"Batman Begins" in 2005 set off a trend in filmmaking of taking brightly colored, kid-friendly characters and turning their stories into something that Darth Vader could have dreamed up. Christian Bale was a far cry from Adam West. Now, that treatment has spread to the unlikely shores of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the form of a short bootleg movie.
For the uninitiated, the Power Rangers are a bunch of teens wearing candy-colored helmeted uniforms who wield superpowers and martial-arts skills against a variety of villains. Movie producer Adi Shankar (known for "Dredd" and "A Walk Among the Tombstones") started to wonder what would happen to the Power Rangers kids when they grew up after surviving the trauma of all their battles.
Shankar recruited director Joseph Khan to explore the concept and the result is a dozen minutes of gunfire, explosions, deadly mechanical creations, flying cars, drugs, splattering blood and rough language. It's like "Blade Runner" met up with "Kill Bill" and the Power Rangers in a dark, futuristic alley.
It's not the sort of film you want your young, Power Rangers-worshiping kids to watch. This one's for the adults.
The casting is inspired. A scarred James Van Der Beek takes on sci-fi hero Katee Sackhoff (beloved for her role in the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot) as the Pink Ranger. "Who would have thought that weaponizing youth and training them to kill could have turned out so ugly for so many of them," Van Der Beek grumbles.
Shankar insists the film is not a pitch aimed at launching a full-on feature film, but I, for one, would love to see this turned into a major motion picture. Morphin' time will never be the same again.
According to Twitter statements made by Shankar, the short is under fire from Saban Entertainment, the owner of the original "Power Rangers" franchise. A copy of the film hosted on streaming site Vimeo has been removed by Vimeo in response to a copyright-infringement claim from Saban.
Shankar's response through Twitter says, "Every image in POWER/RANGERS is original footage. Nothing was pre-existing. There is no copyrighted footage in the short." YouTube followed suit with Vimeo and also removed the film, replacing it with a notice reading "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by SCG Power Rangers LLC."
Following the video's removal, Shankar issued a press statement:
Today, I was deeply disappointed to learn that Saban Brands decided to attack my Power/Rangers "Bootleg Universe One-Shot" film. To all the viewers that enjoyed this film, I consider this an outright infringement on freedom of expression and individualism. I set out to make this film because I am a childhood fan of the Power Rangers. As children our retinas are burned with iconic images and as we grow older these images come to represent crucial moments within the trajectories of our own lives. This film is a homage to the original creators of the Power Rangers, and a parody of a television series we all grew up loving. Films like my Power/Rangers "Bootleg" are vital expressions of creativity in our troubled world. If we suppress this creativity and become passive participants in the consumption of the culture we live in, we implicitly allow a dangerous precedent to be set for the future of the internet.
Warm Regards, Adi Shankar
P.S. Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for hosting Power/Rangers and taking a stand https://www.facebook.com/theadishankarbrand
Update, February 26 at 8:20 a.m. PT: This story has been updated to include information about video-hosting site Vimeo removing the "Power/Rangers" short.
Update, February 27 at 8:35 a.m. PT: This story has been updated to include information about YouTube removing the "Power/Rangers" short along with a statement issued by Adi Shankar.