Saban's Power Rangers follows five ordinary teens who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove - and the world - is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it's too late, band together as the Power Rangers.
Directed by Dean Israelite (Project Almanac), Saban's Power Rangers stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, featuring Bill Hader, with Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. The screenplay is by John Gatins (Kong: Skull Island, Real Steel) and story is by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) and Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney. Producers are Haim Saban, p.g.a. (Power Rangers creator), Brian Casentini, p.g.a. (Power Rangers TV series), and Marty Bowen, p.g.a. and Wyck Godfrey, p.g.a. (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner franchise).
Based on the unendingly popular legend of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comes the rollicking, action-packed modern chronicle of how the famed colour-coded crew of teen warriors first transformed from a band of small-town outcasts into a united team of mighty superheroes. This is the fun-loving tale of how the quintet gained not only their alien powers but also their real and unbreakable bonds - which turn them into the last, if least likely, hope to save their hometown, and Earth itself, from an unstoppable evil force lying in wait for 65 million years.
The re-imagined story of Saban's Power Rangers comes to the screen on a thrilling scale that amps up the, action, effects and creative design. A fresh young cast from around the world joins with Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks in a non-stop adventure that puts ordinary teens to the test in the most extraordinary situation imaginable: transcending a 21st Century pressure cooker of cyber-bullying, alienation, peer pressures and family issues to become nothing less than the world's only chance to survive.
The addictive appeal of the Power Rangers has itself been morphing for decades. It first began in Japan with the charmingly campy live-action series known as "Super Sentai", which since 1975 has meshed eye-popping special effects with comical action as it follows an ever-changing team of five brightly-coloured heroes battling a madcap variety of monsters with out-of-this-world weapons. Each season of "Super Sentai" featured a different team of heroes. But it was in 1984, while on business in Japan, that television producer Haim Saban found himself drawn in by the 16th installment of the series, this one featuring adolescent "Dino Rangers" who must tap into their power to battle an ancient witch.
"I was watching these five kids in Spandex fighting rubber monsters and I just fell in love", Saban recalls. He quickly tracked down and secured the rights worldwide outside of Asia.
That's how the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were born, premiering on U.S. television in 1993. The show transported the setting to fictional Angel Grove, California, where five "teenagers with attitude", each assigned their own individual colours and powers, are chosen to defeat an extraterrestrial sorceress. Featuring an unusual mash-up of high-flying action footage from the Japanese series blended with American-shot dramatic scenes, the show quickly established its own playful tone and allure. Some were skeptical it could work in the U.S., but young audiences fell madly in love, and that love spread worldwide. Perhaps what has made the show so enduring in so many cultures is its underlying idea: that the Power Rangers are not just battling a bevy of bizarre and gargantuan monsters... they're learning what it means to be empowered and why they're most powerful working together.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers soon became the most-watched children's television program in the U.S., a smash hit franchise brand and a global phenomenon that set new precedents.
"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was one of the first multi-ethnic superhero shows and also one of the first to feature superhero girls", notes Saban. "It really struck a chord and ever since, it has been on air in more than 150 countries."
In the ensuing years, the Power Rangers went through many incarnations. Yet the enchanting appeal of their classic good vs. evil battles, optimism, loyalty and chromatic costumes continued. As the passion for Power Rangers persisted, the idea of re-visiting the origin of the Rangers - and bringing them into the high-tech realm of 21st Cinema for the first time - started to gain traction. What would the Rangers look like if they formed inside a real 2017 California high school full of complex kids facing a fast-moving future? The idea was irresistible to Saban - and pretty much everyone who heard it.
"We have a real passion for maintaining the legacy of this franchise. It has always been about fun and inclusiveness and that resonates with kids from all cultures. So when Lionsgate came to us with a new, exciting vision that paid homage to that spirit, we felt the time was right", says Saban. "We love that this film goes back to the basics of five teens with attitude. It's an aspirational story that young kids will relate to and older audiences will be very entertained by. For everyone, it's a chance to see a brand new generation of Power Rangers in a comical, contemporary and thrilling action story."
When development of Saban's Power Rangers took off, there was one fundamental principle guiding all involved: remain 100% faithful to the high-kicking, humor-filled essence of the television series - while updating it at every level from casting talented newcomers to incorporating cutting-edge VFX technology. Comments producer Brian Casentini, a Senior VP at Saban: "We love our fans as much as they love the franchise so we made sure the script stayed true to the spirit of the Power Ranger characters. But we also made sure to add lots of new layers and dimensions to all of them."
The script honed in on exploring the five Power Rangers as 21st Century high schoolers, each going through his or her own epic coming-of-age battle - and confronting today's issues of social media, cyber-bullying, peer pressure, family pressure and the uncertain future - all while learning to deal with superhuman strength and a heroic destiny that is thrust upon them without much warning.
"We saw a chance to take the core mythology of the Power Rangers to another level not only with fresh faces, but also new twists and angles", Casentini continues. "So many superheroes are people who aren't very relatable. That's why we thought it would be great to tap into what it would be like to be just a regular teen in a small town grappling with crazy, alien superpowers. These Power Rangers are not just battling monsters - they're facing real stakes in the real world."
Adds screenwriter John Gatins: "We wanted our Power Rangers to reflect more of what teenagers are going through right now - so we married more realism to the original concept. For each of our Rangers, there is something inside they have been wrestling with and trying to overcome."
Indeed, each Ranger-to-be has hit a form of adolescent rock bottom. Jason, the Red Ranger, is a former football star who inadvertently made a career-ending mistake; Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, is a Queen Bee who fell from grace; Billy, the Blue Ranger, is a super-smart but socially challenged kid who has never been able to make a single real friend; Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is a rebellious loner who never fits in; and Zack, the Black Ranger, is a tough-guy secretly in an even tougher family situation.
It is only when this quintet of outcasts all land together in school detention that fate takes over - and they suddenly find themselves attached to strange, glowing coins that seem to be bringing them inexplicable strength. Now, they have to figure how to control their mysterious abilities even as they face all the emotions and drama of finding their identities... and try to save the world to boot.
Also setting the film apart from the TV series, in Saban's Power Rangers the team of teens have to earn their Ranger status, which proves to be no easy task. Rather than being immediately empowered when they find the ancient coins, they must first uncover the key to morphing into full-fledged Power Rangers. Only when they fully bond as a united group can they attain the height of their powers - so they must learn to lower their teenage masks before they can don their Ranger armor.
The filmmakers felt creatively sparked by the screenplay, which itself seemed to figure out the trick of morphing the action and verve of the original Power Rangers concept with moving, modern characters. Sums up producer Marty Bowen: "At its heart, this is a story of true friends. Friends first - who only collectively become superheroes. The idea that you can defeat incredible obstacles only when you unite is what makes it truly special for all ages. With that as the core, we were also able to really push the envelope of what people might be expecting from the action. The combination is exciting."
