If you’re like me, you grew up with the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.” You cried when the Green Ranger lost his powers. You dressed up as your favorite Ranger for Halloween. And you owned literally every single toy that came out.
If you’re like me, then, the announcement of a new “Power Rangers” movie fills you with a ton of nostalgia.
But the “Power Rangers,” like it or not, are a little old. The original series started in 1992, and the “Power Rangers” my generation knows and loves haven’t existed since 1997. Even kids who love the series today, watchin “Power Rangers Megaforce” and “Power Rangers Samurai” likely don’t really know anything about the franchise’s origins.
But we’re here to help with that. Here’s all you need to know about the “Power Rangers.”
The Theme Song
Great TV theme, or the greatest TV theme? The music for the Rangers, like their outfits and cast, has varied over the years, but this theme stands out as the best of them all. Instead of going the sci-fi route for the music, we were instead treated to a “Rocky”-inspired power anthem with an immediately recognizable guitar riff and lyrics so simple that you can’t help singing along. “Go, go Power Rangers” indeed. We can only pray the reboot doesn’t forget this key component to the series.
I was going to say the concept’s pretty basic, since I understood it at around three years old, but trying to explain it gets a bit complex. In a nutshell: Rita Repulsa (who’s evil, if you couldn’t tell) and her monster minions are freed from their moon prison. Zordon, who’s an imprisoned space wizard that appears as a floating head, and his robot Alpha 5 hand-pick five teenagers who are pure of heart to become the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, protecting Earth against Rita’s monster invaders with their own dinosaur-based fighting robots called Zords.
And if that doesn’t make sense, just watch the intro a few dozen times. That should do it.
The Rangers were all very stereotypical teenage archetypes:
Red Ranger: Jason Lee Scott
Jason’s the de facto leader of the Rangers, a good-looking, tough martial arts expert who’s the bro of the group.
Pink Ranger: Kimberly Ann Hart
Kimberly is the popular valley girl at school, though she grows throughout the series.
Blue Ranger: Billy Cranston
He’s the nerd on the science club, and while he’s not the best fighter at the beginning, he becomes stronger and more independent throughout the show.
Yellow Ranger: Trini Kwan
Zord: Saber-Toothed Tiger
Trini’s extremely shy, though she also knows kung fu, so who knows why she was shy in the first place?
Black Ranger: Zack Taylor
Zack’s the cool, athletic one, great at sports and dancing, always quick with a joke, and popular with the ladies, and of course is best friends with Jason.
Monsters and Megazords
“Power Rangers” was based on the Japanese “Super Sentai” series, and a lot of its trademarks are very Japanese in nature. The Power Rangers each have their own giant robot that they control, called Zords, and the robots can combine to form the Megazord, a giant, Voltron-like monster-fighting robot.
The villains also bear some footprints of Japanese culture. While they begin as human-sized alien baddies, they almost all transform (thanks to Rita’s evil witchery) into giant, Godzilla-sized monsters. The monsters and Megazord fight among the buildings of a city (think “Pacific Rim”), until the good guys finishes the baddies off — Mortal Kombat-style — with a gigantic sword.
Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
The Green Ranger Saga
There’s “Hamlet,” there’s “The Godfather,” and then there’s the five-part “Power Rangers” episode “Green With Evil.” These episodes intorduce Jason David Frank’s Tommy Oliver, a new kid with some pretty great martial arts skills. (Frank himself went on to do Mixed Martial Arts.) Rita gets to him and brainwashes him, transforming him into the Evil Green Ranger, who fights with the Sword of Darkness, with which he also calls his very own Green Dragonzord.
The brainwashed Tommy destroys the Rangers’ base and teleports Jason (the Red Ranger) to the Dark Dimension. Eventually, the Megazord bests the Dragonzord, Jason bests Tommy in an epic sword fight, and Tommy turns back to the good side, joining the Rangers as the Green Ranger.
Tommy’s powers are later stripped through the use of a green candle (when it burns out, his powers are extinguished), and then given back by Zordon. It’s all a roller coaster of emotion, heartbreak, and victory, and a treatise on the power of friendship. If the saga is not in some way referenced in the new movie, then, well, I just have nothing to say to the filmmakers.
Zedd showed up in the second season, but his arrival was huge. It was such event viewing that “Power Rangers” was broadcast in primetime.
While Rita was a fine villainess, Zedd, who is revealed to be her superior and looks like Shredder with a six-pack, lent some true gravity to the evil proceedings, and both looked and sounded like more of a real threat to the Rangers. He even destroyed their Zords, letting you know he meant business, though the Rangers eventually get new Thunderzords, defeating Zedd but creating a powerful enemy.
Oh also, Zedd has a big magic staff with a Z on it, which is actually called the Z-Staff. So there’s that.
There’s a lot, lot more to the Rangers (22 years more, to be exact): they fight Rita’s brother Rito; they fight Ivan Ooze and get trained by a beautiful Ninja in the movie (and in the TV show they get trained by a robot Ninja); they go to space; they become Samurai; they travel through time.
But as long as you know the original gang of Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, Zack, and Tommy, you’ll be ready to go, go when the new movie hits theaters.