Yesterday saw the release of the new Power Rangers movie trailer, which is worth taking a look at here on YouTube.
While a lot of people are focusing on how they grimdarked it down (that’s a verb now, shut up), I noted something a bit more troubling.
The original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series went out of its way to have Zordon tell the Rangers that they must never escalate a fight unless their opponent does first. This is why they never “just summon the Megazord first”, to counter a popular criticism of the show.
This is an incredibly important tenet of not only the show, but of martial arts in general. You don’t learn karate or tae kwan do to beat people up. You learn it to practice discipline, to defend yourself if you must, and to refine your art as you strengthen your mind and body.
For a show aimed at grade-school boys, MMPR was very careful not to glamorize the violence. Going around kicking people’s asses was painted as wrong and bad, and the Rangers never attacked first, only defending and protecting themselves, others, and their home.
My issue here is that the reboot Rangers have superpowers while human. This completely throws away the core of the original. Any abilities and strength the TV Rangers had while human were those they had cultivated themselves through hard work and discipline. It’s only when they tapped into the Morphin Grid that they were able to fight against Rita’s powerful monsters, and they only summoned the Zords when the situation grew worse (pun slightly intended).
If the Power Rangers are superpowered all the time, then what’s the point? Why even have the morphed powers and suits? I feel that this decision takes away the heart of Power Rangers, the core belief that true strength comes from within rather than without, that discipline builds inner strength, and that violence must never be met with greater violence. I don’t mind a modernization of the Power Rangers, but it is possible (and, frankly, desirable) to tone down the cheese factor without losing the message.
In fact, I think doing so would present an interesting challenge to a writer and director – how do you make themes of honor and discipline palatable to a cynical audience while still entertaining them with flashy effects and Kaiju vs. Mecha fights? Ultimately, I’ll have to see this when it comes out to judge it properly, but I’m disappointed that there’s already wasted potential there.