[caption id="attachment_185666" align="alignleft" width="300"] Warner Bros. / Fox[/caption]
The first thing you notice when you watch the trailer for Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" is just how pretty it looks. It's a really good-looking movie. This is the Charlize Theron of motion pictures, people. The semi-cheesy Charlie Hunnam voiceover matters not, because you can't take your eyes off the screen.
The second thing you notice when you watch the trailer for Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim" is just how much it reminds you of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," the adorable/horrific early '90s children's television program. If you were born in the middle of the Ronald Reagan administration and owned a television, you've caught at least one episode of the show. It was unavoidable for a while.
The third thing you notice is exactly how much you want to compare and contrast the two pop culture gems, so then you do it for a website on the intranets.
Similarity: Big Scary Fighting Machines
Indeed, both the show and the movie feature giant man-made fighting machines piloted by humans. The similarity is so striking that you can't help but wonder if "Pacific Rim" screenwriter Travis Beacham was a closet fan of the program himself as a young lad. (I say "closet" because Beacham would have been 13 or 14 at the time of the show's debut, probably a little too old to run around school shouting "It's Morphin' Time!" without getting shoved in a locker for a few days.) They both even have cool made-up names for each: "Jaegers" in "Pacific Rim" and "Zords" in "Power Rangers," though I guess 'cool' is a generous term in the latter case. Having said all of this, while it's hard to place myself in 1993 (especially since I was wearing "ALF" tighty whities and my ideal meal was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with dunkaroos), I feel like the below machine would have seemed a bit dated even at the time, no?
Like, this is really what's stopping an alien race from taking over earth? Fine. Speaking of aliens ...
Similarity: Big Scary Alien Monsters
In both instances, the world is threatened by giant scary alien monsters wreaking havoc on large cities. But while "Pacific Rim" admittedly benefits from the extreme advances in special effects over the last two decades, its monsters (the 'Kaiju') are relatively terrifying, whereas the monsters in "Power Rangers" are kind of just overgrown "Star Wars"-looking dudes with weapons. They also appeared to be constantly rattled even by the slightest aggression from the "Power Rangers" heroes, like they were actors in an infomercial trying to open a can with a mere regular can-opener. Watch 1:40-1:50 of this clip to see a giant monster twiddle his hands in frustration after getting his spikes knocked off by our heroes (I would embed the clip but it was "disabled by request" because you never know if your Power Rangers clips on YouTube will end up in the wrong hands.)
Difference: The Worldliness
We learn early in "Pacific Rim" that the alien monsters have destroyed many cities around the world that are far away from each other on a map. San Francisco, then Manila, then Cabo (alien monsters HATE spring break), etc. Despite projecting the idea that they're trying to conquer Earth (revealed in the intro when lead villain Rita shouts that "It's time to conquer Earth"), "Power Rangers" seems to take place in and around the fictional town of Angel Grove, California. It would have been kind of refreshing to have seen a "Power Rangers" episode where Rita says to herself, "What if I just attack another area of the world where there isn't a group of five kids with advanced weaponry kicking my ass all over the place while still having time to attend and do well in high school? Guys, let's just go to France or something."
And that's another thing ...
Difference: 'Teenagers with Attitude' Instead of Army People
It's not really explained where Charlie Hunnam's character comes from in "Pacific Rim"; we know he and his brother are really good at piloting Jaegers, of course, but we don't know if they started in the army and worked their way up or were Jaeger-pilot proteges from the womb or what have you. We do know, certainly, that they know what they're doing. Meanwhile, Zordon, the floating head leader in "Power Rangers," sees that Rita is about to attack Earth and asks his small robot sidekick to "recruit a team of teenagers with attitude." Here, just press play and soak in the creepshow-ness of that request:
Clearly, there was no HR department at Zordon's lair. "Why do you want 'teenagers,' exactly? They can't be like, 22 or something?" "Oh, uh, no reason. I just, uh, like ... teenagers. I guess."