To bring the origin story of the Power Rangers to life in a fittingly vibrant style, the team at Lionsgate and the producers went in search of a fresh cinematic talent who could bring an inspiring yet grounding vision to the table. They found that in Dean Israelite, who had come to fore with his inventive debut sci-fi thriller Project Almanac, about a teenager who discovers a powerful time-shifting device.
The icing on the cake was that Israelite was already a huge Power Rangers devotee, having grown up watching them on South African television. "It became a phenomenon there, just as it did all around the world", Israelite notes. "What I remember most is how empowered the show made you feel as a kid. When it emerged that this project was going to re-imagine the show, I was very excited about that. I felt if I could tap into the feeling of the original it could be an incredible adventure."
Israelite quickly impressed the team at Saban and Lionsgate with his deep familiarity with Power Rangers lore. "Dean clearly had the passion and creativity that match with the brand. Most of all, he got what the Power Rangers are about", comments Haim Saban. "He was able to put his arms around it because he grew up as a fan of the series and he knew the appeal, personally. At the same time, we saw that he could bring that fresh, contemporary voice to take the Power Rangers to a new place."
"Dean growing up with the Power Rangers mythology was crucial", comments producer Brian Casentini. "Also, right away he recognised that we wanted to create a different type of superhero film and he had a great vision for creating an action sci-fi thriller without losing the Power Rangers fun."
Adds producer Marty Bowen: "This is Dean's second full-length feature film, so we were awed by the level of artistry he brought. Throughout, he knew what he wanted and was fearless and tireless in pursuing it. It was exciting to have the production led by a guy so young and full of aspiration."
From the start, Israelite was committed to balancing the love of fans like himself for the sweet-souled purity of the Power Rangers with the massive creative challenge of bringing the franchise up-to-date with today's culture and technology. "We made this film because of the fans who sustained the series for over 23 years", says the director. "So it was imperative to me that fans see in our movie many of the things they adore about the series. At the same time, the idea was to do that in a bold, contemporary way that will appeal to all audiences in 2017."
He continues: "Our story stays true to the entire mythos and universe of the Power Rangers but it broadens it and revisits it for our times. And for those who have never even seen the show, they are going to be introduced to some rich, relatable characters in a really original, inventive world."
Israelite was especially fired up by the idea of creating a hybrid between an authentic youth drama morphed with a limitless fantasy adventure that breaks the rules of reality. It wasn't an easy tone to nail, but he had a lot of ideas about how to do it.
"We wanted these Power Rangers to be more real, more human and more nuanced than they've ever been so we've pushed the emotion, as well as the humor", he says. "The other thing that was really important to me was to create a world that would be unique unto itself, a world that doesn't borrow from all the other superhero movies we've seen but has a different visual style. The Power Rangers have their own truly distinct legacy that is completely separate from other superhero legends, so we worked hard to make sure our film's design pays respect to that and takes advantage of it."
Early on, he knew he wanted to use the next-generation RED Dragon HD camera to heighten the immersiveness and emotional intimacy inside the raucous action. "I was looking for the movie to feel very fluid and organic, never staged", Israelite explains. "So we used the RED Dragon in a cool configuration that made it very light and nimble and enabled us to move it in all kinds of creative ways. We also shot on the Phantom high-speed camera, which allows you to ramp things up to about a thousand frames per second. We used the Phantom for a lot of the fight scenes because it gives you an exhilarating view into the martial arts the Power Rangers are capable of."
To help him bring his large-scale vision of the Power Rangers circa 2017 to the screen, Israelite worked with some of the best craftspeople in the business, including the legendary effects wizards at New Zealand's Weta Workshop, who designed the Power Rangers' thoroughly updated, see-through suits, and the creative minds at Legacy Effects, known for their eye-popping creature effects.
He also assembled a diverse cast not only from the United States (RJ Cyler, Becky G) but also from Australia (Dacre Montgomery), China (Ludi Lin) and the UK (Naomi Scott).
Each brought their own personal connection growing up with the Power Rangers: Ludi Lin's first action figure was the Yellow Power Ranger; Dacre Montgomery counted the Power Rangers as childhood heroes alongside Batman and Spiderman; RJ Cyler honed his action chops at a young age imitating the Rangers; Becky G grew up a fan playing Power Rangers with her brother; and Naomi Scott says what drew her was the chance to "delve deeper" into the Power Rangers than any incarnation before.
The idea was to push every element to as far and as fun a point as possible, but the foundation was always the characters and who they are each trying to become as people as much as Rangers. Sums up Israelite: "We go on a fantastic odyssey with these kids - and that odyssey allows them to come of age in ways that are very meaningful. It's a journey of transformation but they also have tons of fun and thrills along the way -- and so will the audience."
Jason, the Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery): Once an idolised football star in his small town, Jason toppled from the heights of teen popularity with one fateful and humiliating mistake. When we first meet Jason, he is in need of redemption and struggling to find himself. But when he is given the chance to lead an unlikely team of teenage superheroes, he rises to a challenge greater than any he ever imagined. Taking the role of the Power Ranger's inspiring leader is Dacre Montgomery, a young Australian-raised actor who will appear in the second season of the Netflix hit Stranger Things. Saban's Power Rangers marks his first major feature film, after making an auspicious debut in the Australian short fantasy film Betrand the Terrible.
Montgomery immediately struck Dean Israelite as having all the qualities that make Jason the unifying force for his friends. "What I love about Dacre is that he's sympathetic right away. He has swagger but it doesn't alienate you; it makes you love him even more. The other thing is that Dacre is such a conscientious, focused guy in real life you feel that he really is a born leader. Before any of the actors knew each other, he was already the one making sure they were all coordinating because they were from all around the world. That comes naturally to him."
Montgomery thought a lot about what it means to be a superhero. "A lot of kids growing up are looking for heroes, and for me, I had the Power Rangers, Batman and Spider-Man. These characters meant a lot to me at that age, so I felt there was a responsibility in taking that on", he says.
He was especially excited to play a character who is not exactly leading the life of a role model - until he gets his act together as the Red Ranger. "What I like is that Jason is not just your classic popular guy and sports player. There are multiple layers to his character and he's going through a lot of trials and tribulations and questioning about his future that you might not expect of a guy like that. But as the stakes raise in the battle to save Angel Grove, you see him change", he describes.
Regarding Jason's leadership qualities, Montgomery says the most important one is not focusing too much on himself. "I believe you can't ever be a successful leader without including the group and really listening to others. So for Jason to lead the Power Rangers is partly about learning how to be a good member of the ensemble - how to keep learning from others and being very collaborative. That's how I like to work in my life so I tried to bring that to Jason."
