The Power Rangers just became Marvel's next big rival
The nearly 30-year-old franchise has finally become something it never was before: Original.
Unless you're already a fan, you likely haven't thought about the Power Rangers in years. The 2017 reboot movie — with Elizabeth Banks as evil sorceress Rita Repulsa — came and went, leaving pop culture to move on to the next Marvel movie. The TV show is still airing, but unless you're still watching Nickelodeon on Saturday mornings, Power Rangers is simply not on your radar.
But last week, the franchise's future changed in a really remarkable way.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Jonathan Entwistle, creator and director of The End of the F***ing World and the Netflix series I Am Not Okay With This, has been promoted from directing the next Power Rangers movie to becoming the franchise's answer to Marvel Studios mastermind Kevin Feige. Entwistle has creative reign over the Power Rangers universe, one that will include a new TV series and movie. Because it's 2020, everything will inhabit a shared universe. Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner also confirmed in a recent earnings call there will be separate Power Rangers content for adults and kids.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity to deliver new Power Rangers to both new and existing generations of awaiting and adoring fans," Entwistle said. "We’ll bring the spirit of analog into the future, harnessing the action and storytelling that made this brand a success."
What's most interesting of all is how the Power Rangers are proceeding creatively. Beyond aging up a superhero show approaching 30 years old, Power Rangers is now seemingly (though not confirmed) divorced from Super Sentai, the Japanese show it recycles material from. This is a big deal.
However much the Power Rangers move on from their Japanese roots, the new arrangement implies Hasbro, current owners of the Power Rangers, are investing into the franchise in a way previous owners like Saban and Disney did not. This could eventually put Power Rangers in a position to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
How this happened
Back in 2018, Hasbro purchased the Power Rangers toy rights from Bandai, and has applied the same strategy to the franchise that it uses for Star Wars and Marvel. There are separate product lines for adult collectors and younger kids. When it happened, Saban Brands, owned by billionaire Haim Saban, was to continue producing Power Rangers media, including the TV show, video games, the very good comic books from BOOM! Studios, and whatever else they were cooking up.
That all changed just months later. In May 2018, Hasbro became became the owners of the entire franchise, and took on the responsibility of producing more Power Rangers TV episodes. Hasbro's production company Allspark is behind the current iteration of the TV show, titled Power Rangers Beast Morphers, and the company will presumably make the next Power Rangers movie, whenever that happens.
Hasbro and its entertainment subsidiary eOne see Power Rangers as a big intellectual property to weaponize, with 25-plus years of content to draw from and a built-in audience. When Hasbro acquired the Power Rangers for $522 million, it was a sweet deal. (It was even sweeter for Saban, who bought it from Disney in 2010 for less than $100 million.)
Why this matters
For the first time ever, an entity with deep pockets is taking Power Rangers seriously. And it isn't for a one-off reboot movie, either. This is the kind of active, long-term investment that neither Saban nor Disney ever bothered with.
In the Hollywood Reporter story, you'll find no mention of Super Sentai, the Japanese TV show from which Power Rangers recycles major elements — costumes, monsters, giant robots, entire fight scenes, and sometimes storylines. This is how, and why, Power Rangers is a "cheap" show. Producing Power Rangers is antithetical to making television in that an entire part of the show is already done and the the rest is reverse-engineering a new story out of existing material.
The lack of mention of Super Sentai in THR supports earlier scooping by The Illuminerd, which reported back in July 2020 that Hasbro was looking to sever ties with Japanese studio Toei. This means Hasbro may create a completely original Power Rangers exclusively for Western audiences.
Next year, Power Rangers Dino Fury will run as the series has before, using elements from a Super Sentai series, 2019's Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger. But after that, audiences may be in for something they've truly never seen before. And it might be because of Entwistle himself.
Who is Jonathan Entwistle?
Entwistle has an established and proven YA voice. He produced and directedThe End of the F***ing World, a dark comedy about a teen sociopath on a road trip, as well as the recent Netflix series I Am Not Okay With This, where Sophia Lillis plays a restless teen with telekinetic superpowers.
In both, Entwistle takes an ironic approach to bored teenagers experiencing a seismic shift in their lives. That both is and isn't quite Power Rangers. On the surface, a relatable version of Power Rangers would be that they're living a humdrum existence until a giant monster stomps their town. But Power Rangers has tended to work best with genuine sincerity.
Nothing in Power Rangers clicks when the teenagers crack wise about the kaiju that just leveled their high school, but when there's authentic stakes as the teen heroes jump into mechanical dinosaurs. That's actually what many critics, like David Sims at The Atlantic, liked about the reboot movie. "Every line of dialogue ranges between clumsily heartfelt and nakedly absurd," Sims wrote. Vox too published a positive review in a headline that read Power Rangers "is magical when it stops trying to be cool."
In 2018, Joshua Rivera wrote the definitive take on Power Rangers as a whole for GQ:
At its best, Power Rangers could be sweeping, mythic and large, full of stories of sacrifice and loss—but also while never leaving behind the kids that watched it. Maybe you couldn't morph or pilot a giant robot dinosaur—that was okay. As long as you were good to people around you, you stood up to bullies, you helped people who needed it, stuck up for those who couldn't stick up for themselves, you could be a Power Ranger too. At its worst, it still sold toys.
Entwistle has kept quiet about his plans for Power Rangers. Thus far, he's only shared on Twitter report on the ongoing process, adding that he intends to tell "one big Rangers story across Movies and TV." He has also changed his header image to the Green Ranger. But the specifics on how Entwistle will tell his story are as mysterious as the Rangers' next adventure.