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Why I Loved The New Power Rangers Movie

Power Rangers Review

Last weekend I finally saw the Power Rangers remake, and boy, did it exceed my expectations.

But first, a story…

I remember play fighting with my younger brother (we were around 6 and 7 years old) at a local high school where my older brother attended. We were under the care of his teenage friend and pretending we were the Power Rangers. I was always the Blue Ranger because blue is my favorite color. Anyway, I playfully threw my little brother head-first into a table. It was made of wood, but the corner of it had been broken leaving behind a jagged spike that pointed sideways. He wasn’t seriously injured, but the middle of his forehead did meet the spike right above his brow. It left behind a small scar that’s visible to this day. than a small scar. We slowed down our play fighting for a while, but with each episode of our favorite show that passed, we got right back into the swing of things.

If you’re a millennial in your late 20 / early 30s, it’s likely that you know all about how karate was one of our daily obsessions. How couldn’t it be with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid, and more? The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers just took it to a whole new level. It was great because it was diverse, had great bad guys, and a story that kept our young minds engaged. However, it wasn’t without its problems.

The Glaring Problems of Old

To its credit, this series was always very diverse. However, the problem laid in its placement of certain diverse characters. The first season featured a black ranger who was Black, and a yellow ranger who was Asian. Even at my young age, I could see the issue there. Yet, it was something nobody talked about because they enjoyed the show so much. Nor did we have Twitter, where I’m pretty sure it would have been blasted.

Aside from that was the very weak story. Keep in mind that I loved this show as a kid, and I had no expectations of Emmy-worthy material, but a look on the wiki page shows just how juvenile and simple the original story was.

Lastly, the characters weren’t entirely deep to begin with. Once the popularity of the show grew, there were some deeper storylines, but nothing like what I saw with the latest movie.

Power Rangers Takes A Turn for the Better

**Spoilers Ahead**

In nearly all aspects, 2017’s Power Rangers takes it up a few notches. There was a shuffling of characters that got rid of the whole racial / color thing, but there was even more. We got a Black, highly intelligent kid on the Autism spectrum (a rarity), an Asian ranger with a big personality, and a LGBT / Latina ranger. Two thumbs up on the inclusion front! A new crop of kids are watching this and any who identify with these characters will get the message that they matter.

I also enjoyed the twists in the story from the original. Zordon and Rita Repulsa fighting on Earth millions of years ago, the reason for the form of the Zords, Rita being the original Green Ranger, and her whole revamped mission added some cohesiveness that was missing in the past. She used to want to conquer Earth, but in this movie, she goes after a crystal (one of many that are found on all planets) that will help her take control of the universe. It’s a grander scheme and it works.

The characters’ stories were deepened from the get-go this time around. Jason and Kimberly’s stories were done the best, I believe. However, no one in the cast felt left behind. I imagine this is a hard thing to accomplish for an ensemble within a two-hour space, but everything was explained just enough to feel for the characters.

Make no mistake. This is still not an award contender, but all of this combined with the feeling of nostalgia made this one of the more enjoyable watches of the spring. I highly recommend you take a step into your past and witness the future of a beloved franchise.

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BooksTV / Film

Rounded Characters and Big Questions

eclectica-cafe

I was recently interviewed by Ecelctica Cafe, a podcast hosted by Dustin and Chance, where we discussed topics of diversity in media, some politics, and what you can expect from my upcoming book, Pangaea: Unsettled Land. We continued a discussion started after my writing of the LGBT Fiction article and I’m happy to have been a part! Take a listen below and tell me what you think. And subscribe to Eclectica Cafe’s podcasts here!

 

Link to the podcast on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GtJjMVC8ho

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BooksTV / Film

Comic Views

iron man riri williams

Despite the turbulent news this past week, there were some exciting character announcements that made us all sit up. In comics, the mantle of Iron Man will soon be taken over by Riri Williams, a black teenage girl. In movies, we’ve heard that the popular Star Trek character, Sulu, will now be an openly gay role. If you know me, you know I was excited about both pieces of news. But as I dug further, I had to tamper down my hype. There are some things that could prove problematic if these characters are not handled correctly. Even after being brought down to reality, I still believe that these changes are a step in the right direction.

