In 2015 Adi Shankar and Joseph Kahn shot an unsanctioned Power Rangers short film. It is probably the best fan-made media I have ever seen.
MCU’s Big Daddy
When I was a kid, I watched a lot of Power Rangers. An embarrassing amount. Sometimes dubbed in Hindi, if that’s all I could find online. I was a regular watcher of Dino Thunder, Ninja Storm, SPD, Mystic Rangers and even some older series. I bought the action figures and made them fight for hours and hours and hours, oftentimes leading to kinda dark stories, because the arms would break and I’d work that into my little childish stories. I never could find the villains in the toy section and I’d designate the oldest Power Ranger toys to be the bad guys. When I had enough of them, I made teams. The toy sets came with swords and guns and motorcycles and my little characters would get very, very hurt. The couch turned into a cliff, the coffee table a plateau, the bathtub an ocean, the sink a riverbed, the garden a forest, the beach a desert.
As I got older, I began to snigger as the Rangers would stomp both feet, the shot would cut to them hopping over the camera, pointed straight up, then cut to a zoom out of them hopping in place. These cuts would stitch together as if the Ranger had used both feet to jump a huge distance and landed in a little stairwell in front of a handful of faceless foot soldiers. I’d ogle at the Yellow and Pink Rangers- they were always women. The Zord fights became comical. The cardboard sets they’d destroy were jarring, their CGI became laughable. The acting became unbearable, the scripts flaccid.
Sometimes, I’d recognize that the show was making fun of itself and its absurdity. I remember a parody episode that the Rangers watched in-show. Someone in-universe had made a show about the Rangers, and the kids would scoff at the stupid action and lame one-liners, but also cheered when the villain in the show in the show lost the fight. I still had my toys, but my fights were shorter, my grasp of reality stronger. I became entranced with more adult shows, more coherent stories, better acting and more realistic repercussions of their action, consequences for the damage.
Tonight, and not for the first time, I fell backwards through a film research rabbit hole while avoiding my other work. It started with finding r/soundtracks (major shoutout to you guys, I’ve finally found my tribe <3). Then it progressed to finding out Bear McGreary’s Battlestar Galactica soundtracks for seasons 1-4 were on Spotify. Then I clicked around on the BSG wikipedia, got nostalgic and clicked on Katee Sackhoff’s wiki link, the Googled her to see if she was in anything more recent than Vin Diesel’s (hi daddy) Riddick in 2013, then found her IMBD page- and then saw that she’d been in Power/Rangers. I quite enjoyed the recent live action Power Rangers film from 2017- but I didn’t recall Sackhoff being in it.
Gritty? Witty? Shitty?
In 2015, a commercial director named Joseph Kahn and Sakhoff joined forces with Power Ranger alums and James Van Der Beek as Rocky, the second Red Ranger. Together, they filmed a bleak, gritty, alternate reality short, where the Machines won, the Power Rangers lost, died and scattered. The film is an interrogation between a former Ranger and a captured Pink Ranger in Sakhoff’s Kimberly and features a set of flashbacks detailing the deaths of a number of Rangers. There are two action sequences, one of which is when Zach the Black Ranger slaughters a couple of North Korean gangsters and another at the end where Tommy arrives and battles the interrogators.
The film mirrors real-life events of some of the former rangers’ actors. According to Wikipedia,
“David Yost, who played Billy, came out as gay after the series ended, while Thuy Trang, who played Trini, died in an automobile accident in 2001.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power/Rangers
I don’t know why, but knowing that they tied the fate of the real actors to the fates of the rangers in this gritty film scared me. It resonated deeply with me, and reminded me of just how fucked up it was that when the shows were being shot, these were just kids in real life. It made me pay attention more closely to the film as it unraveled, eager to see where the dark, realistic path would take these heroes.
There’s a unique sadness in watching media that warps the status quo of something innocent and lighthearted and turns it into something dark. I struggled through watching Invincible and I can’t bear to watch The Boys. The comic book Injustice as well was inspiring but intensely depressing in its dystopian take on Superman’s corruption. While some people despise when classically upbeat media is turned gritty (me included, at times), I think that Power/Rangers is unique in that it mimics our own corruption and growth as children who grew up watching the show. The sadness isn’t that the Rangers died, it’s that we inherently know that at some point- somehow- they did pass away. If not in the battles we watched, then in some other battle or event.
We ourselves graduated from being entertained by color-coded heroes, poor kung fu and exaggerated acting. We expected more from our role models. We wanted them to have deeper nuances and differences. We wanted the action to be more precise and easy to follow. We wanted our protagonists to cry when they hurt, laugh when they’re happy, fall when they’re pushed because we ourselves felt those things. As we grew, our own emotions became more nuanced, our experiences pushed us down, our lives crapped on our dreams. We stopped playing with our Power Rangers action figures. We stopped digging up the swords we’d bury in the dirt so that our toys could pull them out like excalibur. We stopped bringing the shark Ranger into the bathtub, we stopped caring if the man in a robot suit beat the guy in the dinosaur suit in a miniature cardboard city. We grew up. We forgot.
We’re all a little sad inside
According to the producer, Adi Shankar, “They’re straight up gonna have PTSD.” The point being, if you critically think about the effect that this fighting and violence will have on these Rangers, they’re not actually going to… be ok. The Power of FriendshipTM only goes so far.
I began this review by admitting my personal attachment to the franchise, and it’s probably why I loved this short. In all, however, the film itself was only decent. The action was a good effort, very John Wick-esque in its lack of cuts and gore. The overall direction was average- not much you can do when you’re parodying a daytime kid’s kaiju show. The CGI was miles better than the morphing animations from basically any of the shows. The music was a fun note, as it combined the older, memorable themes into a modern techno score. The dialogue was on-brand with its blandness, but I’m not sure I’d fault them for this. It just wouldn’t feel like Power Rangers if the whole script wasn’t just trope after trope.
There’s definitely boobies in this short and it’s awesome.
You can watch the film here.