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What Joseph Kahn’s Gritty Power/Rangers Meant to a Lifelong Power Rangers Fan

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When the short film Power/Rangers blew onto the Internet way back in February (on my sister’s birthday no less), it came up out of nowhere. There were really no murmurings about it beforehand, not on Twitter or anything. The first place I found out about the film was from HitFix, where movie critic Drew McWeeny unveiled the film, interviewed director/co-screenwriter Joseph Kahn about the project, and explained that the short film from Kahn and Dredd producer Adi Shankar was meant to be a hard satire – not of the Power Rangers, but of the very concept of “grim’n’gritty” reboots itself.

It took me a while to get around to watching the actual film (embedded below and somewhat NSFW); but once I did, I got that it was supposed to be satire – not as trolls on the Internet tend to understand it, but true satire in the Swiftian sense (seriously, read “A Modest Proposal” sometime). From casting nerd fave Katee Sackhoff as an adult Kimberly (adding a meta layer to the whole thing) to the reimagined Ranger costumes, the hilarious “Hip Hop Kido” gag, and the fact that the Rangers use guns and knives to the skittering dubstep remix of the theme song, this is very much meant to skewer Hollywood’s (and a lot of nerds’) obsession with darkening children’s properties for adults.

I haven’t seen either of Kahn’s feature films Detention or Torque, but the clips I’ve seen of those and the music videos I’ve seen of his (like his immortal video for Eminem’s “Without Me” and whatever’s going on here) are of a piece with Power/Rangers. The action is slick, the fight choreography is brutal and well-executed, and the actors all commit to a central gag that is so tongue-in-cheek, the cheek bulges.

Taken at face value (although it really shouldn’t be), Power/Rangers is on the same level of dumb reboots as the Michael Bay Transformers films and recent Ninja Turtles film, if a bit more extreme. Yeah, we didn’t get a scene of the Megazord peeing oil on someone, but well, you can only mock something so much before you start to become it right?

But as I watched the short and the reaction it got—which ranged from people “getting it” to quite a few thinking that this is the direction Lionsgate and Saban’s upcoming actual Power Rangers reboot should go—it left me thoughtful.

See, like a lot of kids, I wasn’t allowed to watch Power Rangers (or The Simpsons for that matter) until I was ten, because my parents thought it was too violent. This put me at odds with a lot of other kids that my already-present shyness and gravitation to things like Dragon Ball Z (which nobody knew because my family was one of the first we knew to get cable) didn’t exactly fix.

Eventually my parents relented, and I happily went all-in on Power Rangers Wild Force (the last season before what fans call the “Disney era”). Except, I found that a lot of other kids had moved on. To what, I don’t really remember, but just like that, I was on the outside once again.

So it’s a little funny that so many years after my parents reassessed and figured the goofy, over-the-top violence in Power Rangers wouldn’t turn me into a high-kicking, punch-throwing hooligan, along comes this short that’s probably exactly what they and many other parents feared. It makes me wonder if we’ll ever see a version of The Simpsons that’s as crude and unintelligent as my parents thought.

Oh wait, we already have.

Tom Speelman is a staff writer and reviewer–primarily of comics–for Another Castle, and is an accomplished academic, having presented at the Comics Arts Conference at Comic-Con as well as being published in The Baker Street Journal. Currently finishing up degrees in Literature and Writing at Calvin College, he rants about comics, anime, Star Trek, television and Transformers @tomtificate on Twitter and blogs about all those and more at his personal blog, tomtificate.

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