Back in February of this year, Lionsgate announced that Elizabeth Banks would be playing the role of the lead villain Rita Repulsa in the upcoming reboot of the POWER RANGERS franchise. People magazine has released the first promotional photo of Banks in costume as the iconic villain.
In the article, Banks expresses her excitement over the roll.
“I’ve never played a villain before…[I’m looking forward to] world domination – and being unpredictable as a character.”
Banks is starring along costars Dacre Montgomery as the Red Ranger, RJ Cyler as the Blue Ranger, Naomi Scott as the Pink Ranger, Becky G as the Yellow Ranger, and Ludi Lin as the Black Ranger. For the uninitiated, POWER RANGERS is a television series that originated in the 90s. The show centered around a group of teenagers that were given the ability to transform into a superhero team by a space wizard named Zordon to protect the world from the evil Empress Rita. The show borrowed much of its footage from a Japanese show called Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, primarily for it’s action sequences, while the remainder of the footage was shot with American actors.
When Banks was initially cast, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I’ve made it no secret that I’m a big fan of Banks, especially when it comes to her work as a director. But in my mind, even though Rita is an evil alien sorceress who is literally from outer space (God, the 90s were a weird/awesome time for television), I had hoped that Lionsgate would give the role to an Asian actress, as the role was originally played by Machiko Soga as the Witch Bandora in the original Japanese Zyuranger, with her English voice performed by Barbara Goodson. I had hoped that since the original role was portrayed by a Japanese actress that the new casting would follow suit, not only to be inclusive, but also as a way to honor both the 90s show and the original Sentai source material. As an isolated incident, I would actually be on board with casting Banks, as her portrayal of Effie in the HUNGER GAMES films was spot on; she’s one of the few actresses that can hit the prefect amount of “over-the-top”, which is not an easy feet to pull off. However, taken in context, casting a white actress to play yet another role intended for a Asian actor, especially in a show that often made it a point to cast actors of many different racial backgrounds for its main team, is just the latest instance in a long string of disappointing and problematic Hollywood whitewashing casting decisions. Even when the original role was recast when the production no longer had any of footage from the original series left to go on, the role was always given to a woman of color, as Carla Perez, Julia Corez, and Susan Brady would all go on to play the role in various instances.
I won’t chronicle this issue in detail here, as you can look at my articles regarding the GHOST IN THE SHELL and DEATH NOTE casting decisions to learn more about this troubling trend in Hollywood. Instead, I would like to take time to look at the costume itself. It is certainly a deviation from the original design of the costume; however it does look right at home in the POWER RANGER universe, as it is very reminiscent of many of the costumes the female villains wore throughout the series. I think Banks does look like a POWER RANGERS villain in this photo, just not Rita. Instead, she looks a lot more like a certain space pirate.
While I’m disappointing in the casting decision, the costume does indeed look like it belongs in the world these characters inhabit. My biggest problem with this costume is that is doesn’t look like something Rita would wear, as the snake motif just wasn’t her style (not to say she had great fashion taste either, those cones weren’t exactly subtle). It just looks like something Divatox, Karone, or even Trakeena would wear. I’m not saying the costume had to match the original design, far from it actually (as I said, those cones look really dangerous). But it does have to match the character. If this is the look they’re going for, we can probably guess that the Rita we’ll see in the film will be very different than the one we grew up with. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, as she was never really that threatening to begin with, but it’s not necessarily something that’s won me over either. Personally, I’ll wait for a trailer before I decide to get excited (or outraged) about this film.
POWER RANGERS is scheduled to be released in theaters in March of 2017.
What do you think of Rita’s new look? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!
Want to take a trip down memory lane? Check out the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE on Amazon.com!