Original blog post here.
Now, keeping that in mind: Go, go, current blog post!
You can get the long version on the Power Rangers episode of Netflix’s excellent documentary series The Toys that Made Us (which I would also recommend; it’s a heck of a nostalgia trip of you’re about my age).
Speaking of nostalgia:
The short version is this: thanks to buying the rights to a series of ridiculous Japanese transforming superhero shows, Haim Saban has gone from the bassist of an obscure Israeli rock band to the creator of a franchise that has been going steady for 27 years.
Also, dude’s worth nearly three billion (with a b) dollars.
Like I said, dude’s a genius. And Power Rangers is one of the smartest series that has ever existed on TV.
Well, no. Power Rangers is and always has been super dumb and kind of a hot mess where its storytelling is concerned. But from a production point of view, it’s absolutely brilliant.
Each new seasons of Powers Rangers has really only needed to film half a show’s worth of content. For the most part, any scene that involves the Rangers in costumes, the villains, or the Zords reuses the original footage from Super Sentai with the English actors’ voices dubbed in — the advantage of most of the characters either wearing helmets or being monsters whose mouths don’t move when they talk.
The only new footage, with a few exceptions, that needs to be filmed is when the Rangers are in their civilian clothes going about their daily lives.
This, combined with the fact that every transformation sequence, every Zord formation sequence, every decisive final blow via crazy special move, and more than a few of fight scenes just reuse the same stock footage over and over and over.
And, of course, Power Rangers is one of the most merchandise-conducive franchises ever to exist: every individual Ranger, every inevitable mid-season power up, every monster, every Zord gets a toy.
Cynical and creatively bankrupt, perhaps. On the other hand:
So, not only is the production saving a lot of money only filming half a show, they’re making an insane amount of money with merchandise.
And, like, they’re clearly doing something right as a work of art, or we wouldn’t be getting a new version every other year.
Which brings us back to my first point: Haim Saban is a genius.
As for the show itself, Power Rangers isn’t what you’d call “good”, but I’d also object to categorising it as “so bad it’s good”. I genuinely don’t think that Power Rangers is trying and failing to succeed as a proper, legitimate work of televisual mastery.
I think that the production has realised from the very beginning that they’re making a cheesy, low-budget adaptation of an original series that is itself pretty cheesy and low-budget and decided to deliberately lean into the inherent ridiculousness of the whole endeavour (“Recruit a team of teenagers with attitude”).
From the very beginning of the very first episode, the producers have recognised the futility of making Power Rangers something it’s not and fully embraced the thing that Power Rangers is, even though (and maybe precisely because) that thing is “ridiculously dumb, but also awesome.”
And, seriously, how uptight do you have to be not to enjoy 27 years of racially-diverse teams of transforming teenagers (with attitude) with themed superpowers (usually, that theme is some variation of “Dinosaurs”) and giant robots fight hammy, intergalactic supervillains with the help of a sentient lava lamp?
As a final aside, if I were an actor, Power Rangers villain would be my dream job, because you don’t have to act well so much as loud.
As a final aside to the final aside, the first season of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers featured several monsters voiced by none another than Best TV Actor in History Bryan Cranston, including one who was, and I quote, “half-snake and half-lizard.”
Yeah, the writing has never been one of the franchise’s strengths…
On the other hand, if the past 27 years have taught us nothing else, it’s that Haim Saban is. a. genius.
Copyright 2022 J.B. Norman.
Adapted from an original post written 2020.
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