The reboot of Power Rangers as a somewhat-serious power fantasy where teens with attitudes pilot mechs that look like dinosaurs signals one horrible truth above all others. We have finally reached the point where ‘90s nostalgia-fueled vehicles will come to rule Hollywood.
If you’ve somehow been living under a rock, here’s the current situation: Power Rangers, an unbelievably ‘90s franchise ruled with a corporate iron fist by Saban Entertainment (now SCG Power Rangers, a division of Saban Capital Group), has a reboot film in theaters. It’s essentially a reboot of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the 1993 television series that used Japanese Super Sentai footage plus American teens with attitude to tell a unique story of alien invasion, high school, and martial arts. Also giant dinosaur mechs.
And if everything goes the way that Saban and Lionsgate wants, we’re looking at a film franchise, friends. There’s no way a decent showing doesn’t at least get a single sequel. Even if the Mighty Morphin reboot line fizzles in three to five years, there’s literally decades of other versions to then mine. There’s nothing stopping Saban from segueing to, say, Power Rangers in Space, Lost Galaxy, or even Time Force. The possibilities aren’t endless, but the number of potential combinations is staggering. That’s not counting the chance that they come up with something altogether new.
The prediction here, that Power Rangers is a turning point, is an extrapolation of everything that’s come before it. It’s common knowledge that Hollywood and its ilk move from one decade to the next, mining each generation’s childhood for gems. It’s not a new cycle; it’s a new stage of the same old one. But the question is usually when it’ll happen, of when exactly that shift will occur.
I’m saying we’re already there.
This is most evident in all other forms of pop culture. Music, television, and even anime have already begun the reclamation process. Sailor Moon Crystal is a more thorough, true-to-the-manga retelling of the classic ‘90s anime, and there’s even a newly rebooted and much-anticipated version of DuckTales heading our way. If there’s ever been a time for boy bands to come back in vogue, it’s now.
To be clear: Power Rangers doesn’t even have to do well. The film’s reception has been mixed so far, with the action and characters generally receiving praise while some of the more questionable plot choices — revenge porn, for example — get raked over the coals. It’s unclear just how the weekend box office will pan out, though Variety predicts a $30 million opening weekend. Compared to the film’s reported budget of $100 million, that’s decent but not great. And it’s highly unlikely that the live-action Beauty and the Beast film starring Emma Watson as Belle will lose out to the powered teens after just one week in theaters. It’s just not going to happen.
The goal here then, if not to dominate the box office immediately, is to instead signal to literally every other producer looking to bring a ‘90s vehicle to the screen that now is the time. Even moderate success is enough to take to the bank, and Saban alone could leverage properties like VR Troopers and (dare I even say it?) Big Bad Beetleborgs to make a decent chunk of change before it would drive its own credibility into the ground. We’re going to get a lot of middling-to-bad films out of the way in the first couple years as folks figure out what works and what doesn’t before something truly extraordinary comes along. Personally, I’m rooting for the totally unexpected Clarissa Explains It All reimagining to knock my socks off.
Don’t get me wrong; reboots, reimaginings, and long-overdue sequels or prequels aren’t always a bad thing, despite my snarkiness. There’s obviously a demand, so I don’t fault companies for providing a good supply. There will always be good and bad efforts and some in between. There are worse things to watch than a middling Captain Planet reboot. (Yeah, let that one just sit there in your brain for a moment. How is now not the perfect time to bring the Planeteers back?)
So, here we are. It’s 2017, but it’s also 1993. And 1991. And very soon it’ll be 1998 (Mulan) and 1992 (Aladdin) and more. For the next decade, we’re going to be collectively reliving the best of the ‘90s whether we like it or not. Hollywood’s going to make sure of it. Welcome to the new nostalgia.