Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What the Gritty Power/Rangers Film Can Teach Us

Yesterday morning, I sat down at my desk to put up the daily Ace of Geeks article, and turned on my Facebook to publish it. I was immediately inundated by friends sharing, discussing, and telling me that I absolutely needed to see the Power Rangers fanfilm that had just broke the internet in half. As a major Power Rangers fan, I was pretty excited to check it out. And I did. And I....liked it? There's a lot to say about this particular piece of viral content, and in order for me to do so, you're going to need some background.

First, if you haven't seen the film, this article will definitely spoil the whole thing for you. So go and check it out right now:

Second, and maybe more importantly, go read this really important piece my buddy Eric wrote for Geekscape. It gives you the director and the producer's mindsets behind making this particular fan film, and what follows requires that knowledge.

We all caught up? Ok, here we go.

The central idea behind this film is that it exists to parody the trend, for the last ten to fifteen years, of rebooting children's properties in a dark and gritty way. While this can occasionally be done really well (the Christopher Nolan Batman films spring to mind), it usually leads to things like the Michael Bay Transformers movies - films that no one seems to like, but everyone goes to see anyway. The film sets out to satire what a terrible adaptation of a Power Rangers film would be like. Unfortunately, there are two major problems with this:

The first is what I like to call "Everything is Awesome" syndrome. When writing the theme song for The Lego Movie, Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island set out to create a song that would be a parody of the saccharine pop songs that are often the centerpieces of the worst animated films. The problem is, instead of creating an over the top parody of that type of song, they ended up creating just another example of it. Power/Rangers falls into the same trap. The film is attempting to create a parody of a poorly researched, over the top, super grimdark parody and it does it too well.

Let's take a look:

  1. The film casts a struggling actor who was famous for something in the 90s as a lead (James Van Der Beek), but casts a "dream" fan-favorite actress to soften the blow. (Katie Sackoff)
  2. Beloved and well known characters from the franchise are thrown under the metaphorical bus. (Bulk and Skull become Meth-Heads and murder a ranger)
  3. References to the series are thrown in seemingly at random in the hopes of pleasing the fans watching. (The Machine Empire, Tommy's past, Scorpina and Divatox). Of course, these are done artlessly, and will actually increase fan ire.
  4. A series which consists mostly of people in costumes with their faces covered is adapted as a series in which people remove their helmets at every opportunity.
That's just some of the examples. Again, these are meant to be parodies, but they're done so spot on that the typical viewer, without the background that Eric provided us above, would have no way of knowing that. Except for the Hip-Hip-Kido gag, there's no tongue in cheek to this at all. Instead of winking at the audience, it hides itself behind a veneer of sincerity and expects you to figure it out. That's not a parody, that's just making a gritty reboot, throwing your hands in the air and saying "None of you understand me!"

The second problem unfolds from the first. If you were in any of the comment sections of sites that ran this video yesterday, you know one thing was a common thread. Comment after comment of viewers saying "Yes! Yes! This is what a Power Rangers movie should be like!"

That's terrifying. It reminds me of an old comic.

Why do we, as grown up fans, do this? It's a common problem - look at fans of any "kids property" from superheroes to My Little Pony, and you'll find this common theme. Fans who've grown up with the property are older now, and they want to see their favorite heroes in stories that are aimed at their age group. But so often we confuse "mature" with "NC-17."

Want a mature adaptation of a property that was once considered just for kids? Take a look at the first Iron Man film. Great action, developed characters, real consequences, and a classic story with new added gravitas. That's not what this Power Rangers fanfilm gives us. A film based on this would be based on the very barest bones of the actually-very-extensive Ranger mythos, with no gravitas whatsoever. In exchange, we get what? Blood? Swear words? If you're a fan of Power Rangers, or hell, if you're a fan of good movies, don't pray for a "mature" story. Pray for a good story. It can be done - writers on the show itself have done it with a tiny budget and poorly trained actors before, so there's no reason to believe that someone with the budget and connections of a studio like Lionsgate can't.

But this shouldn't be it. It's a fun way to spend fifteen minutes. But an official Power Rangers film, out in major cinemas? Nah - that'd be a waste of everyone's time and money.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief of the Ace of Geeks, and one of the hosts of its weekly podcast. He's had drinks with the original Red Ranger.

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1 comment:

  1. What do you mean, what do we get?? We get Katee Sackhoff!