ON SPEC: Pitching A POWER RANGERS Sequel

Terry's thought this one out.

ON SPEC is a column at Finickal created by Terry Erickson and Chris D'alessandro, where we take a popular franchise and, as writers, outlandishly speculate where it could head (but totally won't). Sometimes that means a left field story, other times it means a crossover, and sometimes it means both. We're just trying to have fun here.

I don't need to tell you how much I enjoyed this year's Power Rangers film. It's one of the more character conscious studio blockbusters in recent memory, and is definitely the best Marvel movie of 2017.

WHAT MADE IT SO GREAT?

Dean Israelite and John Gatins chose a different approach to the big budget adaptation, and it was a road paved by the good Marvel flicks: Character must come first. If we don't give a shit about the kids under these costumes, then we aren't going to give a shit when the big, explody monster fight happens in the third act.

And really, the big monster fight in Power Rangers was the weakest part. Israelite and Gatins doubled down on the crux of the film being the emotional arc of Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Trini, and Billy. Not only did they each have one of their own, but the macro message of found family is in every scene of the flick. It's not perfect, but damn if it isn't thoughtful.

The notion that we have a movie about five diverse teens (in a robot that's literally powered by love) defeating a gold obsessed witch really sits well in 2017.

It is a real shame it didn't do so hot at the box office.

WHAT'S THE ELEVATOR PITCH FOR THE SEQUEL?

So, I'm in an elevator with the heads of development at Lionsgate, and I got about 20 seconds. I'd tell them they can make a sequel, keep the budget around the same as the last go round, and get even more people to see it.

Even the most casual fan knows about Tommy the Green Ranger, and the first film sets him up in a lovely little mid-credits stinger. The conceit was clear that the next film would focus on him. You don't need to make a big, bloated spectacle with a Dragon Zord. You have a new, rogue element that tries and tests the message of the first film.

You can make a second Power Rangers a statement about the work friendships need to be maintained, and with Tommy specifically, toxic masculinity. 

You only need two or three action sequences to hammer home what can be achieved through thoughtful dialogue.

And, you could use Stranger Things' Joe Keery to do it.

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Dude's got draw, talent, and already has chemistry with co-star Dacre Montgomery. There's nobody better for it.

That was a long elevator ride!

HOW WOULD A FILM LIKE THIS START?

The first film opened with a prologue set 65 million years ago, teeing up our conflict. And the sequel should be no different!

We open again on a scene from a long, long time ago. This time, in a far more peaceful place. We'll see the original six rangers before their destruction, including Zordon and Rita, who you'll recall are Red and Green. Zordon, Rita, and the rest of the rangers converse about how to protect Earth's Zeo Crystal. We'll see the conflict of leadership styles between Zordon and Rita, planting the seeds of their eventual divide.

In her quarters, Rita lets out the torrent of emotions she'd been holding in. She's tired of being doubted and subverted at every turn by Zordon.

But, a voice in the darkness calls out to her. A voice that sounds deeper and older than anything she's ever heard. The voice tells her she doesn't have to play by anyone's rules. Not anymore.

And we SLAM to our logo.

ACT I

And we're back in Angel Grove, 2018. We open the first act BIG this time, much like the second Avengers film did. In a fun and exciting montage, the rangers are suited up and fighting monsters. We're blasting "Go, Go Power Rangers" at full volume. It's the perfect opportunity to pay homage to the dopier elements of the show: monsters like EYE GUY, having Billy pose like he's in an actual Sentai show, and watching the kids use any and every excuse to get out of class to go save the world. Life is good for the Red, Pink, Black, Blue, and Yellow Rangers.

As for the kids themselves, well, that's another story.

Zack's mother is still sick, and has taken a turn for the worse. She's been put into hospice care, and Zack's prepared to lose her any day now.

Trini's finally let her guard down around her new friends. She's finally coming to movie nights at Jason's house. Unfortunately, her parents are getting ready to move away again. Trini has begun to distance herself from the group, out of fear of the hurt that's going to come with leaving.

As for Kim and Jason, they volunteer at the local youth center, teaching self defense on weekends in exchange for school recommendation letters and shaving off detention hours. There's an unspoken thing between the two, but they've never found the time to hash it out.

Billy's the happiest he's ever been since his father died. He's constantly working on gear for the team; his latest project being modified smart watches that alert when an extraterrestrial threat is near. Billy is also conscious of concealing his identity, and when he's bullied in school by the new varsity quarterback, Eugene "Skull" Scullovitch, he lets it happen. 

This doesn't sit well with the new kid in town, Tommy Oliver. Before Billy can intercept, Tommy hands Skull and his friends a beating for bullying the autistic kid. This lands Tommy in detention with the rest of our rangers. It's made immediately clear he's the coolest kid in school - he's no bullshit, says everything with a wink, and is also able to back up what he says.

He makes fast friends with the gang. Especially Kimberly, which sets Jason a little on edge.

Tommy's home life, however, is a sadder picture. He's an army brat (hence all the green), and his dad is abusive, both verbally and physically. Thanks to all this, Tommy knows how to fight, but there isn't much he can do against his father.

Because of his fear of home, Tommy starts hanging with the group more and more, much to Jason's growing chagrin. It culminates in Tommy participating in Jason's self defense group, where Jason selfishly uses a bit of his power to hand him his ass in front of everyone. Humiliated in front of Kimberly, Tommy runs out of the gym, crestfallen.

