This past August, the Power Rangers series turned 30 years old. While not entirely on the level of popularity as some of its other superheroic peers, there’s no denying the semi-tokusatsu franchise is in the hearts of fans and a certain generation. And like all long-running franchises, there comes a point where substantial change is greatly needed.
Now that Power Rangers: Cosmic Fury has dropped on Netflix—in turn seemingly setting the stage for what could be a complete reboot of the franchise—the question is what comes next for the teenagers with attitude. It’s known that Hasbro has aims toward making the franchise truly its own thing, with a planned reboot in the works (either as a movie or TV show) and expected to release within the next few years. Whatever those plans end up being, it’s high time the franchise dip its multicolored toes into the realm of animation.
Of the different mediums that the series has touched in 30 years—there’ve been a good number of video games, and many, many, many comics—they’ve only stuck to live-action. On some level, that’s to be expected; each Rangers series is a combination of original actors and storylines with footage from a specific Super Sentai season. That blend creates a cheesiness that’s part of the series’ overall charm, though many think that could be gradually fading. For as long as the franchise has been around, some of its bigger team-ups or reunions have been constrained by circumstances outside of its control, such as rights issues or actors not wanting (or able) to come back. Other times, attempts to blow the property up into a larger thing just haven’t hit with audiences. The most recent of the live-action films was the 2017 reboot, which fizzled out despite a genuinely charming cast of teen actors.
In the leadup to Cosmic Fury, ex-Rangers actor Catherine Sutherland believed the series has been somewhat limited by a reliance on Sentai footage and material and crafting shows around that rather than forging its own path. Whether or not that’s true is up to personal taste, but Hasbro very clearly has designs to distance the property away from Sentai. While Power Rangers has had original characters and storylines from the get-go, Cosmic Fury marked the the first time the franchise was telling an entirely original story with costumes that were mostly original designs (a continuation of Dino Fury, it largely retains the helmets from the suits worn in Kishyryu Sentai Ryusoulger) and that surely won’t be the last time that happens. In flexing whatever rules Hasbro is currently under—like adapting the stories from the Boom comics—jumping the Rangers over to another medium feels like a good way to establish a new era for the property and liven things up for those who feel some kind of change is needed.
Animation wouldn’t be an instant fix for the Power Rangers, but if there were any time to get on that train, it would arguably be now. Time and again, the industry has created fun, thrilling takes on established properties that have stuck with audiences for years, and more recent series have been able to push the limits and ideas of what said franchises were capable of. Part of what’s made recent western animated shows like Arcane, Scavengers Reign, and My Adventures with Superman hit is how they take advantage of the medium’s freedom in unique ways while still looking like some of the coolest stuff you’re guaranteed to see. And given how much Power Rangers is already suited to the medium—from its core premise to its occasionally multiversal scope and yes, even its magical girl-esque transformations—an animated series would be both attention-grabbing and more than appropriate.
With every franchise trying whatever tactic it can to sustain itself and draw in bigger audiences, a Power Rangers cartoon feels like an inevitability in the next few years. Even so, that doesn’t really take away from what it would mean for the series to branch out in this direction. If we’re to experience teens in flashy costumes beat up monsters in rock quarries and form giant mechs, there’s no rule stating it always has to be done with human actors. Or at least, not anymore.
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