As beloved franchises go, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers never made much sense: The show’s aesthetic was hilariously dated even at the time it came to American shores, and its storytelling was, to put it mildly, less complicated than contemporaries like Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles. But it aired on Fox in the U.S. for three years, which means that people who were children in the early ’90s have a powerful nostalgia response to the series (which also spawned a movie following its run on television). Still, the broad concept of the show–about teenagers empowered by aliens to defend the earth, and the way their teenage impulses made them susceptible to outside influence (Tommy, no!)–is more compelling than the execution ever was, which means that a grown-up sequel to the series might be fertile storytelling ground after all.
That’s something that Adi Shankar, the renegade producer behind the Judge Dredd: Superfiend web series, and the unauthorized Marvel short films The Punisher: Dirty Laundry and Venom: Truth In Journalism, felt strongly about for his latest bootleg take on a corporate property. “Power/Rangers,” a 12-minute, hard-R film set in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers universe, was produced by Shankar, and directed by Joseph Kahn (whose most recent official credits include Taylor Swift’s batshit video for “Blank Space,” as well as the features Torque and Detention. The film stars Battlestar Galactica alum Katee Sackhoff and Dawson himself, James Van Der Beek (who also scored himself a co-writing credit, which means JVDB clearly loved him some Power Rangers as a teenager).
The film is definitely a hard-R–so hard, in fact, that two versions exist, as YouTube’s standards required a slightly sanitized version–but you may struggle to find the fully NSFW version. Saban Entertainment, the company that owns the Power Rangers franchise, had the unedited version that ran on Vimeo pulled on Tuesday. Shankar’s bootlegs earn him no money– he detailed why he makes them for us back in October–which means he may have legs to stand on should Saban take him to court, an argument that Kahn made on Twitter after Vimeo pulled the video. Regardless, a Power Rangers passion project, helmed by a director with Kahn’s chops and produced by someone with Shankar’s resume–with actors who clearly delight in the material as much as Van Der Beek and Sackhoff do–is a pretty enticing prospect for fans of bizarre children’s entertainment who like their nostalgia to have grown up with them in warped ways.