Teenagers with Attitude (Problems) Change Grade: Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi
No one can ever claim that Power Rangers (or at least the first few seasons) was ever a very well-written show. With the characters sometimes being little more than tools to help move the plot along it was some time before we saw anything about their personalities beyond “this guy likes martial arts, she’s into gymnastics, this guy dances, she’s the female version of the first guy, and this guy’s a nerd… and they all really like colour-coded stuff.”
While some form of individuality rolls in later on, the lack of personalities at the beginning is still a clear problem in writing. Obviously, the movie does its best to correct it… kinda.
(Once again, this is all gleaned from the trailers and my knowledge of the movie’s initial working script by Max Landis–which seems to have heavily influenced the final product.)
For some reason “personality” and “problematic” have, somewhere along the way, become synonymous. And this applies even to the perception that the audience of the original series have: that Tommy, the original evil Green Ranger, was the only one with personality. Which… is ridiculous.
The character popped up from almost literally nowhere, was selected by Rita just ‘cause he could fight (which, okay, makes sense), became evil via mind control, became good by the end of the arc, and in no way was this approached again till much later.
While Tommy certainly did catalyse the development of the other Rangers, he himself lacked any real personality outside of his sometimes rivalry with Jason. At least Jason, for all of his boy scout goodyness, could lay claim to carrying a pretty damn strong personality with his highly martial arts-influenced code of ethics. Right from the first episode, Jason establishes that he isn’t a martial artist to beat people up, he’s a martial artist because he respects the discipline that comes with it. The same could be said of Trini.
It would only be around the era of the Green Candle that Tommy actually starts exhibiting any real individuality (even then, Jason kinda steals the show by volunteering to take on Goldar one-on-one), and this continues building up to the point of him becoming the White Ranger… which then involved the character being written in and out randomly due to complications behind using footage from two different Sentai shows.
Nevertheless, the new Power Rangers movie seems to have decided that in order to be interesting, you need to be, either whiny, surly, a bit of both, or kind of an asshole. And it’s not just Power Rangers. This extends to a fair bit of other movies as well: the false assumption that the boyscout carries the least personality.
For example, Superman is often accused of being both boring and over-powered (thereby making the accusers’ inability to read quite clear), and there are those that think that 2013’s Man of Steel is a better depiction of the character because he’s, y’know, moody. But all this proves is that the audience have devolved to the point where inference is dead. We only comprehend what we’re told: a character must be troubled if he acts all broody. There is no thought to “why?” In Man of Steel, Clark acts like a loner just because he’s different–once again glorifying the teenage mentality of “Oh, I’m so tortured, no one understands me, my parents got me an iPhone 6s instead of iPhone 7!”–but we see that he had a pretty great childhood and his only real tragedy was that his dad dies ’cause, y’know, Clark let him.
Just gonna put it out there, he who smiles in times of pain is often the stronger individual than he who chooses to dress like a bat and still fails at protecting his city. (I love Batman, but it’s like after JLU the world ran out of competent writers to tackle the character.)
While at least Billy’s and Trini’s frustration with the world can now be understood by way of how society treats them, it does feel a little heavy-handed that Jason is painted as a delinquent and Kimberly has a whole Britney moment. Much like in Landis’ script, it seems like Zack might be the closest thing to the average high schooler.
Of course, this is not to say that I think every character should be a goody scout type, it’s just that they shouldn’t be made troubled or problematic just for the sake of being interesting. If you keep doing that, then every character is going to feel like that 14 year old wannabe gangster in your class that everyone laughs at behind his back… kinda like Jared Leto’s Joker.
Either way, let’s all be thankful that we aren’t seeing a version close to Adi Shankar’s “vision.” I mean, talk about appealing to the lowest common denominator…