The Swap

It’s been reported that after the current Civil War 2 series ends, Tony Stark is retiring and giving a young protege the reins. My enthusiasm for a character like Riri was tempered after reading how some people responded. Some issues included the possibility of this fifteen-year-old being seen as an adult (Iron Woman) or misgendered and called a man throughout the series because of the title she’s taking over. There’s also concern about the handling of such a character from writer Brian Michael Bendis, and the issue of no black female writers at Marvel to handle a story like this. All of these issues are summed up quite nicely in a post by Son of Baldwin. However, the one topic that I found most interesting was the changing of a character just to appeal to a diverse audience. This is something that is going on in a certain spacey movie universe as well.

Hikaru Sulu Gay in Star Trek Beyond
Credit: Facebook.com/StarTrekMovie

In the latest installment, Star Trek: Beyond, it was announced that character Hikaru Sulu was written to be openly gay. Apparently, this was done as a tribute to George Takei, but surprisingly he wasn’t so open to it. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, he says, “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” Simon Pegg, the writer for the new movie, is quoted in a TIME article mentioning the trouble about creating a completely new character. He reshaped the existing role to escape tokenism, believing a entirely new person may end up being “primarily defined by their sexuality.” Again, for diversity’s sake, we have the transformation of an established personality, but this begs the question, which way is right?

Old vs. New

Miles Morales as Spider-Man
Credit: Marvel

The arguments against this method of character change are many and show up almost every time something like this happens. They’ve been put forward when Miles Morales was introduced as Spider-Man and when Michael B. Jordan played the Human Torch / Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four. Many fans feel like it’s a slap in the face because they’ve grown to love everything about a character and suddenly it all changes. There are also those who say that it seems like the writers are pandering to a community for a quick buck, only for the role to change back later. Lastly, there’s the idea that it doesn’t solve any long-term diversity problem the way the an original character would. There are some points on the opposite end, however.

The flipside is that an original character is hard to get excited about. So, it’s easier to just rewrite an existing person with tons of popularity and fill the diversity gap. It’s instant minority gratification (in theory). Again comes the question, which way is the best?

Michael B. Jordan Johnny Storm Human Torch
Credit: fantasticfourmovie.com

When I think about how I grew up without seeing or reading of  people like me in extraordinary fictional circumstances, I can’t help but side with the rewriting of a character. It’s a big boon to the children coming up today to see that they can be amazing, too. That sense of possibility that gets instilled outweighs any figurative slaps to the face that fans may feel. However, I do think that if more original diverse characters were created and properly pushed to audiences, we’d have less of a need to do this. While I’m pleased to see more diverse stand-ins / rewrites, I think the most energy should be spent on new ideas that solve the problem. We have yet to see how Riri and Sulu are going to be handled, but for now their presence is a good one in my book.

On which side of this argument do you fall? Write a comment below!

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TV / Film

Warcraft: A World of Diversity

Warcraft Movie

I don’t know about you, but I can’t count the hours spent going on quests and exploring the land of Azeroth in this extremely successful PC game by Blizzard. It was a magical place full of different settings and you could build an avatar from the ground up to be just as badass as you felt on the inside. I’m not talking about the real-time strategy (RTS) version, but the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). As a fantasy / sci-fi author, this was right up my alley. I created a human priest (healer) named Lemnos, and get this, he was black! And gay, if the RP (roleplay) ever led into that line of questioning. It was in this world that I could be the heroic version of myself that I’d always dreamed of. So, when I watched the Warcraft movie, I was happy about how faithful the content stayed to the game, but I felt a bit indifferent about its diversity.

There were two important characters played by people of color (that I could tell): Gorona, played by Paula Patton, and Lady Taria, played by Ruth Negga. I enjoyed these roles, but the problem was that their ethnicities were covered up. Gorona was a green Orc and Lady Taria, the character, was white. Really the only black representation by a lead was with Varis, a human soldier played by Dean Redman, who got five lines. Otherwise, there were a few of us sprinkled in the background as extras, but that was all. Race isn’t the only instance where diversity fell short, however, as I can’t remember seeing any human female soldiers, nor any LGBT characters.

