When the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers debuted on American shores in 1993 parents were left scratching their heads while their children were enchanted. By taking footage from a Japanese kids’ show and overlaying it with newly filmed American footage the Power Rangers created a legacy that endures, in several permutations, to this day. Twenty years have passed since the last Power Rangers film hit theaters, and this week Hollywood hopes to revive the franchise with another group of fresh-faced youngsters donning the suits to fight the villainous Rita Repulsa (played here by Elizabeth Banks).
Remaining relatively unchanged for the last 24 years, Power Rangers follows a group of teenagers living in the town of Angel Grove. The group is imbued with mysterious powers by an entity named Zordon (played in the new film by Bryan Cranston) and tasked with defending the world – or more specifically Angel Grove – from a host of baddies sent down by Rita.
Unfortunately the trailer doesn’t inspire much confidence. The “everything old is new again” conceit the franchise trods on starts with a stripped down cover of Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” sung by Halsey. The song’s gritty, haunted feel is mimicked in the Breakfast Club-esque presentation of five very different teens who spend their days in detention while grappling with issues surrounding family and friends. The grim dark aesthetic of the DC universe is on high alert with a general blue sheen and cool tones of the scenes. Reminiscent of other superhero trailers, over half of the preview is devoted to the kids discovering their powers, with a cursory appearance by Banks’ Rita and a hint of the group actually “morphin’” into their suits. What doesn’t look cheesy ends up being confusing. Who is this movie made for? Fans of the original – if so there isn’t much reverence on display in the trailer – or newcomers, who will be confused as to what the movie is about?
Where Power Rangers hopes to come into the 21st-century is through its representation of Latina and queer superheroes. Though 23% of Latinos purchase tickets to movies, they make up less than 5% of superheroes in the Marvel and DC universe, and none have actually played a Latino superhero on the big screen. Actors like Zoe Saldaña (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Oscar Isaac (X-Men: Apocalypse) are slathered in CGI makeup effects in their respective films, while others like Jay Hernandez (Suicide Squad) and Michael Peña (Ant-Man) aren’t given enough story time to leave a lasting impression; in Peña’s case he’s little more than a quirky sidekick. Both the DC and Marvel universes have a wealth of Latinx superheroes and villains worth considering for their features.
A Huffington Post article recently came out to reveal that this movie’s Yellow Ranger, Trini (played by YouTube star and singer Becky G) marks the first queer superhero on the silver screen. The major comic outlets have delved into the waters of lesbian characters before, according to Katie Kilkenny in an article for Pacific Standard. Batman’s Renee Montoya may mark the first Latina lesbian character in a comic. However Hollywood hasn’t followed suit with progress in their filmed depictions. Regardless, here’s hoping Power Rangers doesn’t use Trini’s sexuality as a throwaway line or moment a la Beauty and the Beast, but actually integrates it within the narrative.
Power Rangers arrives in theaters on March 24, 2017.