Blockbuster movie screens have been dominated by Generation X nostalgia for the past decade or so, with big-budget movies based on Transformers, G.I. Joe, Marvel Comics and even TV series like 21 Jump Street all doing impressive business for major studios. But children of the ’90s looking to see their own nostalgic favorites get the big-screen treatment won’t have to wait long: Studios are already locked in a massive bidding-war for the rights to a live-action Pokemon film, and a new feature film based on Power Rangers, is already in production at Lionsgate.
Now, a new set of images and a set video offer a new look at Elizabeth Banks as the new incarnation of original Power Rangers villain Rita Repulsa.
The images (via VanCity Buzz) show the glamorous actress and director vamping it up in a sleek suit of alien armor in the midst of a city street, possibly indicating that the scene takes place in the Rangers’ hometown of Angel Grove. If so, it would indicate the film taking a departure from the original version of Rita, who rarely appeared on Earth and instead commanded alien invaders from a palace on the Moon. However, sharp-eyed fans will note that the villainess’ staff is more reminiscent of her weapon from the original series than any other aspect of the character yet seen.
While the Power Rangers franchise has continued to air new seasons annually with a rotating cast and a semi-solid ongoing continuity, the new film is said to be a reimagining of the original “Mighty Morphin” series. While it’s unclear how much of the original storyline will be preserved, in that series Rita was an alien witch who resumed a 10,000 year old plan to conquer Earth after having been accidentally released from her imprisonment on the Moon. Her reappearance led her ancient enemy Zordon, a disembodied energy being charged with the protection of Earth, to assemble a team of “teenagers with attitude” (apparently a prerequisite) to take up the mantle of Power Rangers to combat her. In the series second season, she was replaced by a male villain named Lord Zedd, but returned not long after and gained control over Zedd by slipping him a love potion.
Repulsa is perhaps best remembered for being a (then) rare modern example of a character speaking another language being dubbed into English for American television. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was originally created by re-editing action footage from a Japanese “Super Sentai” series called Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, with limited footage of American actors playing the Rangers outside of their costumes. While much of the action footage in Zyuranger featured both Rangers and Monsters in costumes that either obscured or limited mouth-movement, making English dubbing easy, Rita (originally called “Bandora” on Zyuranger) was played by Japanese actress Machiko Soga with her normal face consistently visible. The spectacle of Rita’s lips being constantly out-of-sync with her lines remains one of the most fondly remembered low-tech aspects of the famously campy original series.
The film, which is being directed by Project Almanac’s Dean Israelite under production supervision from original MMPR creator Haim Saban (who launched the new film project shortly after reacquiring the rights to the property from Disney), is due out in the early part of 2017. Very little has been officially confirmed about the plot, and no images of the lead characters in their Ranger uniforms have yet been released.
Power Rangers is expected to reach theaters on March 24, 2017.