A Brief Look at Power Rangers (2017)
From the very beginning, the Power Rangers 2017 movie was in a tight spot. Before we look at how the movie got to where it is, though, we need to take a step back and look at things before its release.
Three factors were working against Power Rangers when its first trailer aired.
First, many people already had an opinion about the series. Unlike works that are primarily genre titles, a significant part of the audience was already aware of – and had formed an opinion on – the series. Overcoming the first impression can be hard to do, especially if parts of your audience are inclined to treat it as a kids’ series instead of a more mature action flick.
(Note that being a children’s franchise isn’t inherently a bad thing – just look at the money Disney rakes in from them. Nor does this mean that teens and adults can’t enjoy it – they can. At its core, however, Power Rangers is a series that exists in large part to sell merchandise, and most of its audience knows that.)
Second, Hollywood has a limited record of success when it comes to adapting foreign and children’s franchises. Consider the case of Dragonball Evolution, which had a score of just 14% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 9/17/2017. Compared to that, Power Rangers’ same-day score of 44% starts to look better… though it’s hard to say the movie was a critical success when it’s not even breaking the halfway point.
The bigger problem, of course, is that fans know Hollywood adaptations tend to be bad. When they hear that a much-loved franchise is getting a big-budget film, the reaction is less “Oh boy” and more “Oh dear.”
Finally, the film needed to be appealing to its core audience, many of whom were longtime fans. The Power Rangers franchise has been going for more than 20 years, and like many parts of the nerd fandom, Power Rangers fans can be fairly specific about what they want to see. If beloved characters change too much, even nostalgia and love for a franchise won’t be able to save a film.
Given all of the challenges above, it’s rather surprising that the movie was as successful as it was. The box office numbers weren’t particularly outstanding, but it topped both the home video sales and rental charts for the week it was released. That wouldn’t be happening if most fans hated the adaptation.
So Where Does this Movie Stand?
At the moment, the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers movie is in the murky area between a definite success and another failed adaptation. Its worldwide box office numbers hit about $140 million – twenty over its $120 million budget – and that’s not counting the brisk home video and toy sales the movie managed to achieve. Financially, it’s not a runaway hit, but there’s every sign it was at least profitable.
Unfortunately for fans, it’s not yet clear whether it was profitable enough to convince the studio (Lionsgate) to invest in making it a real movie franchise rather than a one-off film. We may not know their final decision for quite some time, but ultimately, potential toy sales are likely to be the deciding factor.
How the Movies Could Improve
If sequels are made, there are a few things Lionsgate could do to improve the films.
#1: Set Up The Whole Plot Beforehand
There aren’t many things more likely to wreck a multi-film franchise than producing each one so that it has a definitive ending for the series. Instead, it would be better to take some lessons from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and set things up so that each film tells a self-contained story, but elements in one film help to set up the next.
#2: Find The Right Balance For Screentime
Power Rangers has a lot going on when you step back to look at the franchise. You have five major characters – who need to be shown both in and out of suits – as well as one or more villains per-story and two major types of robots (Zords and Megazords) who need to fight other robots.
A good movie needs to balance all of these in about two hours of runtime. If you give each main character and the villain ten minutes of plot development each, that’s half your time already gone – and you haven’t even touched the main story of the movie yet.
Lionsgate should not waste time with pointless montages or unnecessary scenes – instead, focus on the overall story and trying to make a better movie.
#3: Pick A Style And Stick With It
The Power Rangers television series is, to put it bluntly, kind of campy. That’s not a bad thing – indeed, some would say it’s most of the fun – but it can be hard to translate that to a movie format. At the same time, though, the Power Rangers movie didn’t quite manage the seriousness and spectacle of its closest competitors, superhero movies.
Waffling between these two genres isn’t likely to satisfy fans of either, especially if Lionsgate wants to keep people coming back for more. They need to pick a tone and stick with it because pleasing part of your audience tends to be better than pleasing none of it.
#4: No Forced Plot Points
Sometimes, studios like to push in plot points that just aren’t necessary. It could be teammates falling apart and hating each other over relatively minor things, extra romantic drama, or side characters who don’t do anything to advance the film as a whole.
Lionsgate should avoid this. At its core, Power Rangers is about a group of transforming heroes who also pilot robots to fight the bad guys. It has a plot, and the sequels will be better if they stick with it.
It’s hard to say where the Power Rangers movie franchise will go from here, but one thing is certain – fans are watching, and in the end, we’re all hoping for a movie we can love.