Along those lines, Montgomery loved having the chance to bond deeply with his cast-mates. That was especially true with Naomi Scott, who plays the Pink Ranger, Kimberly, to whom Jason is drawn. "I learned so much from Naomi, and we became such good friends, that were able to really explore that kind of relationship where you are discovering a bond in real time", he says.
As for the film's inventive gadgetry, a favorite for Montgomery is the Red Ranger's famed power sword, which underwent a sleek overhaul by the design team to up its cool factor. "I was blown away by the incredible engineering that went into creating this sword", muses Montgomery. "It's beautiful, it lights up and it helped me to feel really strong as Jason. That sword has its own powerful presence!"
Montgomery anticipates that audiences will enjoy the film's distinctive mix-mastering of imaginative action with palpably real characters. "People love huge-scale films where you can escape into another world and see things you've never seen before", he observes. "You get all that in this film - but because the characters are so real, you get to be part of them discovering what they discover as they become Power Rangers, which makes it even more fun and heart-felt."
Kimberly, the Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott): Kimberly was once Queen Bee of Angel Grove High, an imperiously popular cheerleader, but having been cast out of her clique, she's now trying to uncover her real identity. Behind her rebel-without-a-cause, edgy attitude is a secret that makes her feel deeply vulnerable. Playing Kimberly is Naomi Scott, who got her start on the Disney Channel UK before coming to America to star in Lemonade Mouth and the sci-fi series Terra Nova.
Dean Israelite was impressed by how Scott tackled the role. "Naomi is extremely talented and bright and she brings a depth to the Pink Ranger that will be very exciting for audiences", he says. "I'm especially proud that this is a movie where the female lead isn't just there to serve the male lead. Kimberly is very much her own strong person and she goes on her own important journey."
Also impressed was Elizabeth Banks. "Naomi is so mature and cool and interesting and I think she brought all the gravitas that she has naturally as a person to the role, which I loved. She's very much the heart of the movie", Banks offers.
Scott remembers the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as an inimitable part of her youth. "My brother was obsessed with anything superhero-related. I remember we would sing the theme tune and then run at each other and play-fight", laughs Scott.
She was instantly taken with how the series had been updated. "These kids aren't stereotypes - and Kimberly's not a stereotypical popular girl. She's no just one thing, and it's really representative of high school now where kids have so much going on in their lives and are so sophisticated", she observes. "Because you believe in these kids, you can believe in them being superheroes. I also like that they seem to be the least likely of friends, but when they do come together, they're destined for greatness."
Speaking of least likely friends, the closeness that develops between outcast Trini and cool girl Kimberly surprises both. Scott loved working with Becky G. "When women work together we empower each other and that describes Kimberly and Trini - and it also describes me and Becky. She encouraged me, I encouraged her and it was fantastic. The girls in this film are really kick-ass", Scott points out.
Scott found it easy to relate to Kimberly's blend of confidence and insecurity, but one thing new to her was the all-out stunt training she underwent for months. "My body hurt every day, but it was a good kind of hurt, and it was really so much fun", she confesses. "I learned amazing new skills."
Diving in so intensely with her cast-mates only brought them closer. "It's rare that a group gels as fast as we did", Scott says. "Even though we all come from different walks of life, we very quickly loved each other - during production, it only got stronger."
Stitching everyone together, says Scott, was Israelite's enthusiasm. "Dean's passion is why the film is able to be so visually exciting yet have so much heart. He made it a true collaboration, in keeping with the spirit of the Power Rangers", she concludes.
Billy, the Blue Ranger (RJ Cyler): Billy has always been challenged in his abilities to communicate and interact socially. Whip-smart yet sweet, he is the most pure-hearted of the group. Billy has never really had friends, so when he's accepted as part of the group, it's a big deal and changes him in unforeseeable ways. The role of Billy, who proclaims himself "on the spectrum", was one of the hardest to cast, but RJ Cyler won over the filmmakers with his candid, funny, warm-hearted take. A rising star, Cyler made an auspicious debut in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, winning the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer.
Israelite was impressed by how Cyler blended Billy's serious brains and social awkwardness into a character people want to root for. "RJ is such a unique person - everything he does has its own flavor and he put that into the character in a way that celebrates a guy who marches to his own drum. I could never have imagined the way RJ approaches all his lines but he created something funny, true and specific. Best of all, he brings a sweetness to the character, and to the whole film, that's infectious."
Says Dacre Montgomery, whose character becomes the close friend Billy never thought he'd have, of Cyler: "RJ is a genius at both comedy and drama. He brought so much beautiful energy to this role and the rest of us fed off that every day on set. I could not have done the same job without RJ."
Cyler recalls having a complicated relationship with the Power Rangers from early in life. "It brought me a lot of smiles, but then it also brought a lot of tears with the punishment that I got from breaking things doing Power Ranger-type activities!" he quips. "My brothers and I used to watch the show together and as soon as the TV went off, the real show started - it was, everybody grab your pillows because it's about to go down!"
Years later, he is excited to bring a fresh take on the Rangers to a new generation, and especially to bring a character like Billy into a superhero universe that usually relies on conventional depictions of human strength. Cyler loves that the fact that the way Billy is different becomes part of his power.
"Billy doesn't know how to make friends", Cyler points out. "But with this group, he's able to take that chance he's never taken in his life and try to connect. It's a really big step and you see Billy discover things about himself as he goes through it. He used to only know math and science, so it's a new thing for him to know people, to have that emotional link, and I think that's an important thing to see, especially today when so many kids are living in an electronic world that can be so impersonal."
Ultimately, Cyler says the film allows you to believe anyone can be a superhero. "That's what makes Power Rangers so dang cool", he concludes. "It's the fact that you've got outcasts like Billy who feel they don't fit in anywhere, and yet they can do these amazing things. They break barriers."
Trini, the Yellow Ranger (Becky G): Trini is clever and creative but doesn't let anybody get to know her. Her parents constantly move for work, making her the perpetual "new girl" who doesn't have anyone else to rely upon. A loner who owns it, Trini is self-sufficient, but always observant. All she wants is to find her gang of friends, but she'll never admit it - least of all to herself. To portray Trini, the filmmakers recruited their youngest cast member: multi-platinum recording artist, singer and songwriter Becky G. Recently seen in two episodes of the hit television series Empire, this is her first major feature film.
To Dean Israelite, Becky G was a dead ringer for who Trini really is deep inside her façade. "Becky is such a fierce person", says Dean Israelite, "and she brings out that same ferocity in Trini ... where you feel that if she just could open up a little, you would really see how amazing she can be."
Becky was excited from the minute she heard there was going to be an updated Power Rangers movie. "The best part about it is that this is a whole new start for a new generation who might not really know the Power Rangers", she muses. "The film keeps the true essence of what the Power Rangers have always been about -- working together because together we are more -- but makes it completely relevant to who we are and how we lead our lives today."
