Applying Chaos Theory: Mope Mope Power Rangers!

I have as soft a spot as any ’90s kid for Power Rangers and I’ve been walking on air since I heard they were getting a Darker and Grittier reboot, but this first trailer is, well, tragic.

I initially wasn’t going to write about this because we don’t learn much of anything new. We knew the kitschy re-edited serial from the mid ’90s was out of date even as it was airing, and the series was particularly ripe for the post-Batman Begins trend. We knew overcorrection was likely. We knew Elizabeth Banks’ reimagining of Rita Repulsa as some kind of specialized ranger hunter was going to be sinister as hell. The tight focus on bullying and Saturday school is worrisome and the distinct Animorphs vibe is unexpected, but other than that there’s not much to talk about.

But this trailer trended for almost a week solid because people were talking so much about how angsty it is. There’s a ton going on in this trailer, but the instinct to reduce it to another angsty reboot in the vein of Fantastic Four or The Amazing Spider-Man is hard to argue with. How is this trailer good and bad at the same time? The answer lies in the basics of how we receive film.

Film stimulates two senses — sight and sound. What I’ve found is that sound tells you what to feel, but sight makes you feel it. This idea of visuals being the real driver is reinforced throughout the history of film.

Watch the trailer again with the sound turned off. Much better, right? This is a visually rich trailer. The colors are saturated, like you’d hope they’d be in a Power Rangers movie. There’s a lot of very intentional photography. Lens flair is used to great effect. The special effects are hokey, but they’re used to introduce the story of power well beyond the rangers’ control compelling them into action.

Now, listen to the trailer without watching. Halsey’s speakeasy cover of “Walk the Line” isn’t bad by any stretch, nor is the theme it bleeds in to. The tone they set, though, is. The lonely piano notes and sad vocals juxtaposed with a generic up-beat inspiration theme makes this trailer sound just like any other.

Trailers are our first impression of a movie, and they’re tightly controlled by the studio to get the kind of audience they’re looking for in the door. Lionsgate wanted this trailer to say exactly what it says — that this will be a standard post-Batman Begins reboot with no room to surprise and a ton of room to disappoint.

That in mind, I can’t help but think of this as less a reflection on the movie itself and more a poorly thought-out marketing decision. Lionsgate locked itself in the Dark and Gritty mindset and tried to make their movie look Darker and Grittier than it is because they think that’s what the kids are into these days. To an extent, I’d even say they’re right.

But the reason I’m still excited for this movie is just because they’re making it look simple in the marketing doesn’t mean much for the final product. Given the trailer’s reception, I’d expect subsequent trailers to rail against this aesthetic. This trailer has some stunning photography attached, and no soundtrack screwup can take that away.

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