To read that may leave you thinking I’m upset, but that’s not the case. I didn’t go in expecting this to be some great demonstration of different peoples. That’s why I say my reaction is indifference. My lack of a negative emotion towards this may be infuriating to some, as I have witnessed before, but I think I’m just jaded or conditioned not to expect better from Hollywood. I loved the action, special effects, and nostalgia, but it would have been nice to see more different types of humans, much like the game (and others like it) provides.

LGBT characters in video games
A gay relationship in Mass Effect 3 | Credit: Matthew-Lang.com

Role playing videogames where you can build your own character, like Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls or Fallout series, serve as an escape for many of us and allow us to enjoy characters we don’t see often, if at all. For example, when I played BioWare’s Mass Effect, my character was a black female Commander Shepard who kicked alien butt all throughout the trilogy. When have we seen that anywhere else? I would have been a man if my character could hook up with the male lead, but by the time they allowed gay male romance storylines in the third installment, I was already attached to my avatar.

However, gamers know that this medium isn’t perfect; as much as the loud, obnoxious ones online want to pretend it is. To date, there is no game that allows you to create a transgender character. Also, in Fallout 3, the character creation was infuriating because of its defaults. Watch the first eight seconds of the video below. Despite the menu where you choose your avatar’s race being in alphabetical order, the default selection is white. Why not start at the top like a regular menu?! And since we’re alphabetizing, why not make female the first choice? The setting took place in the United States, but there was also no choice to be a Native American.

I could go on and on, but I’ll save it for another post. When it comes to diversity, things are getting better in Hollywood and in videogames, but at a snail’s pace. I’m just going to do what I can to get out more stories with different types of people as the main characters.

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BooksTV / Film

Stephen King’s ‘11.22.63’ Premieres on Hulu

11-22-63

When the writer of Carrie releases a book you pay attention. When a TV adaptation is made starring James Franco you pay even more attention. His book, 11.22.63, tells the tale of Jake Epping who goes back in time to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. But as any book lover knows, there’s so much more to a tale than its simplistic pitch. There’s nostalgia, plenty of humor, crazy intense scenes, an incredible love story, and even references to It just to make your inner fanboy/girl squeal with delight. Hulu just premiered the first episode of its TV version this past Presidents’ Day. We only have one episode to go by so far, so how does it hold up?

*Minor 1st episode & book spoilers below*

James Franco

Overall, I think the first episode did a great job of setting the rules of time travel and getting the main story going at a quick pace. Perhaps the trickiest thing about this story is that the main antagonist is time itself. Without the aide of the minute detail you would get from a book, the filmmakers had to translate the tension. They did a great job of it with scenes like the car crashing into the telephone booth, Jake’s survival at a restaurant, and a fire at the bed and breakfast where he was staying. With that said, they did have to make some strange cuts to the source material in order to get the effect.

Stephen King Novel Adaptation

For one, after stepping into the past, Jake didn’t set out straight for Texas at the beginning of the book. He helped a girl escape her wheelchair-bound fate and saved the family of his adult student from a sledgehammer-wielding father (after a few failed attempts). Also, Jake had constant contact with Al, the owner of the diner, by going back and forth between his time and the past before Al died. Not having these scenes was jarring, but understandable. They would need way more episodes if they were to do everything literally by the book. And even then the pace may be too slow for TV. Luckily for us, by the end of the episode we see Jake drive off to save his student’s family. So that scene hasn’t been completely erased, just placed out of original order. I, for one, can’t wait to see that!

So far it looks like this series won’t veer too far off from the book. I’m glad because even though Stephen King gave an explanation to the big difference between the book and TV series, Under The Dome, in that case, I still was not happy. A lot of times I try to introduce family and friends into these amazing worlds that the master of horror has created, but the only way I can do that is through film. So when a show goes way off from the original story I’m not able to share what made it so great for me in the first place. I am happy with 11.22.63’s start and I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming weeks.

What did you think about the first episode of 11.22.63? Show yourself in the comments below.

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