Whenever a nostalgic favorite is given the reboot treatment, a certain segment of the fanbase will cry out that its childhood is being ruined in the service of another Hollywood cash-grab. In recent years, we’ve seen this happen time and again, with this summer’s Ghostbusters perhaps the most high-profile example in quite some time. So few were surprised when longtime fans who grew up with TV’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the early 1990s, were filled with rage at the thought that the franchise — which has been endlessly revamped over the past 20 years, taking on titles like Power Rangers: Mystic Force and Power Rangers: Dino Charge — would receive a straight-up big-screen reboot in 2017.
While we remain cautiously optimistic about the film (given the recent release of the above trailer) and the casting of Elizabeth Banks as the villainous Rita Repulsa, one person who has taken particular issue with the film’s trailer is screenwriter Max Landis. He first burst into the Hollywood scene in a big way for writing Chronicle, the 2012 found footage superhero film directed by Josh Trank (of last year’s Fantastic Four reboot). However, more recently, Landis has written films like American Ultra and Victor Frankenstein and created the new BBC America series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which is based on the Douglas Adams novels. So what exactly is Landis’s problem with the new Power Rangers trailer?
Never shy to speak his mind, Landis responded to a tweet comparing the Power Rangers trailer to Chronicle and agreed that the former — directed by Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) — hewed a bit too closely to the style of Chronicle for his taste. What makes this comparison so interesting isn’t simply the fact that Landis believes that the new Power Rangers film may have aped his effort to ground a teen-centered superhero tale in reality, but that the screenwriter himself was initially hired to write Power Rangers for Lionsgate. However, for reasons that likely can be attributed to creative differences, Landis was fired from the project.
According to his own tweets, Landis’s approach to the material would have been a “silly, fun, goofy retro teen action adventure movie.” Such a take on the Power Rangers franchise would likely have pleased longtime fans who criticized the new trailer for straying too far from the tone and style of the original television series. Given the trend for superhero blockbusters to lean on darker, grimmer, and more grounded versions of their own mythology (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, anyone?), it’s not too much of a shock that Lionsgate is playing it straight. Without a doubt, the studio is counting on this new Power Rangers film to be its next big franchise.
In the past few years, Lionsgate has emerged as a major box office force, thanks to big-screen adaptations of young adult novels like the Twilight, The Hunger Games, and the Divergent series. With those first two series already completed and the last one demoted to a TV movie conclusion, Power Rangers is the best bet the studio has to duplicate that kind of success in the near future.
There’s no doubt that the studio’s top executives are banking on the combination of teen angst and supernatural story elements to appeal to modern audiences who haven’t seen or couldn’t care less about the Power Rangers’ previous appearances on television and the big-screen.
That being said, does Landis have a legitimate point? Is Power Rangers looking to directly rip off what Landis and Trank did with Chronicle? At this point, it may be a bit hard to tell if that’s the case. So far, we’ve only seen a single trailer, and though the scenes in which the rangers discover the power coins and begin developing their powers are reminiscent of similar sequences in Chronicle, it’s hard to say if that approach and tone applies to the film as a whole.
Without a doubt, there are similarities in the origins of both the Power Rangers and the characters in Chronicle, both of which rely on an otherworldly discovery to kick the story into motion. However, whether the resemblance between the two extends beyond the fleeting influence of Chronicle on the new Power Rangers film remains to be seen. If the latter does turn out to be directly copying Chronicle, you can bet that Landis will be the first one to point it out.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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