Short film review: Power/Rangers (dark and gritty reboot by Joseph Kahn)
James R | On 25, Feb 2015
“Dark and gritty” are the first words that spring to mind when you see Power/Rangers, the fan reboot made by Joseph Kahn and Adi Shankar. Of course, they’re also the words that spring to mind when you see almost any reboot. Ever since Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, everything, it seems, has to be dark and gritty. Man of Steel. Judging by the trailer, Age of Ultron. Even Fantastic flipping Four. All the dark. Maximum grit.
The difference? Power/Rangers actually is dark and gritty. Gone are the days of neon spandex, roller-blading high-school bullies and high-tempo pop tunes. This 14-minute fan film is full of guns, blood, guts and gore. Swearing? You got it. Sex? That’s not off the cards. At one point, one of your childhood heroes even snorts coke.
It that feels wrong, it’s because it’s meant to: Kahn’s direction and Shankar’s script push everything as far as they can go without become laughable. Yes, there are motorbike helmets and jumpsuits, but there are also grim consequences to fights that once were solved with a burst of guitar music and gigantic robots. It’s perhaps no surprise that we join the Rangers in their adult years, long after the group have disbanded. It’s even less surprising that all that fighting as kids left them a little screwed up. Child soldiers? Against powerful alien and mechanical foes? Adi Shankar, in his video blog about the reboot, makes it clear he thinks that ain’t right.
For Kahn, the challenge of taking those darker elements of a cheesy 90s kids’ TV series had its appeal, he told HitFix.
“The dark and gritty reboot thing is such a cliché that the intention was not only to make it dark and gritty but make it even darker and grittier than you could possibly imagine.”
Casting Katee Sackhoff as Kimberley, the former pink Power Ranger, gives their theory a killer practical punch. After being bad-ass in everything from Battlestar Galactica and 24 to the latest Pitch Black sequel, she’s got enough attitude to sell the bitterness of a former warrior teen – and the skill to deliver the dialogue with enough sass to cover the exposition.
James Van Der Beek, meanwhile, sinks his teeth into the against-type role of a grizzled Rocky DeSantos, now on the side of the Machine Empire. Their interrogation is intercut with flashbacks and fight sequences, which Kahn shoots with an expert eye for brutal choreogrpahy and blood splatters – a pro commercial director, he milks the low budget for every last money shot he can get.
The short was posted on Vimeo yesterday, only to be taken down by Saban – and re-posted by Shankar on YouTube later. Who knows what the company makes of it? But it arrives as a real Power Rangers reboot is in the works. It’s not hard to imagine this nasty vision of the toy-selling franchise as a teaser for a longer outing. In fact, a number of fans have already called for a Kickstarter to fund a feature-length version. But that only proves the short’s wonderfully biting point: that dark and gritty reboots have taken over in a senseless frenzy, regardless of whatever the original property is.
“They’re all PG-13,” Kahn added to HitFix. “I mean… look at the gunshots. You have a guy going in there shooting a bunch of people and it’s just like puffs of smoke. There’s no repercussions to these gunshots, which to me is even more dangerous than when you actually show some blood. You’re teaching kids that you can shoot a gun and there’s no repercussions to it.”
Outside of the system, Power/Rangers is the dark and gritty reboot Hollywood could never make – even if it tried, it would pale in comparison to this satisfying satirical jab that sees Dawson kill people and Zack Taylor doing blow.
It’s a thrilling, sarcastic glimpse of an alternative universe, one where studios start adapting anything into serious feature films. With everything from Battleship and Monopoly to Settlers of Catan currently all fair film game, though, we’re not far off this current world and that one colliding. If they ever did, sparking some kind of cinematic explosion of dark grit and gritty darkness, you can be sure of one thing: the Power/Rangers would be standing in the rubble, sticking their fingers up at Hollywood and offering a resounding “Fuck you”. Go go, indeed.