Before I start, I think it's only fair we cover a few facts.
First of all, Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was directly taken from Toei's Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger.
Zyuranger ran in Japan from 1992 to 1993, while Power Rangers started in 1993 and in one form or another, has been running off and on ever since.
Zyuranger had an all Japanese cast, but to create Power Rangers, Haim Saban and his team would splice in the original action segments with newly filmed non-action segments from California. These new segments replaced the Japanese Super Sentai fighters with multi-cultural American Rangers, leaving the stock footage of the Japanese villains and background victims as the only Japanese characters on the show.
Halfway through the original run of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, stock footage of Machiko Soga as Witch Bandora/Rita Repulsa ran out, prompting Saban to hire in Filipino actress Carla Pérez to continue in the role of Rita up through Power Rangers in Space except for the last MMPR movie, which had Filipino-Australian actress Julia Cortez take over the role. Grifforzar/Goldar, Lamy/Scorpina, Tottopatto/Baboo and BukkuBakku/Squatt would alternate between actors of different ethnic origins once their stock footage had also run out.
Needless to say, all incarnations of Power Rangers have done a fair amount of race-swapping, to the point where the average fan may not even notice or care about the actor change when the latest Super Sentai series ends up cut up and re-packaged on Nickelodeon or Netflix, the new homes for the meta-series.
But despite this history of race-swapping, even the most forgiving MMPR fan was seeing red when the new version of Rita Repulsa debuted in the form of blonde-haired and blue eyed Elizabeth Banks.
The first problem is the fact that we have an Aryan-Caucasian in a role usually reserved for Filipino and Japanese actresses.
Now don't get me wrong, she is a cute actress with a bubbly wit, and she does very well in most of her roles, so it isn't a stretch to say she “might” gain her own branch of Power Ranger fans out of this, but replacing a Filipino-Japanese character with a Caucasian actress, even in the most forgiving of settings, is a slap in the face.
The second problem bleeds into the rest of the cast. Costuming.
Not only did the new Rita costume fail to match the original by any stretch of the imagination, it's a blatant rip-off of Batman villain Poison Ivy. No thought, no direction, just a shameless theft of costume. Considering this film is going to be aimed at adult fans for the original series, wouldn't this be the time to allow Rita to saunter across the stage in her original, Madonna inspired cone-bra?
And yes, as a straight woman, I would have approved of the cone-bra. And yes, in this day and age.
But this image foreshadowed two more issues I have with this movie.
One being that also in the spirit of ripping-off, Lionsgate and their hired writers are promising to rip-off of other lifeless, boring, gritty, Emo re-envisioned films such as The Dark Knight and Ninja Turtles by re-writing the universe of Power Rangers, refusing to follow the original story and adding wasted “trust issue” and “I'm moody for no reason” segments to make a darker story, in which you're “fake” unless you're miserable, then you're “real”. These elements only seem to appeal to those with unresolved “daddy” issues, and yet they insist on keeping this up, to appeal to the Hipsters who were born after the original went off the air. You know. Those fresh 20-somethings who love everything to be as dark and hopeless as the DeviantArt pages they felt pressured into having to fit in before they hit college and sent themselves into debt in an effort to prove to themselves that they know more than the rest of us.
This is in contrast to the desires of the writers, who have tried to promise a more lighthearted movie, in spite of the studio's claims. The clash between Emo and Silly is likely the reason why the film has gone through a revolving door of writers and directors, adding to my frustration with the film.
The second problem I had was basic. If this is how they were mishandling Rita's costume, which was basically a dress with feathers and a cone-bra, then how would they handle the Power Rangers' costumes?
Well if you saw the above photograph, then you already know the answer.
Not only can't they seem to figure out how to hire a non-White actor to play Rita, they also can't seem to figure out how to make spandex costumes look good in HD.
Now this isn't the first time Hollywood has failed to put together a snug leotard with an overgrown bicycle helmet. In 1995 we were treated to an alternate universe Power Rangers film, in which the actors were forced to wear 30-to-50 lbs costumes, complete with hefty armor, the likes of which had never been on the TV show before or since.
Did you hear that? That was the sound of peels of laughter from the Toei Studio in Tokyo, Japan. And why? Because they've been finding ways to make Tokusatsu and Kaiju related costumes look believable since 1959, and has been using spandex for all things Sentai related since 1983's Kagaku Sentai Dynaman, and has had no problem with making Super Sentai/Power Rangers movies since 1975, again with spandex and other, less bulky costumes.
The new costumes look less like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and more like the studio tried to shave the Power Rangers: Dino Thunder costumes the wrong way down. The Red Ranger's new costume specifically has more in common with Marvel's Iron Man than with anything Sentai related, and again, comes across as a cheap rip-off.
Without seeing the full trailer yet for the repeatedly pushed-back film, it's hard to say what direction we're going in. But if the costumes and the development issues are any indication, this film is set to please only those who are too cheap to watch the original on Netflix.
It certainly doesn't bode well for the 2017 movie season, when Hollywood has resorted to re-envisioning an already and repeatedly re-envisioned series.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!