I recently watched the new Power Rangers movie. I used to love watching the Power Rangers when I was younger and I was excited to try the new one. I was expecting it to be a bit more gritty and not as unrepentantly buoyant as the original Mighty Morphin’ series I used to watch and my expectations were met. But, about half way through I just had to turn it off. I couldn’t finish it.
I know that you shouldn’t watch something, read something, and think ‘I could have done it better’ for many reasons (one of them being I’ve never written a screenplay), but here I couldn’t help it. It stuck with me and, well, now we’ve got this blog post!
One of the reasons that I enjoyed the way that the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers were brought together was that they were all martial artists – or at least you saw the boys doing karate and the girls gymnastics. Okay, maybe they weren’t world champions, but they all had that base line to work up from.
In the 2017 movie the kids making up the new Power Rangers are just a collection of kids pushed together (badly) by circumstance. Sure, Jason is a star athlete but none of the other kids had any other skills that might lend themselves to Power Ranger-dom that I could tell.
We meet Jason Scott as he’s pulling a prank (maybe on a rival highschool?). There’s a weirdly prominent joke about his friend ‘milking’ the bull that wasn’t necessary and was repeated about three times. Jason runs from the police in his car and has an accident which looks like it involves several other vehicles. We shortly find out that Jason was a star pupil and athlete who has now destroyed his future.
Call me a cynic but I just couldn’t get behind that. I don’t need my protagonists to be likeable – I do love an evil bastard – but this story doesn’t have any stakes for me. He’s messed up but this is something that we’ve seen a hundred times before. Equally, we spend so long with Jason and then slowly being introduced to the rest of the characters that the first half of the film just drags.
We could have gotten the same information on our characters that we got from 45 minutes by making all these teenagers members of the same martial arts club – and that also gives us a handy shortcut about why these kids might have been chosen and why they’re so good at fighting aliens. If you devote a couple of minutes to each soon-to-be Ranger we would get just as much backstory as the movie managed in about half its run time.
If I could beg your indulgence I’m now going to make my suggestion for the opening scene and will change a lot about the characters here. You can still have one of the prologue scenes if you want to but I also think that big budget movies should start losing them. You don’t get away with a weak prologue in a novel so you shouldn’t in a movie and it’s likely that we know what’s coming from the information in the trailer anyway.
Fair warning, this turned out long!
We open with Jason.
He’s trying to help his little sister with her homework – a project she has been working on over the summer holidays – but in the background we hear their parents arguing. As the voices reach a crescendo a bottle smashes. Jason and his sister flinch and she looks at him in the seconds of silence before the shouting resumes.
Jason glances at the clock and says: ‘Come on, it’s time to go to karate.’ She points out that they don’t need to leave for another half an hour. Jason winks at her and says that’s just enough time to get some ice cream.
Cut to Jason driving a car with his sister in the passenger side finishing her ice cream as they arrive at karate. They go inside and start training.
Later in the training session Jason is sitting on a bench and trying to talk to Billy, but as Billy is shy and awkward this doesn’t work well. Jason’s little sister comes up to him and says she feels sick. It’s probably all that ice cream, Jason says to her, looking a little sheepish. He says goodbye to an unresponsive Billy and takes his sister home.
We, however, stick with Billy.
We watch Billy get called up and start sparring, but he loses due to his rigid technique. The teacher helps pull Billy to his feet and tells him to loosen up and try not to worry about doing everything 100% correct the first time. It’s okay to fail.
The teacher glances at the clock calls time, thanks everyone for coming, and see you next week.
Billy’s mum has come to pick him up and senses he’s a little upset. He doesn’t want to talk about it in the car but once they get home and are having dinner she finds out that Billy is not enjoying karate and is having doubts about it.
(In the background the TV is on and there’s a report about the current moon mission finding a strange construct unearthed by a recent meteor strike and no country is claiming they built it.)
He says that he doesn’t like that he’s encouraged to break the rules and doesn’t want to do it if he can’t go with his dad. Gently, as though this is a discussion they’ve had many times before, she says that even though his dad isn’t with them anymore he would still want Billy to go to karate. It was something they enjoyed together and that his father had practiced ever since he was a child. Billy doesn’t look happy but is swayed and agrees to go next week.
Cut to the next training session. Billy is being dropped off and Jason sees him come in and tries to strike up a conversation. This time Billy engages, albeit awkwardly, and they talk.
After a brief chat about what they’ve done over their respective holidays a shadow falls over them. It’s Billy’s sparring partner from last week, Kimberly, and she wants to talk to Billy. Jason opens his mouth, looking like he wants to protest, but is distracted as Zack arrives. He’s has been absent from karate the last few weeks and Jason goes over to welcome him back.
Kimberly sits down but doesn’t say anything. After a second she apologises for what happened the week before. “I know I went a bit too hard,” she says. “I was just angry about something and I took it out on you and that’s not fair.”
Billy doesn’t meet her eyes but accepts her apology.
The week’s training session starts and there’s a new arrival: Trini. They do the warm ups and when they start sparring the instructor invites Zack over to spar with Trini. Zack winks and says he’ll go easy on her because it’s her first time here. Of course, she beats him easily three times running. Zack takes it all in good stride and laughs it off.
Once the session’s over Zack invites everyone out for milkshakes/ice cream, partly to show Trini there’s no hard feelings but also to celebrate the end of the summer holidays. Billy mumbles something about having to get a lift home with his mum, but Jason offers him a lift.
We cut to the ice cream parlour (or wherever they have decided to go). Billy is coming out of his shell, Trini is playing a game with Jason’s little sister, and everyone is having a good time. But Kimberly makes a poorly placed joke about Zack’s mother and he steps outside for some air. Kimberly looks contrite after a look from Jason who then follows him outside to he’s okay.
Jason finds Zack off to the side of the building at the edge of an alleyway. They have a bit of a heart to heart and Zack tells Jason that the reason he was away for a few weeks was that his mother’s illness got particularly bad and he had to stay home with her.
There’s a noise in the darkness, they call out, to see who it is. After some crashes and a stumbling silhouetted figure making its way past the bins and rubbish we can see it’s one of Rita’s Putty Patrol.
It makes a mindless lunge for them. Together Zack and Jason manage to beat it back but not without taking a few hits themselves. Seeing the two boys come back in with cuts and bruises cuts the evening short and everyone goes home.
On the way home Kimberly cuts through a building site and spots something strange flashing at her as she passes it. Curiosity overwhelms her and she clambers to investigate only to find the Power Ranger coins. She picks them up and brings them to school to show everyone else once it starts the next week.
I rushed a little towards the end of that because it was getting a bit long for a blog post, but you can see what I’m getting at. I’m not sure how much time that would translate to on screen but you could probably cut it down to 15-20 minutes max and in that time we will have been introduced to each of the soon-to-be Power Rangers, we’ve seen them beat an enemy, and they’ve got the coins.
This was a lot of fun to write out so it might lead to something else, maybe this is the start of my fanfiction career! Or maybe I’ll try writing new beginnings to other movies I didn’t like! I hope it was entertaining for you as well.