Because everything old needs to be new again, this week sees the big-screen return of Power Rangers. Based on the “classic” Japanese import TV show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” the movie acts as an origin story for the team, following a group of misfit teenagers who stumble upon a mysterious ship and unlocking amazing powers via suits that allow them to do incredible things and access animalistic ships called “Zords.”
It turns out, though, that it’s not all fun and games and their emergence as Power Rangers attracts the attention of Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), a villain who’s out to destroy all Rangers. So it’s up to the five Power Rangers, with the help of the artificial intelligence Zordon (Bryan Cranston) who’s been tasked to train them, to stop her and protect the planet.
The first teaser poster is surprisingly not bad, though it doesn’t show very much. The five people who will make up the team are seen at the bottom, standing on or around a car on a starry night. The stars, you’ll notice, make up a lightning bolt and have the tagline “Together we are more” in there.
Following that a series of character posters were released that showed each individual member of the team, their name on the left side, with a color-coded lightning bolt across their face to identify them by color as well.
Another set of character posters shows all five characters fully in costume, with streaks making it look like they’ve zoomed in from the side.
The next one-sheet was the first element of the campaign to show off the zords in any way, showing them emerging from a fog-drenched hillside. Only the yellow zord is clearly visible, with the rest obscured, but it began to show something more than just the uniforms and the teenage angst of the characters, so it’s something.
The theatrical poster showed off all the visuals for the movie, with all the Rangers themselves as well as their Zords running into battle with “It’s Morphin Time” as the copy across the top. This looks like a comic book cover with the relatively generic “everyone charging in the same direction” theme.
A couple more posters kept showing off various looks at the team and their Zords, either featuring copy declaring “It’s Morphin Time” or “Together we are more.”
A series of four individual posters were created as exclusives for different theater chains. All of them feature the team in some configuration, usually with the lightening bolt running down the middle of the design.
The first trailer starts out by setting up a scenario like The Breakfast Club, as a bunch of misfits are assigned Saturday detention. After some setup about their character traits a group of them go out at night and discover a strange ship or object in the side of a valley. They expose themselves to the ship’s power and find out the next day that they have powers of their own, which we see them explore and test. Then things start to shift as we see one of them threatened by Rita Repulsa before the team assembles and begins to get their costumes.
It’s silly, of course, but if you go with it and accept that it is what it is it will work for you. This is very much a teaser since we don’t actually see the Rangers in action. So it’s being sold as an origin story here, meaning it’s going to be like 45 minutes or more before there’s any actual Power Rangers in the Power Rangers movie.
The second trailer starts off by quickly introducing us to the people that will make up the team as they discover something mysterious and being to develop powers. They get a crash course in getting Power Rangers but then we see Rita as she looks to exact her revenge, which prompts the kids to fully embrace their powers. From there on out it’s footage of a massive battle involving the Zords.
This one at least shows off more of the comically-bad punching and fighting that was a hallmark of the show as well as the other familiar elements. There’s more of a clear look at the Zords, the costumes and more here, it’s not just a story of teen angst. Sure, it looks terrible, but so was the show.
Another short trailer showed off lots of Rita but otherwise didn’t deviate too far from footage and ideas that had been introduced in earlier trailer. The main component here is a “Snap to unlock” call to action.
Online and Social
There’s a lot going on when the official website loads. On the left is a prompt to watch the last short trailer, with a button at the top encouraging you to “GIF this video,” which takes you to a separate site where you can select one of the trailers and then use a tool to create GIFs of various length that can be shared on Twitter, Tumblr or other platforms.
Over on the right of the page there are lots of other things for you to do. At the top it wants you to download the mobile app and offers more information on what’s available when you click that prompt. then you can “Discover Your Color,” which has you take a personality quiz to find out which Ranger color you’re best suited for.
“See the Final Poster” is exactly what you think it is. “Unlock Ranger Twitter Emojis” wants you to choose a color and Tweet out a branded emoji of that Ranger. The “VR Fan Experience” section has information on a live event in VR. You can register to be alerted with the “Power Rangers: Legacy Wars” game becomes available.
The studio created a website for the newspaper of the high school the Rangers are part of. The Roar profiled different students, specifically those featured in the movie, and included other information specifically geared toward the younger audience.
Lionsgate also created a chat bot that took on the persona of Alpha 5 and which was available across most chat messenger platforms that took the audience through training and into the story of the movie.
There’s a section for the “Posters” and one for “Photos” as well as a link to click to unlock an exclusive Snapchat lens. The only thing that’s left in the menu at the top of the page that’s not replicated in the main site navigation is a “Synopsis” that offers the barest of outlines as to the movie’s story. Down at the bottom of the page there are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles as well as another prompt to connect on Snapchat.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots kept showing off the uniforms and other visuals for the movie and kept the focus on how this is a band of misfits and screw-ups that’s been brought together to fight off an evil threat. It also contains the same “Snap to Unlock” prompt that was seen in the final trailer.
- Qualcomm: The studio partnered with the tech company to bring a virtual reality experience to CES 2017 that would let people take control of one of the Zords from the movie.
- Pancake House: The chain created a handful of character-themed pancakes.
Media and Publicity
Outside of casting and such the first real bit of publicity came in the form of an official cast photo that was released shortly after production had begun. A while after that a first look at Banks as Rita Repulsa was released that was much-derided, showing we haven’t learned anything about not judging costumes from out-of-context stills. That was followed a bit later by a first look at the Power Rangers themselves and their shiny new suits, something that prompted a bunch of “Nope” comments from the press and fans.
Just before release news broke that the Yellow Ranger played by Becky G. was gay, marking the first real big-screen gay super hero. That got lots of press and conversation because it was a pretty big moment.
Cranston, Banks and some of the rest of the cast hit the press and talk shows to promote the movie.
This whole campaign wants you to “snap to unlock” so bad it’s a little embarrassing. That, as much as “see the movie this Friday” is the core message of the campaign, at least based on the strength and frequency of the call to action that’s included throughout the marketing. It’s a message that’s designed to appeal to a younger audience that is less likely to be moved by any feelings of nostalgia and more by feeling the movie is relevant to their interests. That’s also why the main message of the movie is less about fighting big monsters as it is about finding yourself and coming into your own.
Despite all that the campaign never really conveys any real sense of fun or adventure, which is surprising for a movie like this. It feels a lot like the way the Transformers’ first big-screen outing was sold back in 2007, with a campaign that ostensibly is meant to sell something that’s fun and taps into nostalgia but which instead feels like kind of a downer. It’s easy to see this falling through the cracks as it fails to appeal to the generation that *does* have warm, nostalgic feelings for this franchise as well as those who are too young to fit into that group and don’t see any great reason to go out of their way to see the movie.