After many years of hoping and finger-crossing, the adult fans of the Power Rangers franchise were rewarded in March of 2017. Saban’s Power Rangers released officially on March 24th 2017 in theaters across the United States. The movie’s initial trailer had seen massive interest and massive views and it resulted in a higher-than-expected opening weekend coming in at roughly $40 million dollars.
Unfortunately for the 2017 movie that’s where the good news stopped.
The second weekend saw a 63% drop-off in ticket sales resulting in only $18 million additional dollars and, in the United States, the movie was officially dead on arrival. To make matters worse the international audience voted strongly with their wallets that they didn’t care for Power Rangers. Specifically the market in China, where producers had hoped the casting of Ludi Lin, a Chinese-Canadian actor and model, would help boost ticket sales. In short – it didn’t, and Power Rangers limped to a grand total of $4.2 million dollars in China.
The production budget of the 2017 Power Rangers movie reportedly was roughly $105 million dollars. The grand total worldwide gross was $142 million dollars. Add in costs of marketing (which are not reported but estimated around $20 million) and you’re looking at a breakeven return for producers and the studio Lionsgate.
There are numerous reasons why the Power Rangers movie was seen as a failure to executives and movie critics. The optimists in the room will tell you that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast movie killed the Power Rangers movie before it even had a chance to breathe (it released the same time as Power Rangers). The pessimists will remind you that Boss Baby also dethroned Power Rangers in its second week – and they’re right. And the movie critics will paint a picture that in a world full of Marvel and DC superheroes there is simply no room for teenagers with attitude.
But we persevere.
As self-proclaimed “super fans” (and once recognized as “super fans” by Saban Brands) we’ve compiled and broken down everything that the 2017 Power Rangers movie got wrong – and what Hasbro needs to get right for the next Power Rangers movie (presumably in 2022). And rather than bullet-point the bad, we’re going to bullet-point what we believe needs to happen in order for the movie to reach the casual fans with the disposable income (because as some within the brand admitted, the 2017 movie proved that there is indeed a ceiling when it comes to dedicated Power Rangers fans).
- The Power Rangers have to be recognizable upon first glance as Power Rangers
The 2017 Power Rangers movie took a strange approach when it came to the visuals. The Power Rangers themselves looked more like rejected Iron Man designs than they did the previous 20-something years of Power Rangers. Gone were the spandex and motiff-themed helmets and in were strange curves, alien-looking designs, and absolutely zero references to the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that the movie based itself upon.
Let’s not even talk about the zords.
When it comes to cashing in on nostalgia there’s two simple ways to get those feelings of your childhood roaring up in your brain – sight and sound. So we surmise that if the next Power Rangers movie once again acts as a reboot (spoiler: it is) and is going to be based roughly on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (spoiler: it probably is) then it needs to have a look that harkens back to the original series from 1993.
Look at successful nostalgia properties with big box office hits. Transformers abandoned the visuals of the 1980’s cartoon for a more realistic and alien looking features but also gave us the original voice of Optimus Prime – or checking off the “sound” box for nostalgia. Also include traditional Autobot and Decepticon symbols and you could make a toaster transform into a Decepticon and fans will eat it up because it looks and sounds like Transformers (spoiler – they did make a toaster transform!).
Our idea – keep the helmets as close to the originals as possible and update the suits while still keeping the recognizable features that casual fans remember – the white diamonds on the chest and the morpher on the belt – and there isn’t a soul out there that will confuse what they’re watching with Iron Man, Avengers, or X-Men (although some studio heads may prefer that actually).
- No one wants to see another origin story
Everyone knows how Spider-Man became Spider-Man. Everyone knows that Professor Xavier formed the X-Men. And we’ve already witnessed Batman becoming Batman, the Justice League coming together, and 45 movies to bring the Avengers together.
Superhero movie fans are burnt out on origin stories. Use the current iteration of Spider-Man as the example to lean on – the first movie of the new series isn’t an origin story. Instead we jump right in to the world of Peter Parker and tell a different story altogether because everyone knows he was bitten by a radioactive spider and his uncle died. Everyone knows Superman is an alien from another world. Everyone knows Batman’s parents were killed and to cope he put on a cape and cowl. And we would surmise that fans of superhero movies aren’t going to be invested enough in seeing how five teenagers become best friends and gain their powers.
