They just don’t make superheroes like they used to—and it’s about time. Today’s brand of suited-up do-good badass isn’t your one-dimensional dude in shining armour. Finally we have substantial story arcs and character development for our lady heroes beyond looking good when being saved by a big strong man.
Take the new reboot of the beloved ‘90s TV show Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. The film features a diverse cast—four out of the five rangers are POC; Blue Ranger is autistic—and is the first big-budget superhero film to have an LGBT protagonist. Just this week, Power Rangers director Dean Israelite revealed that Yellow Ranger Trini (played by Becky G) is coming to terms with her sexual orientation.
Ahead of the superhero flick’s release this Friday (Mar. 24), FLARE chatted with some of the young stars in the film, including Dacre Montgomery (Red Ranger), Naomi Scott (Pink Ranger) and Ludi Lin (Black Ranger) about this heroic undertaking, what it means to play your friendly neighbourhood teenage superhero today and why that role has changed since the original ‘90s children’s show.
Were you guys fans of the original show growing up? Were you old enough to remember it?
Naomi: Even though I didn’t watch the show I used to play Power Rangers with my older brother. I remember being on opposite sides of the room and we would be like, “Power Rangers!” and we would [start] running. I remember that very vividly. So it’s weird because even though I didn’t watch the show somehow I had a connection to it.
Ludi: I’m , the oldest out of all the cast, so I actually grew up watching Power Rangers when I was going to school. So it means a lot but it’s been a while since I’ve watched it. But for this particular re-imagining of this series, it goes [beyond] what I’ve known about the Power Rangers because it goes deeper into the background of these individual characters. It’s a coming-of-age story about how the kids become the heroes.
Dacre: I didn’t really watch the show growing up so I had to find something [to relate to] and that something was, “What do superheroes mean to people? What do superheroes mean to me?” So looking at people in my life, like real human people doing extraordinary things, those are the superheroes. Trying to bring a human element to the franchise was my thing.
So what makes a superhero? You know, for someone who can’t morph into a dinosaur before saving the world.
D: For me, when we did training for the film, I had a trainer back in Perth who was one of two Australian Football Team team members who survived the 2002] Bali bar bombings. He ran out of the bar, on fire, neck to toe, and went back in, on fire, and rescued his friend. His friend lived to this day. Not only did he overcome that and third-degree burn scars, but he goes on to be a motivational speaker, he’s got three books and he’s got a wife and a kid. I trained with him and his colleague for three months, and every day I’d be sitting there, doing lifts and he was pushing my legs back down and I looked up at him and I was like, “If you’ve been through that and you got over that why am I complaining about the twelfth repetition?” So for me, that’s a hero.
L: Being a hero is actually relative to the challenges you’ve overcome. Someone I look up to is a professional jiu-jitsu champion who is a quadriplegic, no hands and no legs; it’s amazing.
N: Everyone in their life has people they look up to and people going through normal things and just dealing with [them]. And yes, I agree, some people go through more than others but we’re all going through something and, in a way, we’re all heroes muddling through life, just getting through it.
I read an interview with Zoe Saldana where she said that kids look to superhero films when they’re going through something tough in life to be inspired by regular people just like them overcome things—that a cerebral film isn’t what they need.
N: There’s a common theme of selflessness. What people resonate with is that the Rangers have a selflessness where they put someone before themselves. So that concept, whether it’s a superhero or whether it’s a person, is something that people resonate with and with kids, it’s a good thing. We’re in a bit of a dynamic where people can be a little self-indulgent, where it’s kind of me, myself and I, so sometimes it’s nice to teach people to look outside yourself.
Life for young people has changed since the ’90s. How does the film reflect those nuances with a show that holds so much nostalgia for them?
L: The thing that stands out most about this film is that it’s a very realistic and current to these times. These kids have that selfish side, but, despite that, you can still do good for people, for the greater good? Work towards the greater good. The Power Rangers, in the beginning, are teenagers with attitude. But despite that attitude, you can still be a team of superheroes so that’s a challenge to overcome and that’s an important message to me.