Saban’s Power Rangers Reboot: What Went Wrong?
There’s a new Power Rangers reboot on the way. But before that arrives, we take a look at what went wrong with Saban’s Power Rangers reboot from 2017. The huge worldwide franchise of Power Rangers from the ’90s attempted a comeback a few years ago. But with very poor commercial results, and a mixed critical reception, it was pretty dead on arrival.
How Saban’s Power Rangers Rebooted The Original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
Haim Saban produced the original mighty franchise of Saban’s Power Rangers. The show and all its subsequent sequels aired on Fox Kids, which Disney owned at one point. The franchise featured teenagers from a small town, with various backgrounds, transforming into superheroes to save the world.
Image via Saban Entertainment.
The franchise saw many iterations of sequels, reboots, comic books, animated adventures, video games and much more. It was a multimedia franchise phenomenon. However, the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, were still the most beloved version of the show. So original creator Haim Saban teamed up with Lionsgate to reboot that series with new actors and a new story for 2017.
The New Approach To Doing A Power Rangers Reboot
The Power Rangers reboot was always going to be tricky. The 90’s series based itself on campy elements and was incredibly simplistic for its time. The show was for younger audiences at a time when superhero stories were not at all for adults or the entire family in general.
Image via Saban Entertainment.
So a new Power Rangers reboot had to do something different. While still staying true to the wonder and bright energetic vibe of the original series. While at the same time, it needed to amp up the action and story elements to appeal to a generation that’s experienced a wide variety of superhero content for the last few decades since the original Power Rangers. To a certain extent, the 2017 Power Rangers achieved only some of these aspects. However, it wasn’t enough.
Saban’s Power Rangers Came Together With An Impressive Cast
In order to reboot the classic Power Rangers, the new movie put together an interesting cast of new Rangers. The leader of the Rangers, the Red Ranger was Dacre Montgomery, who would go on to be a recurring character in Stranger Things Seasons 2 and 3. Accompanying him was the Pink Ranger, Naomi Scott who also went on to bigger things like the live-action Aladdin and Charlie’s Angels reboot. RJ Cyler was cast as the Blue Ranger, this time depicted as being on the Autism spectrum. Ludi Lin, who will be in Liu Kang in the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot, was cast the fiesty Black Ranger. Rounding out the cast was singer Becky G as the Yellow Ranger.
Image via Saban Brands.
The young and fresh-faced cast had support from A-list talent in the supporting roles. Pitch Perfect’s Elizabeth Banks played the villain Rita Repulsa. With Bryan Cranston being the Ranger’s wise guardian, Zordon. Even Bill Hader joined the film as comic relief and the Rangers fast-talking robot sidekick. But despite the cast, the film was neither a commercial nor a critical success.
What Exactly Went Wrong With This Rebooted Power Rangers
There’s a lot of debate about what went wrong with the new Saban’s Power Rangers reboot. Personally, as someone who enjoyed the movie overall, even I can’t deny the issues with this new version of the Rangers. And while there can be a lot of blame shifted around, there were very specific things that isolated fans of the franchise, as well as failed to resonate with new audiences.
Key Changes To The Story
One key aspect of the Saban’s Power Rangers franchise was the way in which the the heroes got their powers. The teenagers chosen had to have ‘attitude’. Which meant they had to be brave, kind and having good moral values. It’s a deviation from the usual trope of someone getting powers, either accidentally or through chance, and having to become worthy of them. The Power Rangers were already youth that exemplified qualities inherent of a superhero, which made them deserving of their powers in the first place.
The franchise implied that every generation of Rangers imbibed these qualities, essentially making them worthy. This was important. Because it allowed different avenues of storytelling when the heroes were sort of already heroes. How they maintained, struggled and remained heroes in the face of adversity is what made Power Rangers special.
Image via Saban Brands.
Saban’s Power Rangers sort of took away that reasoning and adhered to the trope of the heroes accidentally discovering magical things that gave them powers. The movie then unfolded like the typical origin story. Fun montage of the kids realizing they could do cool things. The typical training montage. The not yet realizing they’re full-on heroes until they suffer a personal loss that unites the team. And other cliches that, while enjoyable, homogenized the story into just another superhero movie, instead of what the original stood out for. And audiences of today had already had much better versions of that story.
Differing Tones That Drove Wildly Different Performances
One of the biggest criticism against Saban’s Power Rangers is its vast array of tonal shifts in story and structure throughout the film. The movie would easily flip flop between being a gritty and brooding action movie, to a silly and fun teen movie. Some story beats made it seem like a low-budget indie film, while other elements displayed its commercial blockbuster potential.
It also didn’t help that some of the performances were also all over the map. Elizabeth Banks’ main villain in Rita Repulsa seemed to be in a completely different movie than the rest of the cast. It was less that she was chewing the scenery, but more that she created an extravagant feast of it. Bryan Cranston’s disembodied voice also felt odd, especially when his character was initially revealed to have ulterior motives for helping the Rangers. Which destroyed the wise-mentor trope that Zordon always was in the original franchise.
Image via Saban Brands
Bill Hader was in his own comedy special as the zany robot Alpha-5. And while his humor was exactly what you expect from Bill Hader, it felt out of place and odd in a movie with as widely different tones as mentioned above.
Saban’s Power Rangers Commits The Ultimate Third Act Sin
The biggest failure, in my opinion, of Saban’s Power Rangers is its third act and climactic battle sequence. With CGI and Visual Effects becoming the norm for a fun film experience, how it’s utilize still matters. Despite the Marvel Cinematic Univers’e use of massive visual effects, the core story is always auto the characters. So the worst thing a movie can do is have the climax be entirely reliant on CGI. Entirely. Thereby undercutting all the character development and emotional connection to the story that they spent building up during the rest of the movie.
Image via Saban Brands.
And Saban’s Power Rangers does just that. The third act climax sees the Rangers call upon their Zords, combine them into the mighty Megazord, to take on Rita’s evil, all gold monster, Goldar. It’s a CGI robot fighting a CGI monster, while the Rangers react every now and then sitting somewhere else entirely. Director Dean Israelite tried to mix it up by having some Rangers protecting the townspeople, and other such moments, but it doesn’t work.
The audience completely feels removed from any of the stakes. The end result feels less than earned. Especially when the only connectivity that sequence had to the rest of the film, was a goofy inside joke from earlier in the movie. Nothing else.
No More Sequel. Another Reboot Instead.
This poor commercial and critical performance by Saban’s Power Rangers reboot dashed any hopes of a sequel. Although, the makers were planning one as recently as 2018. However, a more recent announcement confirmed that Haim Saban has sold the rights to the toymaker Hasbro. And Hasbro will be teaming up with Paramount to create a new franchise.
So while Saban’s Power Rangers failed to live up to anyone’s expectations, another reboot will be coming to try to bring back the Power Rangers franchise for a new generation. One that involves time travel and could pay homage to its 90’s predecessor.
Stayed tuned to Comic Years for more Power Rangers news as it breaks.
What did you love or hate about the most recent Power Rangers reboot? Let us know in the comments below.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.