Which leads us to a bonus point…
- Your Power Rangers movie should prominently feature Power Rangers
We feel we need to say it – WE LOVED THE 2017 MOVIE CAST! We even loved the movie itself! And the success of the entire cast following the movie – whether they’re in Stranger Things, the live-action Aladdin, or a breakout worldwide latina superstar – the 2017 Power Rangers cast was absolutely incredible.
But as much as we loved the actors and the way they portrayed new iterations of the classic five teenagers from Angel Grove, the movie wasn’t called “Becoming Power Rangers” … it was “Power Rangers”, and for 3/4 of the film it didn’t have any. And when we finally got the Power Rangers they had one small fight and were immediately in their zords, not doing cool martial arts stuff.
Power Rangers was about martial arts. How many of us became interested in martial arts because of Power Rangers? How many schools assigned extra aides outside at recess to make sure Tyler (who was obviously a putty in disguise) didn’t get his keester kicked in by a group of three Green Rangers and a random Orange Ranger that doesn’t exist? The answer is nearly everyone experienced that in some way shape or form and again – tickle the nostalgia bone. Use that budget to have some incredible stuntmen do what they do best.
To quote a certain kaiju movie – LET THEM FIGHT!
And this brings us to our final bullet point…
- The movie needs to feature callbacks to iconic moments with iconic imagery – including morphers, zords that look like dinosaurs, and a kickass rock score that harkens back to Ron Wasserman
The best way to paraphrase the shortcomings of the Power Rangers 2017 Movie is a story that Dacre Montgomery shared regarding the line “It’s morphin time”. Director Dean Israelite prepped Dacre to say the line “as if it were a prayer”. That kind of goes against the entirety of what the line is supposed to represent in an action movie. The movie itself didn’t feature any actual “morpher” despite Bandai’s best attempt at making you think otherwise. And the power coins were there because power coins, obviously, even if they served no purpose past giving a reason why our Power Rangers gained superpowers as normal humans.
You have to embrace the cheese of your past but also take yourself, and your movie, seriously.
Have a morpher. Have an actual device that a kid wants to go buy (and, you know, us older kids) so we can all pretend in the privacy of our home that we can morph in to our favorite Power Ranger. The Red Ranger has to grab his morpher, he has to hold it up, he has to look in the camera and shout out that IT’S MORPHIN TIME! to amp up the audience that it’s go (go) time. Give the Power Rangers iconic weapons. Have them call upon the power of their mighty Dino Zords to do battle with giant monsters. And while it all sounds silly – Power Rangers was silly. But the show took itself seriously and resonated with an entire generation that is still watching Power Rangers to this day.
You know what’s a dumb line? “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!”. It doesn’t flow off the tongue. It doesn’t even make sense to scream it out when, ironically, they’re usually altogether at that point. But because the directors took the property seriously – because Chris Evans took his role as Captain America seriously – the audience took it seriously and it worked.
It can work for Power Rangers too.
Obviously we’re not movie directors, movie producers, or even writers. But we are fans – and not just of Power Rangers. We’re fans of the Marvel and DC movies. We’re fans of drama movies and comedy movies. We’re fans of good stories with good characters that engage the audience. We don’t need Power Rangers to fight for an Oscar – we need Power Rangers to just be Power Rangers but with a bigger budget and a creative team that takes it seriously.
Writing a line for Rita Repulsa to have a headache may make a writer cringe. Asking an actor to shout “IT’S MORPHIN’ TIME!” while holding a prop may seem silly or get the director to think he’s asking the actors to work beneath their pay grade/skill level. And scoring a rock song as stuntmen fight invisible monsters to be added in the post may seem like a waste of time.
But for 27 years it’s worked on the small screen. For 27 years it’s worked to fill the imagination of new generations of fans as well as the older generations that still watch.
We see the greatness in this brand. We’ve followed the stories of these fictional characters for years – whether they’re continued in other media (like the absolutely fantastic comics by Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott) or whether we do them ourselves (looking at all you content creators out there). The audience you want – the audience that can push this movie to $500 million worldwide – is out there.
And the cold, hard truth of the matter is we probably get one more shot at this. One more shot at taking Power Rangers to the next level. Another failure will probably result in the brand going to the farm to hang out with G.I. Joe (although it’s back now with its new movie) and M.A.S.K. and Visionaries.
So please – Hasbro, Brian Goldner, Paramount, AllSpark Pictures, Simon Waters, Chip Lynn, and the individual who is working on the very rough draft of the movie…
Don’t screw this up.