The more we learn about the Power Rangers movie, the more concerned I get. From what we know so far, this looks like a more grownup take on the franchise, an update and slightly more serious, maybe even darker, version of the colorful heroes. At this point, I’d bet good money that the movie will carry a PG-13 rating and be pretty intense, at the very least from an action standpoint. Now, I get that is exactly what the filmmakers are going for and I’m in no way judging the quality of the film – how could I? – but I honestly believe this is the wrong way to handle the franchise. This is a generation who grew up with the Power Rangers demanding it grow up with them. It’s entitlement and destructive to the things we love.
I’m certainly guilty of this. I loved Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series. Frank Miller’s Batman is some of my favorite stuff ever done with the character. Loving darker, grittier, more grownup visions of your favorite characters is okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. Serialized characters should be reexamined, reshaped, and reimagined, or else what’s the point?
The problem comes when we demand that creations grow up, become more adult, even when the property doesn’t warrant it. We live in a culture now where you never have to leave anything behind. It’s all still available and, chances are, being remade into a more intense, darker version. Again, this is a good and bad thing. You are certainly welcome to find the things of your youth and enjoy them still. I still watch the Godzilla movies I watched as a kid and I still love them today. Batman: The Animated Series will always have a place in my heart, and I revisit it often. This is not the problem we are addressing. The issue is that we are not making new Godzilla movies for young children; we don’t have an all-ages Batman series or movie or video game. Kids today have been pushed out of the equation in favor of an older generation, and that is not okay.
I love a violent action thriller as much as the next guy, but Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman should never star in an R-rated (or Ultimate Uncut Edition, as it were) movie. Not ever. That goes beyond forcing our entertainment to grow up and extends into the region of “not for you kids.” This wouldn’t be a problem if Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were not popular with children any more, but they are. You only have to take a walk down the toy aisle at any given store to see tons of products branded with these heroes. Kids love them. They are craving them. But the entertainment content being produced is directed at the guy in his mid 30s who grew up with these characters and probably still buys, although never opens, these toys.
In our demand that characters and properties be more realistic, more violent, sexier, and more brutal, we are denying the experience we had as kids to a whole generation. Instead, they have to sit back and watch us play Batman games that are made for us, Batman movies made for us, and Batman-themed TV shows made for us. Sorry, kids. Worst of all, when we do give them something, like Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man, we complain about it. We scoff at its goofiness and silly presentation. How does Disney expect me, a grown man, to watch this? The answer should be obvious: they don’t. It’s not made for you, and that’s okay. Assuming that you are the target audience for every interpretation is not only selfish, it’s a little bit nutty.
Generally speaking, these characters—the classic serialized ones, not just superheroes—work best in an all-ages format, which doesn’t mean “for kids.” Look at the work of Pixar, or the aforementioned Batman: The Animated Series, or new works like Avatar, Voltron: Legendary Defender, Ben 10 or Gravity Falls. These are works that can be enjoyed by everyone and they are better for it. All-ages should mean just that—everyone of every age should be able to enjoy it.
This brings us back to Power Rangers, a series that is for children. I don’t believe the television show is made with an all-ages angle. The creators are not hoping to capture the 30- to 40-year-old fan. This is not to say that, as a 30- to 40-year-old fan, you can’t possibly enjoy it. You certainly can. But you don’t own Power Rangers. Making a film that cuts out the current market of fans (the kids who watch it now) is ridiculous and breeds a culture of entitlement. More and more, versions of Transformers, Batman, Captain America, and Superman that are geared towards children are disappearing. We should not allow this to happen to Power Rangers, too.
If there is one series that has perfected this formula, it’s Pokémon. Both as a cartoon and a game series, Pokémon has changed very little. It’s evolved (nailed it) slightly, but it has always had its focus on children and has never tried to “grow up.” They’ve made it just complex enough that adults (like myself) can enjoy the games, but Pokémon doesn’t grow up with you. You chose to stick with it, and that’s fine, but I don’t think we’ll see Ash and Pikachu in a gritty update any time soon. There’s no reason for a more mature take on these characters.
There’s no easy answer here. Yes, characters like Batman should be allowed to exist in a darker, more adult world, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the brighter, kid-friendly one. To put it simply, Batman belongs to everybody. You don’t own him, I don’t own him. We can’t demand that everything he is apart of carter to us. You have to face the facts; you grow up, man, and you can’t take everything with you. Somethings, you have to leave for the next generation. Let the kids have Power Rangers, folks.
Featured Image: Lionsgate/Saban Films
Images: Warner Bros. Television, Disney, The Pokémon Company