Monday 15 May 2017

Is Power Rangers the new Catwoman?

The Power Rangers movie failed in China, which these days pretty much means it failed full stop. Now, I haven't seen the thing and I'm not likely to until it comes out on DVD, a few months have passed and its on the reduced racks but critical consensus seems to be that I was right and there wasn't much market for a gritty, dark reboot of a brightly coloured nostalgia property from my generation's childhood.

Which is, in a very specific way, a shame because I don't want what happened with Catwoman to happen here.
You see, back when this whole superhero movie boom was just getting started in 2004 there was a Catwoman movie. It wasn't a very good movie quite besides the fact the lead character was basically in no way Selina Kyle. She had feline super powers, for one thing, and for another DC managed to get over their need to put Batman in everything at the worst possible moment. There was also, not long after, an Elektra movie spun off from the not great but not awful Daredevil film. They both bombed, financially and critically, because they were, you guessed, it not good movies. They had pretty poor scripts, minimal budgets and not much pre-existing audience interested in a) a movie about a Batman love interest/villain without Batman in it, or b) a movie about the girlfriend of a superhero people only knew from a pretty average movie two years before. That all seems a pretty logical chain of events, right?

Yeah, so naturally, the Hollywood bean counters decided the problem was that No One Watches Action Movies Starring Women.
And here's the thing: compared to the Avengers there's a lot more diversity going on with the Power Rangers and I mean a lot more. These Power Rangers start out with three actors of colour whilst the Avengers opened with six white actors and only added two black characters at the end of their second movie. Add to that the fact that one of those Rangers of colour is gay and another is not only on the autistic spectrum but uses the phrase “on the spectrum” which is pretty much unheard of in this genre.

Look, a few weeks back an idiot working for Marvel Comics blamed poor comic sales on the fact that “diversity doesn't sell” and I want my Kamala Khan movie, damn it!

Saban is the cheapest entertainment company on Earth. This entire franchise only came about because Saban saw a way to make a superhero TV show without spending money on effects: buy the superhero footage from Japan and add in American actors for all the civilian bits. By all accounts this movie followed the pattern of chronic cheapness with the team only getting their costumes and Zords pretty late in the day to save on CG.

So, should we expect the bean counters to decide the problem here is making people wait for the action? Or making the movie grimdark when there's no ready audience demanding that take on the property? Or just that word of mouth travels faster now and bad movies get found out quicker?

Experience tells me no. Experience tells me that entrenched Hollywood wisdom will find correlation where none exists and declare that “This is why we like having white leads! Put too many ethnic minorities in a thing and people won't watch it!” just as before they said “This is why we don't make the woman the lead! No one wants to watch that!”.

So depressingly familiar... 

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