Movies & TV / Columns

411 Comics Showcase – Power Rangers

January 21, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

I’m going slightly outside my wheelhouse today, but comic books aren’t the only medium for superheroes. As a child of the 1990’s, my introduction to the genre was through kids television. Remind me to write about the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons sometime. But one of the most prominent superhero shows was not a cartoon; Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. And why is that on my mind?

Yeah. That looks better than it has any right to be. Power Rangers has been something I’ve been quietly anticipating for a couple of years, just hoping that it could be entertaining enough to be worth my $7 matinee ticket. But, while some people have been apprehensive, I’ve enjoyed pretty much every new bit of promotional material that’s come out. I like the look of the ranger suits and the zords, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks seem great in their roles. Most importantly, this seems to be the perfect mix of goofy fun that makes the show charming, and the more serious edge that’s going to help it transition into being a movie. I’m happy.

One reason I haven’t said much about it or my excitement is because I realize that being even a casual fan of Power Rangers is not the trendy thing among adults. After all, the show has never really approached something that anyone would call “good”. And really, I haven’t watched anything since Lost Galaxy was airing for the first time. My appreciation for the franchise mostly comes from watching Linkara’s “History of Power Rangers” video series, where he does comprehensive reviews of every season and explores the themes. So the appreciation is mostly academic.

The basic concept of Power Rangers (all seasons) is an easy sell; a team of super-powered teenagers with colorful outfits team up to defend the world from villains who make giant monsters. They use giant robots to fight the monsters. Good times. Essentially, it’s combining standard superhero team up tropes with the giant fighting robot genre. There’s similarities to the X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gundam, Transformers, Sailor Moon, and most notably Voltron (which also made a comeback in a big way last year). It’s a proven formula and plenty of kids were going to find themselves drawn to the combination of colorful costumes, martial arts, and giant robots fighting giant monsters. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the concept, and have always believed that if somebody cared enough, Power Rangers could be good.

They’ve never seemed to manage this, unfortunately. They do try, though; if you look at each season, most of them have something that stands out. One might have slightly more complex characters, one might have an interesting story to tell, one might have competent acting. Sometimes the martial arts are above average, or the villain works well, or the zords are more creative than usual. The problem is that no season has everything working at the same time. The original and best known version had the coolest costumes and robots, a few good villains, and one really good storyline with Tommy the Green Ranger. Unfortunately, it also had extremely bland, one dimensional characters and some truly awful writing that makes it nigh unwatchable to anyone over the age of ten. Teenagers with attitude? Please.

But the pieces are there. Giant robots fighting giant monsters? Pacific Rim is one of the best blockbusters in recent memory and has the same premise. Martial arts? It’s a perfect excuse for great fight choreography. And five high school kids with attitude? John Hughes made a slew of classics about high school drama. Imagine if the kids from The Breakfast Club had to become The Avengers. That’s the basic premise, and you can’t tell me that wouldn’t be entertaining. Obviously, it could still suck, but even if it just reaches “passable”, it’ll be the best version of this we could hope for.

And then maybe we can get this guy in the sequel.

That’s it for this week. One more column go for January, and then I’ve got a big series set for February; The Top 52 Marvel Super Heroes! Why 52? Because I got cute with DC and I’m nothing if not fair.

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Michael Ornelas and I write weekly on 411, taking turns introducing each other to films the other hasn’t seen. Last week, Michael introduced me to a rapping politician in Bulworth. This week, one of the best movies of all time is tackled when we get in the ring with Raging Bull.

What’s your opinion on the Power Rangers movie? Do you have any fond memories of the TV show?