EDITORIAL: Is It Ok To Censor Fan Films?
By Scott Kurland
This week we saw the release and take down of Producer Adi Shankar and Director Joseph Kahn’s “Power/Rangers ‘Bootleg Universe One Shot. The short film stars Kate Sackhoff and James Van Der Beek and reboots the world of “The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers”. The short film is a stylized R-rated grit fest, and it’s pretty damn clever at that. I was a child of the 90s, and grew up with the “Power Rangers”. I had waited in lines with my dad for hours outside of ‘Toys R Us’ in hopes of getting a green ranger figure. So when I heard this short was released online I dropped everything I was doing (which was 8pm on a Monday....so not a lot) just to watch it.
It was a fantastic short, but this isn’t a review; because sadly, you will have a hard time finding it. Vimeo and Youtube were forced to take it down at the request of Saban Brands. Saban owns the rights to “Power Rangers”, and felt this fan film had to go. This isn’t Saban’s first rodeo with trying to shut down fan films. They attempted to shut down a fan project called “The Ranger”, which is still available on youtube. However, Saban won this one and pulled “Power/Rangers” from vimeo and youtube. I don’t know why this happened, or if it is right to do. However I do want to state my opinion openly. If you agree, that is fine. If you don’t, that is fine too.
Fan films have been made for years, there’s over a dozen “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones”, “Marvel,” and even “Nickelodeon” films made yearly. Have they ever been forced off the internet? No. Are they great shorts? Yes, well some of them, but it is the creativity that is important. I have made short films for years, and I have worked on films as well. It is the toughest mother of all invention there is. What Kahn and Shankar did was what any good indie filmmaker does...they created art. It might not be my version of art or yours, but it is art nonetheless.
Artistic expression has been censored for years dating all the way back to WWII. Yes, I’m totally going to point out that Hitler tried to destroy art. Its true he did, but what does censoring art really mean? It means they’re insecure. Hitler wasn’t a good enough artist so he blocked true genius. Saban may be too PG oriented to reboot “Power Rangers” into a “Hunger Games” driven world. Now that Lionsgate is trying to court them into a film reboot, they saw Kahn and Shankar as a true threat, but why? That’s easy, because their short starring James Van Der Beek is pretty flipping fantastic. It has grit, gore, and it also has Starbuck from “Battlestar Galactica”.
Every year Marvel has fan films about Spider-Man and the Punisher made by fans for fans. There’s a great one called “Venom: Truth in Journalism” starring Ryan Kwanten as Eddie Brock. It’s a brilliant short because they take the french noir film “Man Bites Dog” and homage it to the sensibility of Marvel anti-heroes. The same was done with “Power/Rangers”, Kahn and Shankar took what they loved about “Power Rangers” and meshed it with big budget action films. The end result was what Saban saw as a slap in the face because it was inventive and new.
I don’t know why Hollywood fears certain changes, but when someone makes a brilliant adaptation instead of shunning them, we should praise them. Kahn and Shankar shouldn’t be forced to hide their work because one company makes it so. Maybe, Lionsgate should make them director and producer of the feature length film. This sends two messages. 1.) Don’t try to censor creativity. 2.) Sometimes the right man for the job makes themselves known before the search begins.
We already saw censorship once this year with “The Interview”, and look how that turned out. The film did better than it would have because of all the free press. Fan films are what makes some things better. Even Joss Whedon has gone on the record of saying that fans and fan films are what keep him in business. If you love something, why must it be frowned upon to make an homage to it? Do I think “Power/Rangers” deserves to be pulled off of youtube and vimeo? No, no, it's too late. A message has been sent and the little guy lost the battle. However, they can still win the war. Shankar and Kahn’s film is now a message to young filmmakers, if you want something, make it happen. Considering it is all anyone is talking about these past few days they won, and I believe they will continue to keep winning this fight.