To describe Trini when we first meet her, Becky uses the words "independent" and "a bit stand-offish." "Trini doesn't see the point in getting to know other kids because her family is always moving", Becky explains. "She'd rather be alone than invest any kind of emotion because she can't really call anywhere home. So when she gets to Angel Grove, she's like, here we go again... until she meets these other four teenagers who, little does she know, all have some deep common ground. Ultimately, it's really cool to see her grow and find not only her strength but more openness and trust."
In her first major movie role, Becky was especially excited to work with Naomi Scott in the role of Trini's newfound friend, Kimberly. "Naomi became like my big sister", she says. "She was just so lovely, so nice to everybody, but at the same time, very sure of herself. Every decision that she made for her character was so precise and well thought out. I was constantly inspired by her."
As she got to know her co-stars better, Becky G saw art imitating life. "What's funny is that these five kids need to come together to morph into the Power Rangers and we also needed to get closer and closer to each other to make that seem real. We were all on a similar journey", she muses.
Zack, the Black Ranger (Ludi Lin): A natural athlete, Zack is tough and cool on the exterior but has a lot more going on behind his fearless appearance. Zack advertises everything about himself, except the truth, which makes him feel deeply inferior to all his peers. Playing Zack is Chinese-Canadian actor and martial artist Ludi Lin, who seemed stunningly Zack-like to everyone who encountered him.
"Ludi has led an adventurous life and he personifies the wild spirit that Zack has", says Dean Israelite. "There was never an emotional challenge or a physical stunt that Ludi would back away from and that is Zack. Ludi definitely brings that thrill-seeking, rebellious quality - but he's also such a lovely person that I think you can't not feel that in anything that he does, and he balances those two things."
Adds Becky G: "Ludi is 100% muscle, but he also just radiates positive energy. The first time I met him, I was like, wait, who is this guy? He was so committed, I thought he was actually Zack."
Lin had a deep love for the series long before he got the part - running home every day from school as a kid to watch the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and hanging onto his Yellow Power Ranger action figure. "As a kid, I loved it because it was cool heroes battling big monsters with robots. Now, with the modernization of the series, I love that it takes a deeper look at what it means to be a team."
He describes Zack as "a wild child, a lone wolf, always going after adventure - but mostly as a way to distract himself away from some meaningful problems in his own life." Lin goes on: "It's not really until Zack finds his wolf pack that he is able to confront those problems completely."
While Lin was intrigued by what his character must face, he was especially excited to experience what happens when the Power Rangers morph and gain control of their unique vehicles - the multi-faceted giant vehicles known as Zords, featuring prehistoric creature qualities. "When I first saw the designs for the Zords, I was fully in awe", recalls Lin. "They capture the essence of the original Zords but they've been totally revamped, re-engineered and brought into today's world in the most creative, mind-boggling ways. And piloting my Zord? It was so awesome, I still dream about it."
Lin believes it was Dean Israelite's ability to stir together disparate elements - the high-tech and the light-hearted, high-school and aliens, parents and superheroes, smart phones and Zords - that makes the film feel so of the moment, even while harking back to the Power Rangers' nostalgic charm.
"There's just nothing perfunctory about how Dean works", observes Lin. "The magic of what he does comes from getting in the dirt and figuring things out. Sometimes Dean would get into the scene even more than we did. We would hear this raw animal roar sometimes coming from behind the cameras and we knew that's Dean. Or after an intense, emotional scene you'd see him crying. He feels everything that is going on and that translates to the screen."
When the five Angel Grove teens uncover an ancient spaceship buried in an old mine, they also uncover what lies within: Zordon, a once-ingenious and commanding E.T. who has lost his body and is now just a consciousness trapped inside the walls of the ship; and his quirky, lonely robot, Alpha 5. The filmmakers were thrilled to be able to cast two of today's most sought-after stars in the key roles: Academy Award®-nominated and four-time Emmy Award-winning star Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Trumbo, All The Way) and former SNL star and leading comic actor Bill Hader (Trainwreck, Finding Dory).
The pair upped the bar - and the joy quotient - for everyone. "What was great about bringing Bryan and Bill in is that they embodied the spirit of these two larger-than-life characters so perfectly that it inspired us all", muses Dean Israelite.
He was thrilled that Cranston - who provided a variety of monster voices for the very first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the early '90s, long before his career skyrocketed - was keen to return to the new incarnation.
It was not lost on the cast and crew that the character Billy Cranston is named after the actor. Even more so, Cranston's mix of dramatic intensity and comic instincts was a great match for Zordon, who is at once a galactic sage and a guy without a body. "Bryan has such a unique authority and gravitas about him, but he also brings the humanity we wanted for Zordon. We didn't want Zordon to feel like the Wizard of Oz", notes Israelite, "to be just a disembodied voice. You have to feel there's a real personality to him that has a major impact on our group of teens."
In fact, Cranston brought so much personality, it altered the effects. Recalls Israelite: "When we were doing the facial capture, Bryan started reading in very surprising ways and I remember at the end of that day our visual effects supervisor Sean Faden said to me, 'Wow, I see that we will have to step up our game with the visual effects because Zordon is going to be such an amazing character.'"
Cranston has warm memories of his first, fledgling encounter with The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. "It was a lot of fun to do and it was also my first introduction as an actor to being able to convey a story and emotions through only your voice. In that way, it was a great learning experience -- and I was really grateful to have the job, too", he confesses.
But it was not nostalgia that lured him back to Power Rangers territory three decades later. "When I first got the call about doing Zordon, it made me smile", he says. "But that alone really wouldn't have been enough for me to say yes. I had to know the storytelling was going to be something compelling and exciting, so it was only after I talked to Dean and read the script that I jumped in."
He goes on: "The story pays homage to the original series - and incorporates fun 'Easter eggs' for fans - but what drew me is that the storytelling is so current. I think audiences, whether they know the Power Rangers past or not, will relate to the characters. The kids feel so real. They feel like high school kids in 2017. Of course, back in the day there also wasn't the incredible CGI there is now. They had very basic green screens, but now, Dean was almost unlimited in his imagination."
Cranston loved how Israelite handled Zordon's character, bringing him into a world of 21st Century youth that flummoxes the great leader. "Zordon has been waiting millions of years for the new generation of Power Rangers to arrive, but now that they finally have... he's faced with what he sees as a group of pouty little brats who don't get it at all. That's his first impression", laughs Cranston. "Zordon knows it is up to them and there's not much he can do in his position. But they don't seem ready to embrace being heroes and at first they don't take seriously the imminent danger they're all in. They're not able to unite as a team, so they're not able to morph and it's all terribly disappointing to Zordon, not to mention that the universe is probably going to be doomed because of it."
