Originally published 7:00 PM EDT, APRIL 15, 2017
It has been a few weeks since Saban’s Power Rangers blew us away in theaters. But how does the new reboot compare to the pilot episode that started it all?
The Power Rangers is an incredibly successful merchandising franchise about intergalactic superheroes that recall ancient dinosaurs as a source for their powers. It all started 24 years ago with the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series. Since its inception, the franchise has spawned 24 seasons and now three feature length films.
The 2017 film reboots the series following the teenagers who eventually become Power Rangers. These characters share the same names as the teens first chosen to be the Rangers at the beginning of the show. However, that’s about where the similarities between the source content and the new movie both begin and end. (Spoilers ahead.)
It all starts with a galactic prison very conveniently placed on Earth’s moon. Due to its putrid smell, this aptly nicknamed ‘space dumpster’ is accidentally opened by two passing astronauts. This frees Rita Repusla and her minions from their ten thousand year captivity. The evil space sorceress decides that as a way to celebrate her freedom, she will destroy the closest planet in proximity. Planet Earth. This scheme creates the inciting incident that leads Zordon to select five bold teenagers to become the Power Rangers.
Already, you can begin to see how different this is from the movie that we saw open in theaters just last month. In Saban’s Power Rangers, Zordon, the former red Power Ranger, is fighting to protect the Zeo Crystal that is hidden inside a prehistoric planet Earth. It is this crystal that sustains all life on our little green planet. Rita, the former green Power Ranger has gone rogue. She wants to use this power for her own nefarious purposes. In order to protect the planet, Zordon sacrificed himself to protect the crystal by striking the planet with a meteor. This sent Rita to the bottom of the sea, and buried the source to their powers, the Power Coins, deep in the earth.
There is further deviation seen in the specifics of why Rita has targeted earth. In the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers franchise the Zeo Crystal isn’t introduced until Power Rangers Zeo. Its essence remains the same, a crystal with immense power, however the television series it is hidden on Earth’s moon. (Which is starting not to look like the best place to keep things locked away.) Furthermore, neither Rita nor Zordon are former Power Rangers in the original series. Zordon describes himself very vaguely as “an interdimensional being caught in a time warp” in “The Day of the Dumpster.”
Meanwhile Rita is simply a humanoid sorceress bent on intergalactic destruction. The decision to tie these two characters together through a former alliance created a depth and motivation in the new film that the original series seriously lacked.
This rings even truer for the Rangers themselves. The five teens who take on the mantle of superheroes are some of the most similar yet also contrasting aspects between the original television series and the new film. Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack, and Trini. Their Ranger color remains the same, as well as the Zord which they can use in battle. In the TV show they are all friends, they meet up often at Angel Grove Gym and Juice Bar. It is clear from the beginning that Kimberly is a gymnast, and Jason is a karate teacher. Zack is a dancer, and a more technically inclined Billy is looking to hone in to his physical side. Their reasons for being chosen as the Power Rangers seem just as random as in the new film, yet somehow even more disconnected.
In the 2017 adaptation, the new Rangers are all misfits. An All star who has made one too many mistakes. A cheerleader who fell victim to her own “mean girl” stereotype and hurt others. An outcast, trying to take care of his sick mother. A young boy, incredibly bright and loving, with a touch of Autism. Lastly, the new girl, misunderstood, afraid, finding herself struggling with her own LGBTQ+ identity. It is their distance from each other initially that brings them even closer when the time is right. Because unlike the TV show, for them, morphing isn’t as easy as calling the name of their dinosaur on their Power Morpher. Morphing is done as a team, through connection and trust. In the end, it is revealed that they key to morphing is readiness to put your fellow Rangers’ life before your own.
Both the new film and the 1993 television series handle the Ranger’s reaction to their attaining of powers similarly. It would have been incredibly easy for the original series to skim around the subject and have the Rangers take up the mantel of responsibility without any sweat. It was a kid show in the ’90s. No one was expecting Emmy-worthy writing. However, just as in the new film, these teens struggle with the reality that Zordon is presenting them with. It isn’t until the Rangers are attacked by Rita’s Putty Patrollers that they accept the truth and call the name of their beasts. While it may be a bit more of a growing experience in the new film, the essence of their struggle is the same.
This just goes to show, no matter how bad any normal teenager would love to be a superhero, you need more than just being handed your very own Iron Man suit to believe it’s actually happening to you.
Despite differences between the film and TV show, the mission at the end of the day was the same. Protect planet Earth and defeat Rita. In the TV show, Rita is a bit less hands-on than in the film. She sends one of her minions, Goldar, a blue beast with golden armor to fight the Megazord on her behalf. When he fails, he flees the fight and Rita vows to destroy earth at a later date. Power Rangers, again, takes inspiration from the episode, but makes it more three-dimensional. Rita throws herself into the fight, and later on, into Goldar himself. In the film, Goldar isn’t a sentiment creature. He is literally made of gold collected by Rita. She uses her powers to control him in order to collect the Zeo Crystal, buried in the earth. When worse comes to worse, he is used as a sort of Zord for Rita herself so she can fight against the Rangers.
At the end of the battle, Angel Grove is in ruins and Rita is defeated, unable to return to fight another day. This causes further deviation from the TV show where Rita remains a main antagonist for seasons to come. Specifically in season one where we see the creation of the green Ranger through Tommy Oliver. Rita Repulsa manipulates this teen using her magic as a last attempt to defeat the Power Rangers. The existence of Tommy Oliver was introduced during the credits of the Power Rangers. However, how this character ties in is yet to be revealed. An evil green Ranger seems likely if the studio plans to continue to use the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers for inspiration. But with Rita’s demise it seems his motivation for destruction would need to come from elsewhere.
Overall, the new Power Rangers film stays true to the heart of what the original television series was all about. Saving the world, teamwork, cool battle scenes, semi-cheesy dialogue, and all out fun. It should be noted that this is the first out of six planned films by Lionsgate. With 24 seasons of content to draw inspiration from there is a thousand places that the Power Rangers could go next. Furthermore, with a two-hour runtime there is much more room to expand and explore. Future films may look more at Ranger mythology, character development, and the more progressive elements of the reboot such as multiculturalism, sexuality, and mental health.
However, no one should expect too much deviation from source material. For me, I’m hoping to see much more of Bulk and Skull than just a mentioning.