Who, Exactly, Is The Audience For A Power Rangers Movie?

By  · Published on July 1st, 2015

Buena Vista Television

Used to be, we knew nothing about that upcoming Mighty Morphin Power Rangers reboot. Now, the first from-the-lawnmower-bag scraps are gently floating our way. First, a potential (emphasis on “potential”) script leak over at Heroic Hollywood, which real or not, sounds exactly like the 21st century Power Rangers reboot you’re expecting.

After an Age of Extinction-style Cretaceous flashback, five unlikely teen heroes stumble onto a cache of power coins while tracking a dinosaur fossil on Google Earth (of course), unlocking nifty Power Rangers abilities and setting off a major ticking clock. Can the fledgling Rangers master their skills before Rita Repulsa unearths the ancient evil, Goldar? I’m guessing that yes, they can. I’m also guessing that Goldar’s getting a major status boost, because in the original show he was just a blue bobcat in gold plate armor and there’s very little “ancient” or “evil” about that.

Also this sentence, which I love unconditionally: “Next we are at Dave and Busters where we meet 16 year old ZACK who plays a supershot arcade style basketball game and scores 139 points. The girls love him and the guys want to be him.”

That’s scrap #1. Here’s #2: a new line of Power Rangers comics from BOOM! Studios and Saban, aimed specifically at fans of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series.

Nothing too major, but already I’m getting a very distinct feeling here: I am the target of the new Power Rangers movie/media push. And people like me, specifically, who watched the show religiously as a kid (check), saw the movie (check), then pestered my parents for action figures (check), several dozen interlocking plastic Zords (check), toy Power Rangers weapons (check) and at least one Halloween costume.

I was born a decade too late for Transformers and just a year or two shy of Ninja Turtles, but Power Rangers is absolutely my cherished childhood media empire. This is my time. Time to get dangerously overexcited over a $100M retooling of a TV show I used to watch. Time to lose my shit over any alterations I don’t personally approve of, like bulbous turtle noses or Shia LaBeouf (and Goldar, probably).

So why don’t I care? Because I don’t care even a little bit about this reboot. No excitement, no bitter fan ire. Nothing. Even after getting into the Power Rangers spirit to write this piece, all I really feel like doing is re-watching a few episodes (and maybe rooting around my parents’ basement for any Zord that survived the great garage sale culling). And it got me thinking: who exactly is the audience for a Power Rangers movie? Who’s excited about seeing it?

Is it other adults who’ve managed to avoid my Power Rangers malaise? Maybe. 22 years on, the show’s still got a fervent cult following. Although I’m guessing that following adores the Power Rangers that’s bright and colorful, unabashedly, moronically goofy and cobbled together from old Japanese re-runs.

And I doubt very much that the upcoming Power Rangers movie will have the same spirit. It’s a very very safe bet that Power Rangers will get the gritty reboot treatment (even if we all we have to go on are “my knee’s acting up, there’s a storm a-comin” prediction standards, director Dean Israelite is calling the film “mature,” “grounded,” with “a real edge”). But any amount of grit and Power Rangers don’t seem like they’d gel at all. As proof, watch this wonderful thing:

Power Rangers has been sanded to a perfect smoothness; it is entirely grit-free. Grit will have to be carted in from somewhere else and inserted in there inorganically, which doesn’t sound all that appealing. Unless you do it like Adi Shankar (remember Power/Rangers?) and play it with so severe a straight face that it horseshoes around and becomes silly again. Because that brought in a gigantic audience.

But that’s not realistic, and PG-13-appropriate grit is nothing but a turnoff for the old-school, nostalgia-craving demographic. Like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; both got major infusions of sex and violence, and people (specifically, it seemed, fans of the original cartoons) could not hate those movies more. Both franchises made boatloads, but I’m guessing that has more to do with brand names and advertising muscle more than any lingering nostalgia). You’d think a generation of people who grew up on the original, unabashedly stupid-fun Power Rangers would crave something with the same general tone.

In that case… is the reboot for kids? I mean, it probably should be. Power Rangers (the show, that is) is aimed entirely at kids- 100% catchphrases, corny jokes, ninja flips and toy product placement. There is not one scrap in there an adult can enjoy on any level (so awful, apparently, that my parents still complain about my Power Rangers obsession, two decades later- “your sister watched Ninja Turtles. That, we could actually sit through”). And according to the people who make it, the current target age for Power Rangers audiences is between six and seven (a slow decline from the original show’s ten-year-old demographic). Maybe that’s the real audience here

But that’s not without its own pitfalls. Say the reboot is aimed at that sweet spot between six and seven- in that case, the “mature” labeling is bound to cross some wires. Also a for-kids Power Rangers movie should probably highlight the Power Rangers that airs right now on Nickelodeon (that kids might actually be watching) and not the Power Rangers a bunch of twentysomethings tuned into more than two decades ago.

But you can’t do that, because Power Rangers movies that keep abreast of the show are a box office cyanide pill. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie opened in fourth place in 1995 with $13M and Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie outright bombed two years later- seventh place and barely $3M. If the best a Power Rangers movie can do at the height of Power Rangers mania is fourth place (and unable to outmuscle the three-week-old Batman Forever and Pocahontas), you’d better believe another Power Rangers movie isn’t getting made without serious rejiggering.

Which leads me to believe that the real audience for that upcoming Power Rangers movie is the same audience that Transformers and Ninja Turtles courted: everyone who knows enough about the show to be drawn in by the name, and everyone who doesn’t know enough to be put off by the pungent reboot aroma. Which makes me wonder what the point of rebooting Power Rangers is anyway.

But like I said, I’m very much entrenched in Power Rangers apathy, so I’ll come out fine regardless. At least until Street Sharks gets a gritty reboot, because that one will tug at my hearstrings in major way.

I’ll ask you: do you have any vested interest in seeing a new Power Rangers movie?