"But then the kids surprise Zordon", Cranston continues. "The resilience and strength of the human spirit comes alive. They start to pull it together and to realize that there's something more important than themselves, which is a great lesson."
In the original series, Zordon was preserved as a hologram but Israelite wanted to update an idea that has been over-used in movies. "We veered away from the hologram idea and turned in the opposite direction of making him more analog. In fact, he's become part of the spaceship itself. He's now trapped in the matrix of the actual ship material - and the substance he's made out of is thousands of tiny rods that undulate and poke out of the wall that he's trapped inside."
This fascinated Cranston as well. "Zordon is meant to be a leader but he's relegated to being almost a spirit as it were within the walls of his downed spaceship. He has to try to imbue the kids with a sense of responsibility for saving the world, but meanwhile, he can only materialize by coming through the wall."
The design was a coup for the effects team. "Zordon is essentially a kinetic sculpture", states VFX Supervisor Sean Faden. "He's a very cool piece of procedural animation who appears to be about 20 feet tall by 60 to 80 feet wide. He is inside of a curved wall with metallic rods that constantly push and pull. The rods also allow for a red glow to bleed between them, enhancing the impact of Bryan's performance even more."
One challenge for Cranston was sitting for a detailed, full-body-and-head molding used to create the design in the computer. Cranston notes that such fittings are not for the claustrophobic. "You have to try to go to a Zen-like place because when they put on the face mold, you're sitting completely surrounded by plaster for 45 minutes, during which the only way you can breathe is through tiny nostril holes. You can't see, all sound is muffled and it's almost like you're under water. It's a very weird experience - but it's all part of the fun of this kind of character."
Also part of the fun for Cranston was seeing the final results of a performance that is ultimately a hybrid of his own work and the creativity of the effects team. "As an actor you are focused intently on presenting your character the best you can, but then these guys come along and put on the final touches, bringing in mystery and magic", he concludes.
If Zordon is a trapped-in-the-walls guru, Alpha 5 is a shipwrecked cyborg. As Zordon's robot sidekick, Alpha 5 is going stir crazy after millions of years alone on the spaceship waiting for the new Power Rangers to be discovered. Bill Hader brought his own blend of comedy and approachable appeal to Alpha 5. "Bill can't help but be hilarious and he brings his comic sensibility to Alpha 5", says Israelite. "He's also incredibly smart and he was constantly bringing embellishments and nuances to his lines. The physical design of the character is a lot of fun, but Bill brought a whole other level to it."
Hader was instantly attracted to the fresh take on the Power Rangers; he describes it as "what if the Breakfast Club kids became superheroes." But he wasn't fully sold until he saw some early animatics of Alpha 5. "I thought it just looked so cool", he recalls. "And then I went to Dean's office and he showed me the first five minutes of the movie, with the big chase, and I thought 'this is great, I really want to do it.' I could see that Dean had a vision that was not cookie cutter at all. He truly was setting out to make a teen superhero movie that would be something different and that is always exciting."
Playing Alpha 5 also proved to be a thrilling challenge for Hader - especially since he is renowned for his wildly creative facial expressions, yet here his character has no human face to speak of. Always willing to try anything, Hader explored a variety of voices and personalities before settling on an upbeat take that made the character a key link of trust between the teens and Zordon.
"I play Alpha 5 as a very excitable but positive little robot, who is so excited that the Power Rangers have finally showed up after eons, because now he and Zordon can get this show on the road!" muses Hader. "I tried several permutations of the character, including one where he was more curmudgeonly, but the one everyone loved is when he's very optimistic and energetic - trying to be a little bit of a mentor to these kids. Really, Alpha 5 is the conduit between Zordon and the teens, and he's the one who has to try to help Zordon understand them. He can seem kind of oblivious to things, but he's a know-it-all robot when he needs to be."
As for how he sees the would-be new Power Rangers, Hader confesses: "His first impression is that they're very small... and they're young... and not too skilled. But he's the ever-hopeful mentor - even when they keep messing up."
Cranston's performance also served as an inspiration and jumping-off point for Hader. "The direction Bryan took Zordon was very grounded and real and that really helped me to find the right tone to react to that", he notes.
In turn, Cranston says that Hader bolstered his performance. "I've been fortunate to work with Bill before on SNL, and he is a really funny guy and also a really, really sweet guy. With his voice, he can convey that sense of trust and friendliness that was really needed for Alpha 5 so that the kids know that this is a robot they can trust. And at the same time, he's funny as hell."
Watching footage of Alpha 5 while recording ADR dialogue was also a big boost for Hader. "The difficult part of a role like this is that you just have your voice and you don't have your facial expression to add to it. So watching Alpha 5 and seeing how he was moving, my voice just organically brightened because he was such a cool little guy and I could relate to him", he explains.
The new physical take on Alpha 5 harkens back to the original red-and-blue character, but updates what was a riff on the rigid 1950s-style robot. This updated version is far more flowing and organic, befitting a leading-edge Artificial Intelligence. Says production designer Andrew Menzies: "Dean wanted to honor the fun and quirky qualities of the original Alpha 5. But, at the same time, we felt we had an exciting opportunity to do something cool with all the flexible materials available today. My idea was to riff off a tree frog, with its huge, expressive eyes. I gave those notes to a great illustrator at Legacy Effects, and he coined it in a weekend. Because Alpha 5 is made out of mesh, he can completely change his shape. That also means his brain rolls around in his head and sometimes when he leans over it falls out and he has to chase after it. He is a very fun and comical character."
When the future Power Rangers reawaken Zordon, they also rouse his menacing, eons-old nemesis: the impeccably villainous Rita Repulsa, who has a tangled history and desires nothing less than to conquer all of Earth. In search of an actress who could do an out-sized archenemy justice, the filmmakers were gratified to be able to cast Elizabeth Banks, well known for her iconic role as Effie Trinket in the blockbuster Hunger Games series.
"We were so lucky to get Elizabeth", says Dean Israelite. "She's perfect in this role because she's both a versatile dramatic actress and a fabulous comedienne - and Rita is both dead serious and very funny. To be able to shift between the two, yet always retain truthfulness is an amazing skill."
Israelite and Banks both wanted to push the character as far as they could. "We had a lot of discussions about how to bring to life Rita's unique brand of insanity that existed in the show. I think Elizabeth found her own very cool, intriguing and original way to do that", says the director.
Banks felt an instant attraction to the project. "I love big, fun movies -- and I really love movies that are about friends who come together to fight bad guys and team-building", Banks begins. "I also thought this movie felt really fresh. It's very of the moment, with so many young stars who are so diverse and multi-cultural and seem to really represent the energy of young people right now. It's still about a small town and about the big stakes of saving the world, as the Power Rangers should be, but it's also about a group of young people figuring out their place in today's world."
