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What happened to the Power Rangers? Short film gives grim, gritty answer. (+video)

A new 14-minute short produced by Adi Shankar takes viewers to a post-apocalyptic world where the Machine Empire has taken over and the old gang has been disbanded and disillusioned. While it’s definitely not for kids, adult fans seem to love it.

What happens when a group of teenagers are trained to become soldiers and forced to fight in an intergalactic war they had nothing to do with?

Short answer: They get very messed up.

That’s the premise behind “Power/Rangers,” a short film by “Dredd” producer Adi Shankar and based on the popular 90s television series “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world controlled by the robot alien villains known as the Machine Empire, and centers on former Red Ranger Rocky DeSantos, played by “Dawson’s Creek” star James Van Der Beek.

Rocky, who now works for the Empire, has captured former Pink Ranger Kimberly Hart (played by Katee Sackhoff of “Battlestar Galactica”) as part of an effort to destroy the old team completely. The condensed plot reveals what happens to the rest of the team while getting in as much blood and violence as possible.

It has little to do with the kid-friendly original series, which featured costumed caperers and dinosaur robots – and that is exactly how director Joseph Kahn likes it.

In an interview with entertainment news site Hitfix, Mr. Kahn – the man behind such films as “Torque” and music videos like Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” – bemoaned the movie industry’s failure to produce “dark” and “gritty” films in a way that would have any real impact.

“So when I did the dark and gritty version of this, I mean, we go full out,” he told Hitfix. “There's blood, there's brains, there's gunshots, there's sex, there's violence.”

“I mean, basically we made the version that Hollywood could never ever make,” he said.

For producer Adi Shankar, the film is more about making something he was genuinely interested in – pursuing an art – rather than pushing a backdoor pitch to a big franchise, he told innovation magazine Fast Company.

In fact, Mr. Shankar already has under his belt three bootleg and Internet-exclusive films based on copyrighted characters – “Judge Dredd: Superfiend,” “The Punisher: Dirty Laundry,” and “Venom: Truth in Journalism.”

According to Fast Company:

Shankar is aware that his tendency to make unofficial, bootleg versions of big-dollar properties could have negative consequences for him. (Though he also admits that, if Marvel did approach him about doing a Punisher Netflix series, he would take it.) But win or lose, his motivation for all of this is creative, not financial. All he really wants, he says, is the freedom to do Judge Dredd, or the Punisher, or Venom the way he wants to see them.

It only made sense to do one on the Power Rangers, a show he loved growing up, Shankar says in a video blog explaining his reasoning behind the short film.

“Power/Rangers, to the public’s nostalgic glee, is already making the rounds online.

The short film has also given audiences cause to think about the upcoming feature-length, live-action version of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” that studio Lionsgate plans to release in the summer of 2016 – the latest in a series of Hollywood-backed reboots. 

Will Shankar’s short film have any influence on the big-budget feature? Will other filmmakers attempt his devil-may-care style of making movies?

Who knows?

What we do know is that while “Power/Rangers” has been removed from Vimeo, the safe-for-work version can still be viewed on YouTube

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