Many times when watching the film I will critique that the movie could have been better if they had followed the Power Ranger formula. The Power Ranger formula is an approach observed while watching the Power Rangers with my kids. Overtime I observed the formula being used in various TV shows and movies. Often when there is a movie that I have rated poorly, one of the key ingredients of the Power Ranger formula was missing from the movie.
The following is the key ingredients of the heroes. There are 5 key characters:
- The Leader
- The Anal
- The Smart
- The Goof
- The Tough
In addition to these main characters there is an additional two other characters that are optional.
- The Mentor
- The Struggler
Finally, the most important ingredient is the:
- The Villain
My theory is the formula can be applied to Action, Family, Adventure and Fantasy films. The movie can be used on Crime, Thrillers, Horror or Drama but only when the tone is more humorous not overly intense.
The “Leader” typically has been given the leadership role, but don’t want it, the reluctant leader. However, if they want to be the leader then they will be the very best. Everyone looks to them by the end of the store for what to do. More often or not the talent they have a natural talent that needs to be harnessed or there is a prophecy/destiny to be followed and they must find the path. While a person can learn how, it is not typical of American films for them to go this path. The
Why can’t the Leader learn a skill that isn’t natural. In Western society we like to think that underneath our own personalities, is this untapped natural talent that we have. It let’s us believe there is still more to us that currently exists. So if you believe you have a humdrum life, a story like this allows you to believe their still could be more.
The show/movie is focused on this character and we want to see them grow to succeed. Because their is a talent or prophecy the Leader need to learn to refine their natural talent from the “Mentor”. While the Mentor helps with talents, the typically, this person will fall in love with the “Smart” or “Anal” character, who teaches them to love or care.
The Leader will value the team and struggles to keep the team together or focused. The Leader will forsake everyone, to save the team.
Examples: Luke Skywalker (Star Wars), Harry Potter (Harry Potter), Captain Kirk (Star Trek), Peter Quill (Guardians of the Galaxy)
“Anal” is the person that who follows the rule book. They usually see the world as either white or black. Often they think that they should be the leader of the team, which sets up the early confrontation with “Leader”. As they learn the rule book is more a set of guidelines, typically the “Anal” and “Leader” will fall in love.
If they don’t want to use “Anal”, the other way character is the “Angry” character. Again this character thinks they should be the leader. Their main characteristic is they are aggressive and don’t believe the team is taking enough action. They usually go haphazardly into danger, and have to be saved by the rest of the team and shown that they have to work together.
Examples: Hermoine (Hary Potter), Spock (Star Trek), Princess Leia (Star Wars), Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy)
The “Smart” is one of the trio of funny characters used to bring humor to the story. They are the ones who we expect to know the legend or know the technology. They are needed to by the leader to get to the next step. The “Smart” character and “Anal” character can be mixed together. I think Spock is an example of “Smart” and “Anal” combined. Typically Smart is used as a straight man for jokes. They are unwise to the way of the world, and don’t get it common expressions or jokes.
The “Smart” can be substituted for the “Smart Ass” or “Cynic”. While they aren’t stupid, their objective is really to make jokes all the time. They can be very bright, in this roll which is why they make fun of everyone else.
Often “Smart” and “Goof” are the buddies.
Examples: Scotty (Star Trek), Ron Weasley (Harry Potter), R2D2/C3PO (Star Wars)
The “Goof” person is usually the silly or reckless character. This character parties too much, or is always eating, or goofing around. This is the character, that the “Leader” is going to have to talk too, and they will leave the team only to return at the last minute to save the day. The “Goof” person will learn about their commitment to the team. The “Goof” person is also used to lighten up the other characters, especially the “Leader”, “Smart” and “Anal”. “Goof” can impact on the “Leader” love interest to get them to let down their hair.
The “Goof” takes on various forms. For example, “Goof” can be the self-absorbed ditzy cheerleader who is just into her looks. She isn’t stupid, but self-centered. The “Goof” can also appear to be the innocent person who is just naive and looks at everyone through a rose colored lens.
Examples: Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter), Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy), Han Solo (Star Wars)
“Tough” on is usually isn’t the brightest person on the team, but is strong physically. Usually a one dimensional character, this person is typically used as humor, especially in combat sequences. “Tough” can fall in love with “Goof” or “Smart” and therefore is often a protector of Smart or Goof, since they aren’t as strong.
Examples: Rocket (Guardians of the Galaxy), Hagarid (Harry Potter), Chewbacca (Star Wars)
“Mentor” is the teacher of the “Leader” and the team. While not a main character, they are heavily involved from a home base, and usually help teach the moral to each of the characters as they learn how to use their powers. “Mentor” will see more in the characters than they see in themselves.
Examples: Yoda (Star Wars), Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Admiral Pike (Star Trek)
This is the character that struggles between good and bad. They can join the team. If they join the team, they will struggle with if they are good enough to be on the team. Often they start on the bad team, and struggle there and join the good team. If they join the good team they will typically be in conflict with “Leader” or “Anal” but fall in love with them by the end.
Examples: Nebula (Guardians of the Galaxy 2), Yondu (Guardians of the Galaxy), Professor Snape (Harry Potter)
You can combine characters, if we are trying to be compact. Typically you will see “Goof” and “Smart” or “Goof” and “Tough”. The other combination is “Anal” and “Smart”. It is also possible to shift a character in and out of roles. Shifting in out of roles can be confusing for the audience so it isn’t recommended.
A good example of a character that plays both characters is the Hulk, when he is Bruce Banner he is “Smart” and “Goof”, and then when he is the Hulk he is “Tough”. In Thor: Ragnarok, I think they used the ability to switch him out of roles for various parts of the movie well.
The “Villain” must be 100% bad and there can be no doubt about their intentions. If you have a crime film one character most clearly be evil compared to the other criminals. The severity of evil this character has to be obvious. If everyone steals, sells guns, sells drugs, the “Villain” must kill and kill without remorse, and everyone fears them.
Here is the key, the “Villain” and “Leader” must be directly opposed to each other.
Over the next several posts, we will look into several films to see how this is applied and how it works. We will also review movies that don’t work and see how if they had applied the formula how the movie would have been better.
We will also explore what type of movies the formula can be applied.