"Go Go Power Rangers!"
More than two decades after its debut on television, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” lives again, this time via a live-action cinematic reboot with franchise aspirations.
Details are scant about the revamped Power Rangers. Today’s announcement by Lionsgate and “MMPR” producer Haim Saban didn’t have a timetable for the movie remake, a director, writer, or cast. About all we know, per the press release, is “the new film franchise will re-envision the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a group of high school kids who are infused with unique and cool super powers but must harness and use those powers as a team if they have any hope of saving the world.”
Presumably, the new film will also reboot lagging merchandise sales, too.
You might be surprised it took Lionsgate and producer Haim Saban this long to get with the program, considering Hollywood’s feeding frenzy over reinveting old properties. But the Power Rangers don’t have a proven track record on the big screen. Their first cinematic go-round, 1995’s “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie,” was hardly a blockbuster with $66 million worldwide; while the 1997 follow-up, “Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie,” was a brightly colored bomb, grossing just $9.6 million worldwide.
David Yost, arguably the most prolific Power Ranger as Billy Cranston (the Blue Ranger), told Yahoo Movies during a phone call on Wednesday that he’s excited Saban went with the “Hunger Games” studio. “They obviously have a proven track record. And I will be very excited to see what they do with the franchise.”
Producers no doubt hope fans remember the TV incarnations more fondly.
The franchise-launching original, “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” followed its sextet of young heroes, who had the ability to “morph” into costumed (and color-coordinated) warriors, as they battled a series of alien baddies. Utilizing stock footage from the Japanese television show “Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger” (1992-93), the series almost immediately became a worldwide sensation (and spawned an extremely lucrative merchandising line), and is today considered a prominent piece of ’90s pop culture.
The original series ran for 145 episodes over the course of three seasons on Fox Kids from Aug. 28, 1993 to Nov. 27, 1995. There was a 10-episode spinoff miniseries, “Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers” (1996), and several rebranded continuation series, including “Power Rangers Zeo” (the fourth season, which ran for 50 episodes in 1996); “Power Rangers Turbo” (the fifth season, which ran for 45 episodes in 1997); “Power Rangers in Space” (the sixth season, which ran for 43 episodes in 1998); and many, many more.
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But aside from is myriad TV iterations and discount toys, “MMPR” has also become notorious for the "Power Rangers Curse," which has seen several of those associated with the shows suffer sad fates off screen. Among them:
—Skylar Deleon, the actor who played Roger in the original series episode, “Second Chance” (1994), was charged with the 2004 murders of Long beach residents Tom and Jackie Hawks. He was convicted and sentenced to death in April 2009.
—Eric Frank, the brother of series regular Jason David Frank (who played Tommy Oliver, the original Green Ranger, the original White Ranger and the White Ninja Ranger) and who had a guest star appearance as David Trueheart in “Power Rangers Zeo,” died of a heart illness at the age of 29 in April 2001.
—Richard Genelle, the actor who played Ernie, the owner of the Youth Center and occasional advisor to the Power Rangers, from the original series through “Power Rangers: Turbo,” left the show to concentrate on losing weight and quitting smoking. He died of a heart attack at the age of 47 in 2008.
—Bob Manahan, the actor who voiced Zordon, the Power Rangers’ mentor, died of a heart attack at the age of 44 in June 2000.
—Thuy Thang, the actress who played the Trini Kwan (the Yellow Ranger) in the first two seasons of the original series, died in a car crash at the age of 27 in Sept. 2001.
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“I’ve never heard there’s a curse,” Yost told Yahoo. “But obviously anyone who’s stepping into the role of a Power Ranger — I just hope that they realize how exciting that is and the impact they will have on many people’s lives throughout the world and do their best to portray a good superhero.”
The original series also ended up conjuring some bad vibes when Thang, Austin St. John (the original Red Ranger) and Walter Emanuel Jones (the original Black Ranger) just up and left the show after the second season over a pay dispute. This broke the hearts of many fans… and was regarded by more than a few as an absurd situation, with Michael McCollor at Smosh pointing out that a job “literally consisting of pouring smoothies on Bulk and Skull and pretending to talk to a giant head in a tube” deserved to be paid in simply “donuts and Olive Garden gift certificates.”
Theater people know you don’t say “Macbeth” in a theater, ‘cause it’s all sorts of bad luck. As Shakespeare’s tragedy is often referred to as “The Scottish Play,” maybe the producers of the new “MMPR” feature should find a way to make the cast and crew never utter the actual title of the movie they’re making. “The Skittles Players,” anyone?
Marisa Okano contributed to this report.