giant robots because the were already heroes and were ready to display that heroism on a larger scale. There was a need for heroes to battle a great evil and the best candidates for the job were given it.

To me at least, that’s what this reboot is missing. That’s the soul of the thing that’s been lost in translation. Remember, Power Rangers is still a thing! There are kids getting new episodes of this now! These are impressionable minds that will likely also want to see this movie. Where’s their lesson about striving to achieve rather than waiting for destiny to take hold? Where are their roll models for hard work, charity, friendship, forgiveness, perseverance, and good character? Where are the Rangers that earned the opportunity to power the mighty Megazord?

We don’t need more bland, paint-by-numbers, cookie-cutter, unoriginal, and uninspired rehashing of the same old stories but with a familiar logo slapped over it. If you want to bring back our old heroes, bring back the lessons they taught. Bring back the essence of what made them so important to us. When I see Power Rangers, I want to be reminded that nothing is earned without hard work and determination. If I wanted to see someone be thrust into a position of power they’re neither worthy of or ready for, I’ll just watch our new President.

-Faith

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