Similarity: Two Weird-Looking Side Characters for Comedic Relief
To set a tone of "It's not all war and suffering and destruction around here!," del Toro cast the wild-and-crazy Charlie Day and the "Oh, right, that guy from 'The Dark Knight Rises'" Burn Gorman as two bumbling-but-genius scientists who trip over each other's sentences and have a sibling rivalry of sorts. It works, considering its obvious need in light of the rest of the movie. "Power Rangers" did something similar, leveling its weighty subject matter with two doofus-y high school classmates of the five central characters, played by Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy. You knew they were not to be taken seriously as a 7-year-old because they had their own wacky theme music whenever they appeared on screen:
Now try to get that jingle out of your head for the next three weeks. Yes, Bulk and Skull will even bully you posthumously.
Difference: No Hand-to-Hand Fighting
Well, there's some hand-to-hand fighting in "Pacific Rim," but it's not to fight any aliens — it's to show off Charlie Hunnam's physique and overall badassery so we'll respect him as viewers. "Wow, great pecs ... I suppose this guy could save the world, if he wanted to. Yo, pass me those Junior Mints." In "Power Rangers," the gang recreationally beats the hell out of these dudes, often in public parks:
Actually, the putties (rhymes with "nutties") are way creepier-looking as a snapshot than they are on video. Still, if they had attributes from a "Madden" game, their collective "awareness" level would be zero.
Similarity: Non-Stereotypical Gender Roles
Meaning, both feature women characters that will surprise you with how easily they will destroy you. In "Pacific Rim," Mako, played by Rinko Kikuchi, is the only human, male or female, that can take down Hunnam in a "We both have large wooden sticks that we twirl fancily" battle. By the same (power!) token, two of the five "Power Rangers" are physically unthreatening ladies who can actually kick the s**t out of you if they want. The character of Kimberly was even said to inspire boxer Laila Ali to take up fighting! Here are the two in action, beating up, who else, Skull and Bulk, for bothering (heaven forbid!) to ask the two ladies out on a double date:
Hope you learned your lesson, guys: If you're going to bother taking any chances like that, you better be good-looking.
Difference: Boss is a Real Person, Not a Levitating Head
This one's pretty straightforward. Here's the head honcho in "Pacific Rim":
And here's the head ... head in "Power Rangers":
(Not to dwell on this, but it's his lips, too. Like he's salivating over these "teenagers with attitude." Okay, moving on ...)
Similarity: Antagonist That Eventually Becomes Friendly with Protagonists
To fulfill his action movie script quota set by the Writer's Guild of America, Beacham had to write in a rival to Hunnam that had equal amounts of muscle but zero amounts of respect. Enter Robert Kazinsky, a fellow Jaeger pilot who works with his dad to angrily destroy Kaiju with thick cockney accents. You won't believe what happens: Hunnam and Kazinsky don't like each other, they fight, Hunnam eventually saves Kazinsky from a Kaiju, and Kazinsky delivers him a slight, smirking "thanks, man" nod to him afterwards, a-la Andy Samberg's "Hey, bro — you take care of her" from Steve Buscemi's incredible SNL opening monologue from a few years ago. In "Power Rangers," the Green Ranger is initially a bad guy before the producers decided he was far too good-looking for that to keep happening without alienating America, so he says (paraphrasing) "Whoa! I'm not evil anymore!" one episode and joins the central five characters.
Difference: Level of Actual Physical Toll
SPOILER: People die in "Pacific Rim." Like, a lot of people. Some die far away from the screen, some die close up, some deaths are implied, but yeah, you definitely could say that people in the world of "Pacific Rim" really feel the disadvantages of having Earth invaded by giant flesh-eating aliens. The Power Rangers as a group are never actually hurt. Like, not even a broken bone, or a skinned knee or even a missed appointment. You have to wonder how much money Rita was pumping into the Putty Training Facility she had somewhere in the universe just to see it not really have any impact in their fight with five 16-year-old multi-racial children from California.
While they're certainly cut from the same cloth, "Pacific Rim" and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" are in fact, somewhat sadly, entirely separate entities. Sorry, Power Rangers.