She, too, had a personal Power Rangers connection via her brother. "It seemed like we had the entire toy line in our house", she recalls. "And we'd play with them constantly, acting out with karate chops and kicks and the whole thing. So my brother was pretty excited when I got this job."
In playing Rita, Banks drew on the existing mythology but also wanted to create an imposing new feminine, and funny, take for the annals of cold-blooded screen villains. "I wanted to convey the feeling of someone larger than life - a big, broad and brassy woman who takes no prisoners and just is utterly determined to win. To me, that was always Rita throughout the series and that's the attitude I wanted to bring. I think compared to other screen villains, she's right up there in terms of evil, but she has more of a sense of humor than many. She's really in it all for herself and thinks of measly, powerless humans the way we might think of insects. There's great freedom in playing someone like that."
For producer Marty Bowen, Banks nailed the perfect line. "Rita had to be scary, but she also had to be funny and let's be honest, she also had to be sexy", he comments. "It's hard enough to find all three attributes in a single actress, let alone an actress willing to sit through 4½ hours of make-up, but Elizabeth was all that. The moment Elizabeth walked onto the set in her full Repulsa glory as this swamp-like creature surrounded by gold stunned us all. That was when I realised the film's delicate tone of cool and fun was going to work."
Dacre Montgomery was thrilled to work with Banks, even if Rita Repulsa is the Power Rangers' greatest threat. "Elizabeth was so incredibly creepy and powerful that she pushed us all to come up to her high bar. She brought an incredible energy to the set, both as Rita and as a person", he says.
Adds Bryan Cranston: "Elizabeth is demonic and as fierce as Rita, and it looks like she had a blast playing a character who is so empowered."
The full creation of Rita Repulsa involved not only Banks' deft skills but a bevy of prosthetic pieces - a design supervised by Toby Lindala (X-Men 2, Once Upon a Time) of Lindala Schminken fx Inc. Lindala worked in synch with costume designer Kelli Jones, who added her own creative touches. "We created this partially-morphed, gnarled look for Rita, which is very sinister", says Lindala.
Adds Jones: "We did illustration after illustration of Elizabeth's costume to come up with Rita's final look, searching for just the right balance of sexy and scary. The hardest thing was that we wanted it to look like the costume is growing out of her skin."
Banks' costume began simply enough: with a stretchy body suit, but Lindala sculpted, molded and melted silicone pieces into a stunning work of dark art. Each day, Banks was further fitted with extensive face prosthetics, a claw-like headpiece, gold teeth, silicone hands and gold talons. In the end, 99% per cent of Rita Repulsa's look was done in-camera with only the final touches crafted digitally.
"We only added enhancements to her morphing staff, her gold and dirtied her teeth up until her final transformation. We used CG to show her final morph both in gold details appearing through her skin and in the spikes of her suit forming", says Visual Effects Supervisor Sean Faden.
For Banks, sitting in the makeup chair each day, was a bit of an endurance event, especially for Rita's elaborate "urchin" look. "That version of her outfit involved full body prosthetics, so I was head to toe in silicone and plastic and it was intense. There were long hours of sitting still, not really being able to breathe, while six people are working on you all at once", she describes. "It's a challenge, but when I would look in the mirror, I had disappeared and there in my place was Rita Repulsa."
Not only was Banks devoted to Rita's look, she was equally intent on creating the right sound for Rita Repulsa, working with a linguist to develop Rita's own invented alien language. "We talked a lot about how Rita might talk in her world's own language. And we used an invented language that has its own logic to it so the words have a reality to them", she explains.
Much as Banks enjoyed plunging into pure evil, she was also drawn to the fact that the movie is about the spirit it takes to defeat evil. She sums up: "One thing I love about the new version is the idea the inclusion is a way to find your power. I know lots of kids feel like outsiders, but in this film, you see kids who think they are outsiders but discover they are totally connected to each other. It's a great message that you're not alone. No matter who you are or what you're going through, there's a Power Ranger in this story that you'll probably relate to."
One of the biggest questions that Saban's Power Rangers faced right off the bat was: What about the suits? Nearly everyone associates the original series with its primary-colour-coded Spandex costumes, but there was little doubt they needed a totally modern makeover. For one thing, in the storytelling, the suits are not supposed to be man-made; they're very much alien-made - so there was no reason to limit the imagination. The suits did need to be demonstrably protective, but rather than create something clunkier with thick shielding, the idea was to take a 180 in a whole new direction.
That's how the team settled on hyper-sleek suits with new-fangled, see-through, impenetrable armor that is triggered by the morphing grid when the Rangers finally pass the test. Fortunately, the filmmakers had the world-class team at New Zealand's Weta Workshop on their side to make it work.
"We wanted to highlight the alien source of the Rangers' powers, so that you see their suits glowing and flowing in action," explains Brian Casentini. "At the same time, the suits had to have a lot of flexibility for the incredible martial arts moves that make the Power Rangers such fun. Weta did an outstanding job. Everyone at Saban and Lionsgate was taken aback when we saw the suits on our actors, and we think the audience will be too."
Though Weta never shrinks from a challenge, the task was daunting even for them. "I will be honest. I totally freaked out when the transparent suit idea was first broached," confesses Weta project supervisor Luke Hawker. "I had no idea how we were going to do it. Having worked with clear urethanes before I knew how difficult it would be to get perfect casts every time and we were working with over 2,000 components. The fact that we actually achieved it is a testament to the crew we have at Weta. We looked in the face of danger, and we succeeded. That is an incredible feeling."
The designs for the suits started with 2-D drawings by Legacy Effects that were turned into digital 3D models. Hawker notes there was no precedent for what they wanted, even among superheroes. "These are very different superheroes because unlike a Spider-Man or Batman, which is a human body with a fabric costume on top, the Power Rangers have to feel like they have outer-space origins, and that the suits morphed onto the Rangers to become a protective crystal," explains Hawker. "One of the hardest things was finding the right skin for our base because we needed something with a lot of texture but it had to be a robust enough material to support the sleek and slender design."
Weta came up with a Lycra unitard onto which very specific armor pieces were glued, strapped or bolted for each Ranger. "Each of the suits is representative of the individual characters," Hawker explains. "The Red Ranger is smooth and powerful, so he feels like the leader. The Blue Ranger is quite wide, with shoulder plates that accentuate his triangular shape. He's like a tank or aircraft carrier. The Black Ranger is the most angular, but with a low center of gravity, so his sharp lines look very formidable. His armor is sharp and boxy. Then we have the Pink Ranger - her suit has lovely, feminine lines to it but she is also very scary. The Yellow Ranger is more cat-like and has an agility to it."
"When all five of them line up they look breathtaking," says Hawker with pride. "Our team loves to bring joy to people, and we know the audience is going to love seeing these Power Rangers doing crazy things in these suits."
