While it would appear that Marvel and DC have a monopoly on superhero movies, this simply isn’t true. These franchises continue to dominate the big screen, but it would be a lie to say that there are no other superhero movies out there.
Since 2008, Marvel has churned out 30 movies as part of its Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that doesn’t even include other Marvel projects from Sony and Fox. And then there’s Warner Bros.’ DC Universe (formerly known as the DC Extended Universe), which so far boasts 12.
Needless to say, any other superhero movies outside of Marvel and DC have been lost in the crowd. In fact, it’s probably difficult for you to think of any off the top of your head, but then it all depends on what you class as a superhero movie or superhero franchise.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example, which was rebooted in 2014, is considered a superhero movie/franchise, albeit a far less traditional one. Another that was more recently rebooted, and one we consider to be superior to most Marvel and DC movies, is Power Rangers (2017).
Five years ago might not seem all that recent, but in movie years, it really isn’t that long. Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this is a property that was at the height of its fame during the early ’90s, and has seen numerous iterations over the years, and is generally considered cheesy.
However, Power Rangers, which was released in theaters in 2017, is anything but cheesy — at least not in its entirety. A far cry, in fact, from the first theatrical movie in the franchise, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie (1995), which, while awesome in its own right, is incredibly cheesy.
The 2017 reboot, directed by Dean Israelite, who until then was best known for the dark found-footage superhero movie Chronicle (2012), is so far removed from any other iteration of Power Rangers before it, that it feels, for the most part, like a completely different animal.
Though there are the obvious makings of a superhero movie — an explosive prologue, characters imbued with powers who must learn to work as a team, a villain who belts out cheesy one-liners, a global threat, and FX-laden action sequences to boot — Power Rangers feels oddly indie at times.
The film is an origin story, taking elements from the first episode of the television show, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993), such as the disembodied alien Zordon, his android assistant Alpha 5, the Command Center, and, of course, the five teens who become the Power Rangers.
But while you’ll recognize these characters’ names, these are anything but your squeaky-clean high-schoolers. Oddly enough, the ’90s versions were referred to by Zordon as “teenagers with attitude”, but it’s really the ensemble in the 2017 reboot who come loaded with attitude.
Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) is a deeply unsatisfied quarterback; Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) has gone from popular girl to outcast; Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler) has no friends; Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin) cares for his sick mother; and Trini Kwan (Becky G) has a suffocating home life.
The five cross paths in Saturday detention, taking inspiration, of course, from The Breakfast Club (1985), but they end up dealing with a lot more than a headmaster, as alien witch Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) rises from an ancient slumber with worldwide destruction on her mind.
What truly sets Power Rangers apart from other superhero movies is how character-driven it is. Juggling with multiple characters is often a near-impossible feat for superhero movies, and is something that’s only ever been truly accomplished with Avengers: Endgame (2019).
In a similar fashion, Power Rangers doesn’t forego vital things like character-building in favor of a plot that simply requires them to show up, put on the suits, and save the day. In fact, Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack, and Trini don’t actually become Power Rangers until the third act.
This is something many fans took great issue with at the time, and while it can be viewed as a negative, it’s merely a consequence of the film’s commitment to building these characters while focusing on the overarching themes of teamwork and friendship.
These characters can’t even morph until they learn how to work together and respect one another, which creates an interesting dynamic within the team, especially when you have five teenagers, each with different personal issues and a perfectly understandable resistance to save the world.
More importantly, Power Rangers is a progressive superhero movie, yet this is overlooked by audiences and critics. Not only is the ensemble in the film ethnically diverse, there’s also a character with autism (Billy), and another who’s struggling with her sexuality (Trini).
Unfortunately, though, Power Rangers, which was intended to launch an entire franchise with many sequels, grossed only $142 million worldwide against a budget of $105 million, making it a box-office bomb. Consequently, another reboot is now in the works.
The film was, however, praised for its visual effects, cinematography, musical score, and performances, though many criticized the overuse of product placement, the aforementioned lack of Power Rangers, and the overall tone, which does feel perhaps too mixed.
Despite the first half feeling like a coming-of-age drama of sorts, the third act proves that the filmmakers tried to have their cake and eat it, as the sudden onslaught of Power Rangers nostalgia — such as the iconic song — while awesome, comes out of left field.
With that said, no superhero film is without its flaws. Power Rangers might fall short in parts, but its character focus makes it superior than most Marvel and DC movies. It’s just a shame we won’t ever get a sequel. But looking at how the MCU and DCU have turned out, perhaps that’s a good thing.
As per the Lionsgate website, here’s the synopsis for the Power Rangers reboot:
Saban’s Power Rangers follows five ordinary teens who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover that they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so they will have to overcome their real-life issues and, before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.
Power Rangers stars Bryan Cranston (Zordon), Dacre Montgomery (Jason Scott), Naomi Scott (Kimberly Hart), RJ Cyler (Billy Cranston), Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin), Becky G (Trini Kwan), Elizabeth Banks (Rita Repulsa), and Bill Hader (Alpha 5).
Are you a fan of the Power Rangers reboot? Let us know in the comments down below!