Twenty years ago this week, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” premiered in theatres across America. For boys and girls of a certain age, this was a very big deal. “Power Rangers” was huge, premiering in 1993 and immediately making headlines like “The Mighty Nielson Power Rangers” thanks to it’s overnight success.
Of course, those news stories would also berate the series for “silly, non-menacing, obviously fake monsters, cheesy production, low-tech special effects and sometimes hokey stories.” But it was a hit, because it was all about teens who beat up monsters and pilot giant dinosaur-shaped robots, two things every kid wants to do the second they get out of school (which was, by design, when the series aired).
But when you consider how it was made, it’s absolutely crazy that the “Power Rangers” TV series succeeded to spawn a franchise that’s still going strong to this very day, with roughly 20 iterations on the classic formula so far. Or that enough people in charge of various companies saw it and said “Yes, this is a great idea, let’s do it! Teenagers with attitude!”
In case you aren’t someone who compulsively googles the history of children’s television shows, what makes “Power Rangers” an unlikely success story isn’t that its premise is absurd (it totally is) but that its production was.
Essentially, what we call “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” was in fact two separate productions. The meat of “Power Rangers” comes from Japanese Super Sentai series — shows about colour-coordinated superhero teams using martial arts to take on rubber monsters. What “Power Rangers” did was take footage from these Super Sentai shows, film completely new footage with an American cast and crew, and splice them together to make a half-hour action series for children.
The costumed fight scenes and giant robot confrontations were almost always dubbed Japanese footage, while the “Saved By the Bell” style high school cheesiness was used to weld a crude story arc to each episode and season.
It was the kid’s TV equivalent of Frankenstein’s Monster, given life by a mad TV executive to become something big enough to spawn a Hollywood movie.
And what a movie.
“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” is, objectively, terrible. It has terrible acting, terrible special effects, terrible writing and terrible music on its soundtrack.
But “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” is also kind of amazing. Just look at this making-of featurette!
Look at those goofy bird monsters!
Those goofy ooze monsters!
The awful CGI that looks like “Beast Wars” in a miniature city! How excited Jason David Frank (the White Ranger) is to talk about
And They Might Be Giants was on the soundtrack!
On its twentieth anniversary, I probably will not watch “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.” But I will definitely think about it a lot. Take a moment to think about it with me.
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