Weta fabricated three suits for each ranger: one everyday suit and two stunt suits that could be rigged for special movements. Although the suits are real, CG elements enhance them. Visual Effects Supervisor Sean Faden explains: "The first thing we did was to shoot the suits along with reference photograph and digital scans. We used this material to rebuild them in the computer so we would have CG suits to match the real-life ones. The morphing grid was added to a diamond shape in the chest of the practical suit with built in lights for proper light interaction on the actors. We also had distinct brightly coloured lines sewn into the suits that could be isolated to add energy effects in post that would emanate from the morphing grid and radiate throughout the suits."
The teens' early, frustrating attempts at morphing into Power Rangers were also intriguing for Faden's team. "They are trying to harness their powers, but they're not there yet, so we had to create a sense of an unstable suit morph that the kids could not sustain," he explains.
The suits mesmerised the cast. Remembers Naomi Scott: "When I looked at myself in the mirror wearing the suit for the first time, I thought, I've completely transformed. I mean, you don't really think it's you. You're like, who is this pink thing? It was just so cool and I think it really helped us take on the strength of the Power Rangers."
Adds RJ Cyler: "Being in the suit almost made you want to go out and see if you could flip a car, but then you remember, OK, this is just a movie. You always feel like posing in the suit because you know no matter what pose you do, you're going to look cool."
Becky G tells it straight up: "If we're being completely honest, these suits are not the most comfortable. They look cool but it's layers on top of layers and armor over armor. The incredible team at Weta kept saying 'sorry' when we were doing the fitting. But it was worth it, because it looked so killer, so badass. I took one look at myself and lost it. I thought, I'm a Power Ranger, this is amazing."
Once the Power Ranger ensemble was assembled, another gigantic task awaited them: learning to fight like teenagers suddenly gifted with the mega-strength of galactic aliens. Says producer Marty Bowen: "It was crucial that the martial arts in the movie honor the original series but have its own style. We wanted the audience to be rooting for the Rangers to kick butt and take names."
While the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers borrowed Japanese footage of flashy, funky karate moves, Dean Israelite wanted the stunts and martial arts in Saban's Power Rangers to be immediate, realistic... and performed by the cast themselves as much as was safely possible.
"One of the reasons I wanted to get our cast in fantastic shape and train them to do many of the moves and stunts is that I didn't want the camera to be cutting to stunt doubles very often. I wanted everything in the movie to feel grounded and real - so that when you're watching an action scene, you're thinking, 'wow, if I had a power coin, I could do that, too.'"
The intensive training of Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin was overseen by stunt coordinator Larry Lam, who notes: "Each character has his or her own special fighting style. Zack, the Black Ranger, relies on fighting strength he already has whereas Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is scrappy and inventive. Kimberly, The Pink Ranger, is fluid and graceful, while Jason, the Red Ranger, uses all around athleticism befitting his background. Billy, the Blue Ranger, brings a comic touch - and RJ put his personality into all the moves."
The training had the five young stars working harder than they ever knew was possible. Recalls Becky G: "I was running stairs, doing jumping jacks, anything to prepare me for the crazy things we had to do. I loved the fight training, because learning kicks and punches for the camera is very different from real life. I come from the 'hood and there, if you want to hit someone you just hit them! But in this film, the fighting is more like choreographed dancing. It is so detailed and intricate and it looks amazing."
"The training was an incredible ride for me," says Dacre Montgomery. "I wasn't a jock in school - and I definitely wasn't Jason Scott. So I was training at least 3 hours every day for months, starting with mixed martial arts and kickboxing in the morning, then sprint training, followed by yoga and then at the end of the day, I would do weight training in the gym. I loved that feeling when you think you've hit the wall, and you can't go any further, but then you smash it down and find what's on the other side."
As a Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) teacher who has fought professionally, Ludi Lin was the most athletically experienced cast member, which was put to good use. But he also learned a lot. "I'm really into Jiu Jitsu, so we incorporated some of that into Zack's style," Lin notes. "But I can't pay the stunt guys on the film enough compliments. I learned so many things every day. They kept coming up with new ideas to create something even better."
In addition to the martial arts training the cast also underwent deep-water training for the scene where they swim up through the ceiling of the mine pool to emerge in Zordon's spaceship. After learning special breathing techniques, they did all their own water work in a custom-built tank.
One death-defying stunt took everyone to the next level: the Rangers' leap across a yawing chasm. "For that sequence, we used cranes, lots of rigging and a machine that is called a ratchet, which is so strong we use it flip cars," Lam explains. "Instead, we used it to propel the stuntmen about 130 feet. I think it's one of the largest ratchets that we've ever done in North America. First, we tested it with bags and only when we knew it was safe did we test it with stuntmen."
Recalls Lin: "It literally felt like flying. I actually wanted to screw up my takes so I could keep doing it over and over. It was that fun. Yeah, it was a little scary, but it was like nothing else I've done."
Rita Repulsa is not only evil, she's also creative - generating a never-ending slew of henchmen and goons to battle anyone who might try to foil her plans to conquer Earth. For the filmmakers, one of the most wildly creative aspects of the film was creating Rita's army of Putties, as well as the resplendently massive gold monster she sets forth known as Goldar.
In the original Power Rangers series, the Putty army was made from clay, but the filmmakers took that idea and ran with it in witty new ways. "We saw it as Rita being able to manipulate the energy around her to infuse life into her army -- but they are still mindless automatons who have to follow her orders," explains Visual Effects Supervisor Sean Faden. "So whether they are generated from asphalt, dirt, concrete or gold, they take on the qualities of that material as well as other bits of things that surround them. For example, a trash can, traffic light or a mailbox might get sucked up into them. So what you will see are comical, seven-foot tall creatures with recognizable objects sticking out of them."
The Putties also break the usual one face per being rule. "They have multiple heads popping out of their backs," Faden explains. "One of my favorites is the Putty with the 'Don't Walk Sign' on him."
For Goldar, the concept was to go really, really, really big. Production Designer Andrew Menzies came up with the design. "I was trying to define a new look for Goldar," says Menzies. "Since the monster is fully controlled by Rita, Dean and I decided we wanted it to be faceless. When I was doing research, I came across a sculpture that looked like a chocolate fountain. That gave rise to the idea that Goldar would be continually flowing like molten gold. Dean and I were intrigued by the idea of a creature who is always flowing through different expressions that are very frightening."
Then, Faden's handiwork began. "Goldar was a complicated CG build," he notes. "It was a very interesting challenge to have gold flowing and to still sell Goldar's mass. By incorporating areas that were more solid that the flowing gold would travel across, we were able to achieve something that told the story of a creature made from flowing molten gold while maintaining his sense of scale and mass. We chose to leave his face a dark well within the gold, making him a soul-less force of destruction who seems unstoppable."
