(WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Power Rangers (2017) and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995))
After much anticipation and controversy, the new Power Rangers movie has finally hit theaters, currently sitting on a domestic total of $83,000,000 at the box office. This reboot shed most of what made the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers so popular among a generation of '90s kids slurping down Capri Suns. It is also vastly different from the 1995 movie based on the hugely popular TV show. How different? Here's a comparison of the different facets of both movies. Which film honors and improves on the original show more?
In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie, the six Rangers must face a powerful evil threat when Ivan Ooze is unearthed, destroys the command center, and enacts a plan to conquer the world. The teens travel to a distant planet and fight to gain new powers that can save Zordon and stop Ooze in his tracks.
Meanwhile, the new #PowerRangers film acts as an origin story, showing how five teenagers discover the lost power coins and learn of the imminent return of Rita Repulsa. As they struggle to morph, Rita slowly regains her strength and plans to strip the earth of life by ripping up the Zeo Crystals.
Both movies have similar plots in that the villains are newly discovered after a period of incarceration or being lost. Plenty of drama runs through both as well, though the new take features more interpersonal team strife while the emotional core of the original rests in saving Zordon. However, the original moves at a fast pace and gives the audience various scenery to take in and the reboot stays centered on the town of Angel Grove.
The big theme for Power Rangers resides in the value of teamwork/community. Rita despises the concept, Zordon doesn't trust the new Rangers, and the teens don't open up to each other enough to create harmony and allow them to access the "morphing grid." Nearly all of them wear a mask that hides their true self and scars from the team.
The theme, though somewhat cliche, has additional weight in our current day. The Rangers are a diverse group and can't cooperate at first. As they open up, they gain more access to their power. We could easily apply this to the many diverse communities today that tend toward keeping to themselves and avoid mingling with others. But once we drop our masks and honestly show who we are, we can gain a better understanding and unity.
For MMPR: The Movie, the main theme is: Never stick your hand in random goop. Just kidding! The theme isn't quite as obvious, but it seems to boil down to anything is possible if you believe in yourself. This theme is just as cliche, especially in a '90s movie. They certainly do impossible things throughout the film, but is it more from luck or personal skill and teamwork? The theme is generic and its depth is shallow.
Although Ivan Ooze is the main big bad in MMPR: The Movie, Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd, Goldar and some weird pig alien also make appearances — and they all chew up the scenery. While Rita, Zedd, and company mostly act as comedic relief, Ooze (played by Paul Freeman) also steals the show with witty humor mixed with diabolical menace. The villains are fun to watch and present a credible (for this movie) threat.
In Power Rangers, Rita gets a gritty, creepy reboot as #ElizabethBanks gives us an evil ex-Ranger who will stop at nothing to collect all the gold in Angel Grove in order to form Goldar and unearth the Zeo Crystals. While Banks's performance plays with the nuance between crazy-Rita and evil-mastermind-Rita, this portrayal of the character is a little jarring if you grew up on the original.
The original series rarely developed its characters over a season and the movie doesn't change the formula. Perhaps Tommy and Kimberly are working through their relationship in the midst of trouble? Maybe the Rangers doubt themselves without their power? The answers to these questions are never clear and the film doesn't bother to go beyond the dynamic that the show had already established.
Power Rangers, on the other hand, dives deeper into what makes its heroes tick. They have all become social outcasts, whether in their school or family. They struggle to become a cohesive team and slowly come to a point of understanding. Even Zordon is given a small arc as we find his motives for training the Rangers aren't wholly selfless.
Power Rangers abandoned the colorful spandex of the original series and went with the popular, modern armor look. In this iteration, the Rangers' suits look more alien and tougher. Rita Repulsa is also given armor — the shredded remains of her Green Ranger costume. The Rangers' costumes have some callbacks to the originals in the visors, belt buckles and diamonds on their chests, but otherwise revamp the look completely. Rita looks nothing like the original.
For MMPR: The Movie, the designers didn't stray too far from the TV show's costumes. The villains appear with the same garb as in the show, but the Rangers' suits are given an armor upgrade. Aside from the different texture, the bright colors, white diamonds and dinosaur visors remain unchanged.
Computer graphics in the '90s were nowhere near what they are today. This is way too obvious in MMPR: The Movie. The prime example is when the new Ninja Zords arrive at the climax to face the generic silver bug robots Ooze has built. Close-ups of the cockpits are real, but the vehicles themselves, and especially the Mega Zord version, are horridly CG. The only positive is that you can tell which animals the Zords are supposed to be even as they awkwardly battle their foes.
In our modern age of Transformers movies, giant robots fighting on-screen is normal fare. As such, the climatic battle between the Rangers' Dino Zords and Rita's Goldar creation is much more action-packed and entertaining. The design of these behemoths, though, leaves much wanting. Is the Black Ranger driving a mastodon or some spider creature with horns? The robots could've used a little more distinction.
One of the many campy things that #MightyMorphinPowerRangers was known for was its corny dialogue. The movie did nothing to change that. From groan-worthy lines like, "You ooze, you lose," to cliche classics like, "Have a nice trip, see you next fall," the writers spared no expense on the cheese. Most of the really good one liners go to the villain, which could be helped by Freeman's delivery. My personal favorite is, "Have you hugged your Zord today?"
The goofy one-liners was another hallmark of the original series that got left behind. Most of the jokes are aimed at adults and involve cow genitalia and other ways to use the word "morph." Rita and Zordon have no sense of humor and the helpful robot Alpha is snarky and provides more slapstick than witty zingers. The best the Rangers' had to offer was a well-timed "Head's up!" during a fight with Rita's Putty Patrollers.
I never really noticed the music in Power Rangers, which some might say is a mark of good composition. The remix of the original series' theme song is well-done and appropriately timed. But aside from that, there was nothing particularly catchy in the movie's music.
However, with MMPR: The Movie, my ear was constantly drawn to the songs. Whether it was the rock and pop songs of Van Halen and Shampoo or the John Williams-esque orchestral pieces, the film uses its music to enhance scenes. Yes, it is also a little over the top, but that fits a movie where the heroes constantly announce what special weapon or karate move they're about to employ.
The Overall Winner?
I'm a '90s kid and I'll make no secret about it. I had some reservations about the dark twist the reboot was taking, and while it did make some good choices (and ultimately was a fun movie), I walked away disappointed that it didn't honor the spirit of the source material. I wasn't surprised, but it was still something of a letdown. By modern sensibilities, Power Rangers is the better movie. But for adapting the TV show, MMPR: The Movie morphs into a finer-looking Ranger.
In your opinion, which movie makes for a better Power Rangers movie? Let me know in the poll below!