When I heard the news of #MightyMorphinPowerRangers getting a movie reboot I should have been ecstatic, but instead I inwardly groaned. Yet another classic series or franchise was getting new life breathed into it for a modern-day makeover. Of course, as a fan of the original TV show, I couldn't deny my curiosity and kept up with any photo/poster reveals and trailer drops. With every new piece of information, I tried holding out final judgment until the film's release, but it became harder and harder.
My main critique with what I've seen so far is not with the redesigned costumes or Zords — I can understand the need for updating those, even if it looks like it takes influence from Michael Bay's Transformers. What became apparent was that this would be a darker, more grounded take on the characters, as seen in the latest trailer:
Is it just me, or has my childhood morphed into adulthood?
Of course, the movie isn't out until March 24th and I may be jumping the gun. Still, if I consider how Hollywood has handled my childhood in the past decade, I have reason for concern. Corny characters of the past that made me feel safe as a child suddenly have adult problems to handle. In light of #PowerRangers and other childhood classics making their return, I want to examine why grit and darkness seem to be taking over.
Why So Serious?
A simplified answer to this question would be that we don't want to grow up, but we want to feel like we're growing up. "Let's take (insert kids' show here) and make it for the now-adults who grew up on it! It won't feel as much like an after-school special anymore. Instead, it will have all the characters we remember with fond nostalgia facing darker times and issues." Easy to portray — and lampoon — but is it that simple?
Plenty of people my age love seeing beloved characters of yore returning with youthful vigor for a new generation. However, we're not the bright-eyed innocents we once were and view the world with a little more cynicism. I believe we want our old friends to come back, but we also want them to be able to speak to us, to have grown up with us. In order for this to happen, more darkness seeps into our heroes' worlds because we see it so much in our own.
Perhaps in our bleak despair, even our #nostalgia is tainted, much like how Sadness turned certain memories blue in Inside Out. We're so forlorn with responsibilities, arguments over politics and everything else under the sun that we seek out old refuges, unwittingly defiling the holy ground with our modern grime. We can't let five teens with superpowers be wholesome people with optimistic worldviews; we must drag them through the dirt we've been through. We humanize them in the same way we realized our own humanity.
Give Me Light
Is this the best way to go? Is it healthy? One might argue that all the reboots mean a new generation can fall in love with the franchises we loved. But if we're honest, PG-13 movies aren't often aimed at kids under the age of 10, kids at the age we were when we became fans. One could argue that PG-13 hits the widest demographic. It's just outside the range of elementary-age kids though not completely out of reach. Teens will probably enjoy the action and nostalgia hits home for the adults. Couldn't a PG movie with a brighter tone also accomplish this?
These movies that we demanded were made for us, and written by us. So, a movie like Power Rangers is produced, morphing the original series' intent and tone to fit modern tastes. I know if the film were made exactly like the TV show, it probably wouldn't fare as well. It's important to modernize the franchise, but let's not lose the light it initially had.
The joy of kids shows in the '90s was their portrayal of inherently good heroes. Even dark and brooding #Batman could live in the shadows and still be an upright guy. What I miss in the modern retellings of old shows is the ever-present light that always shone in the darkness, usually out-shining it. These heroes of light gave me an example, however lofty, that good people can exist in a world of evil and stay above board. They could delicately handle issues such as drug use and gun violence without scaring me to death or too perfectly mirroring the real world. What some may call "campy" or "cheesy" was really a warm comfort against a cold reality — a vision of what might be.
This, I think, is the heart of my issue with the reboots. I don't mind that they're being made, but I do mind that these heroes have lost their original innocence. It is too much like my own life. The lines of right and wrong are blurred now and we can't often tell the way to go. So, in our nostalgia for happier times, we reboot our childhood heroes only to find they reflect our disillusioned lives.
A Place For Darkness
While light is good, I'm not blind to the "real world" outside imagination. Darkness is prevalent in our lives and at times seems to be winning. We need places to cope with that as well. But I believe this can be done in better ways than simply rebooting kids shows with adult flair.
Controversy broke out when the teaser trailer for the next #Cars sequel dropped. People said it was too dark, dragging a bright and cheerful kids' film in a bleak direction. So, it seems when it comes to our kids, mixing some shadows into their sunny world is off-limits. If, however, in 20 years #Pixar revisits the franchise with a PG-13 entry, the next generation might be fine with that.
Obviously there must be a certain tension and balancing act between portrayals of light and dark in kids' entertainment. They must see that our world isn't perfect, that evil exists and good must strive against it. However, I understood that even as a child when I watched colorful Rangers strike down monsters, Batman foil his rogues, and Spider-Man web up the latest bad guy.
I may sound like an old man complaining about them whipper-snappers playing the loud music, but I believe we need to be honest about this issue. Let's stop taking franchises meant for kids and making them for adults. I don't want to keep spoiling my childhood with the cares and darkness of adulthood. I may have lost my innocence, but let my heroes of long ago keep theirs.
What do you think about this issue? Am I right on or yelling at non-existent birds?