As production progressed, everyone breathlessly awaited another classic Power Rangers element: the Zords, the massive mechanical beasts-turned-assault-vehicles that have long been a fan favorite. The Zords were always cool but the pressure was on for the filmmakers to up their game with a renovated design. Ultimately, the team built and customised each Ranger's Zord from the ground-up while staying true to the lovable machines' initial inspiration: prehistoric animals. Zack pilots an icy black, six-legged Mastodon, Billy commandeers a massive blue Triceratops, Jason rides a towering red T-Rex, Kimberly handles a flying pink Pterodactyl and Trini navigates a fierce yellow Saber Tooth Tiger.
Israelite wanted a radical enough re-design that the Zords would look - and more importantly, act - like nothing mechanical that has been seen on screen. "We wanted them to feel really organic and biomechanical, and to be their own thing aesthetically because this is all coming from an alien technology that humans don't have. What's also really fun about them is their amazing scale, so we had a lot of fun with that," he says.
Adds Visual Effects Supervisor Sean Faden: "Dean always saw the Zords as a chance at wish fulfillment for the kids; every child would love to have the feeling of joyriding through their hometown in something massive like that - and we wanted to give them that sensation."
For the cast, the Zord driving was one of the biggest thrills, and felt like a reward coming as it did towards the end of the shoot. "It was one of those things where throughout the movie you kept thinking, we're getting closer and then finally, it felt like we earned the Zords just as our characters do. Driving the Zords was just some crazy fun," says Dacre Montgomery.
Production Designer Menzies says that Israelite left no stone unturned in his quest to make the Zords incredible. "When he was working on the design of the Zords, Dean first looked at YouTube clips of guys tearing it up through downtown L.A. in old Mustangs as a reference," explains Menzies. "We even played around with magnetic levitation to make them more exciting. We also made the Zords out of multiple layers so their mesh exoskeletons can transform and they can adjust their shapes. To shoot them up-close, Dean looked at all kinds of different cameras, camera mounts and helicopter shots."
"We are all very proud of the Zord designs," Menzies continues. "I see them through my kid's eyes, knowing how much he will love all the things they can do that isn't like anything else out there."
The Zords ultimately result in that most vaunted of Power Ranger legends: the Megazord, the colossal result that is created when all five Power Rangers fuse into one force. For the design of the Megazord, Israelite and Menzies decided to break the Zords apart, then re-assemble them as one unit - but very organically, as if creating a living creature not a machine.
"We wanted to stay away from Transformers territory by using much more of an organic, living shape," says Faden. "Much like the Power Ranger suits, the Megazord has an inner layer and an exoskeleton - so you can see parts of the T-Rex, the Pterodactyl, the Mastodon, the Triceratops and the Sabre Tooth Tiger all merged into it - mostly in the exoskeleton details. It was really exciting to see them all locked together. The interstitial material of the Megazord we based on the underlying layers of the Zords themselves, imagining those materials expanding to fill out the scale of the Megazord and define his shape."
To oversee all the vital details that make up the universe of Saban's Power Rangers, Dean Israelite brought together a tight-knit team including cinematographer Matthew Lloyd, production designer Andrew Menzies and costume designer Kelli Jones. Each was dedicated to "morphin" the signature components of the original Power Rangers into the contemporary movie world.
Menzies' far-ranging imagination was especially integral to the look of the film. "Andrew made sure every major piece, from Zordon's spaceship to the suits to the Zords, felt of its own world," says Israelite. "We talked a lot about how the design should be inspired by the word morphing, that the look should be more flowing, rather than the angular look we're used to seeing in a lot of films. That really became our guiding principle and Andrew took everything to the limit. For example, the paint he used on the spaceship is a new textural paint that has never been used before."
Perhaps the most straightforward part of the production design was creating the working class fishing town of Angel Grove. But once he had crafted a realistic town, Menzies turned to magical caverns that become a portal to Zordon's spaceship, all built on the complex of soundstages at CMPP Stages in Vancouver.
For Zordon's spaceship, Menzies was brimming with ideas. "A lot of the spaceship design revolved around the needs of all the action that takes place there," he explains. "We needed to give the Rangers the legroom to run and hide from Alpha, for example. The overall design is very organic and inviting. Even thought it's an alien spaceship, we didn't want it to be alienating! I wanted the kids to walk in and feel 'hey this is pretty cool.' We also put in a captain's seat because we have a King Arthur moment where the Red Ranger's sword is buried to the hilt, and he cannot pull it out until he is ready."
The design of the legendary Power Ranger coins was a special thrill for Menzies and his team to tackle. "The design of the coins was in fact one of the trickiest challenges on the project," he admits, "because Dean didn't want any kind of typical coin. It's the first real element you see of the Power Rangers world, and it's such an important part of the lore that he wanted something completely original. But he also wanted the discovery of the coins to be visceral and grounded, so you can believe in it. We came up with something that is part gem, part technical control panel and part gold, which honors the original gold design. You immediately see that the coins are not something Earthly, but they have a reality as a different kind of technology."
Creating a believable world that turns fantastical was also the task of costume designer Kelli Jones, who in addition to contributing to the gruesomely glamorous Rita Repulsa, designed the everyday looks for the five main characters, whose outfits show flashes of their Power Ranger colours to come.
"I started with a strong idea of how each character might present themselves in high school," Jones explains. "Jason's look is based on a kid whose dad is a fisherman on the docks so he wears a lot of cargo pants and t-shirts. Kimberly knows she's pretty but she's also rebel so she dresses a little against the grain in black, grey, and leather. Billy is quirky and we see him in funky cardigans, sweaters with animal prints, matching retro sweatsuits, and graphic tees, while Zack is tough and doesn't have money so what he wears has more of a thrift store, army navy, distressed vibe. Trini has the slightly punky look of a teenage outsider, which Becky G just completely rocked."
Menzies takes great pride in the film's forward-looking take on the Power Rangers. "With every element we updated, we tried to honor both the past and the future of the Power Rangers," he states. "Of course, you realize that you can never entirely please everyone when you take on something with such a passionate following, but we really searched for our own distinct look, one that doesn't tread on the toes of other designs, yet feels very much part of an evolving Power Rangers universe."
Israelite feels similarly. From the performances of the five young stars to the comic skills of Cranston, Hader and Banks to the fun-chasing designs, stunts and VFX, the guiding principle was to give audiences a chance to connect with the Power Rangers and their spirit of empowerment in these times.
He summarises: "We've taken the Power Rangers mythology and stayed true to it in many places and revisited it in other places, yet in ways that I think make sense if you know all the history. We've tried to provide lots of cool nuggets for the die-hard fans. But most of all, we set out to make a movie about very relatable young characters who take you on an epic, heartfelt and genuinely hopeful adventure that will leave you feeling really good."