Someone out there is definitely still trying to make a big-budget Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers movie, as evidenced by today’s announcement that actress and movie producer Elizabeth Banks will play the villainness Rita Repulsa.
Kids who grew up in the U.S. in the early 90s will remember Rita as the crackly-voiced lady who popped out of a hole in the ground, announced “After 10,000 years I’m free! It’s time to conquer Earth!” only to then be upstaged by weird teenagers in aggressively bright colors. For many of us, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was our first direct exposure to Japanese children’s entertainment and you really either loved it or hated it.
The choice of Elizabeth Banks is surprising, but could be a lot of fun. Rita was always depicted in the U.S. as the hammiest villain imaginable, and Banks has a deceptively deep comedic repertoire, from the raunchy Wet Hot American Summer, to the sharp-edged 30 Rock, to the darkly dramatic portions of The Hunger Games. In the end, it’s quite possible that Banks will end up bringing some new depth to what is essentially a cardboard cutout of a character.
This also opens up the possibility that pretty much anyone can now be cast in the new MMPR movie. Who should play Zedd, the floating head? Aziz Ansari? Louis C.K.? Taylor Swift? The possibilities are now endless!
It’s clear that Banks is meant to bring a marquee name to the movie so that the Power Rangers themselves can be played by unknowns and cast with a greater sensitivity towards the broad background of its U.S. audience. Banks has big shoes to fill. Not only because Rita’s costume is undoubtedly enormous, but because the original actress Machiko Soga is so identified with the part. Soga passed away in 2006, but was featured in both the Japanese and U.S. dubs of the original MMPR show. Although her voice changed when the show was re-localized for audiences around the world, the face (of evil!) remained Soga’s. Banks has a tough road ahead in making her version of Rita as iconic as Soga’s.
Oh wait, Alec Baldwin as Zedd! Of course, duh.