In an alley downtown, Tommy cries by a dumpster. Through the darkness, that voice from the prologue returns. alerting him to Rita's Green Power Coin wedged in a crack in the sidewalk. The same voice that encouraged Rita to act on her selfish instincts has now infected Tommy, and we're off to the races.

THE REST OF THE FILM

The second act of this beast would be about the unraveling of the group on a human level. Instead of being cartoonishly evil like he was on the show, he'd be acting with zero inhibitions to go after what he wants. We identify with Tommy, and we want him to be happier, while at the same time feeling terrible about the way he's being manipulated into doing it.

As the Green Ranger, he'll bait the rest of the team into a fight, kick their asses, and yes, destroy the Megazord with his Dragonzord. He'll even take it a step further and trash their command center, shutting down Zordon, DECAPITATING ALPHA, and severing their connection to the Morphing Grid (and the Rangers powers). All perfunctory moments for a blockbuster sequel, but earned through character work.

As Billy works (with the help of Alpha's talking head) in his garage for a way back into the Morphing Grid, Tommy doesn't rest knowing the Rangers are gone. He sets out to also ruin their friendships.

In a Harry Osborn-esque move, Tommy steals everything Jason thought he wanted - his friends, Kimberly, and his alpha status. He comes back to the self defense class and beats the tar out of Jason in front of his students. But he's not finished.

Tommy convinces Billy that nobody will value him as a person, and will always see him as a differently abled burden. As Trini fears moving, Tommy convinces her that nobody will actually care when she leaves. When Zack's mother passes, Tommy passively taunts him at the funeral. Kimberly learns Tommy is being a manipulative asshole, and in a low moment for Tommy, he corners her in a way that makes her feel unsafe. He cuts right through them, making them as wayward as they had ever been before.

Back in Billy's garage, Billy gets Zordon back online. He can barely speak, but he knows where the Green Ranger came from.

Still grieving, Zack turns to Trini. As they share a bonding moment, they realize Tommy is the Green Ranger. Zack and Trini corner and attack Tommy at his house and see that he's also manhandled his father. Because they have no powers, they're no match for him. Tommy lasciviously beats Zack so bad that he's gotta go to the hospital. This is the film's all is lost moment.

SOUNDS PRETTY DIRE. HOW DOES IT END?

After hearing Zack is in Angel Grove Emergency Care, the rest of the Rangers arrive for support. Zack and Trini tell Kim and Jason that Tommy is the Green Ranger, and it all clicks together. There's a big group hug, and lots of apologies. It's gonna take more than that to break up this team.

But they have to help Tommy, who's clearly under control of an entity more powerful than anything they've gone against. Billy has more information for them, thanks to Zordon.

With Zordon's help Billy has figured out a way to get back into the Morphing Grid. They all escape the hospital and convene at Billy's garage. The kids talk to Zordon, who's come to life through one of Billy's old CRT televisions. 

Zordon tells them that Tommy is under the influence of Lord Zedd, a long thought dead master of sorcery who turned Rita to the dark side and destroyed his team forever. Zedd is collecting the negative energy that Tommy's generating so he can revive himself on this dimensional plane.

Luckily, Zordon has helped Billy construct Power Morphers, which restore the Rangers powers by directly tapping into the Morphing Grid through their coins.

And not a moment too soon: The Green Ranger is threatening Angel Grove unless the Power Rangers surrender to him for execution. Zordon points out the Tommy's rage will only grow further until Zedd is finally revived, who will plunge the earth into eternal darkness.

With that, we get a brand new, super cool morphing sequence, and from a production standpoint, allows the costumers to make some newer suits. Suggestion: less complicated, white gauntlets, way more unified.

When the Rangers arrive, Tommy taunts them, and they get ready for the big fight. Except, as the Green Ranger charges them -- each Ranger chooses not to engage him, and one by one, they demorph.

Tommy is confused. As the Rangers demorph, they tell him that they accept each other regardless of flaws. And more importantly, they accept him too. Tommy is INCREDULOUS, but as Jason tells him he's loved, it's too much and the spell over Tommy BREAKS.

The six Rangers stand together, unified for the first time in over 65 million years. Unfortunately it's a little late, as the negative energy Tommy created has opened a portal for Zedd's army, led by COMMANDER DIVATOX. The Rangers have a big fight ahead of them, but they do it together.

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This big fight is meant to show off the newly strengthened unity between the characters. And rather focus on what the rote beats of the fight would be, we'll get to see a lot of banter between friends we worried were lost forever. That's what's going to drive this finale. As the Rangers Megazord forms together with Tommy's Dragonzord, this friendship has grown even bigger. The portal is closed, and the good guys win.

We'll end the film with these kids finally earning their releases from detention, free to live out their senior year with eternal possibilities.

IS THERE A MID CREDITS STINGER?

You bet there is. We'll pan to deep space where we see that Lord Zedd is revealed to have been revived after all. He cackles. We now know where a third movie would be heading.

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What do you all think? Is this a sequel you'd watch?

Terry Erickson is a screenwriter, lifelong film fan, and all around good guy based in Baltimore, MD. He's driven across America twice, is obsessed with Back To The Future, and loves almost everybody.