The powers that be behind the latest Power Ranger movie have found their Rita Repulsa. Actress Elizabeth Banks has been cast as the Power Rangers biggest villain.
According to the Power Rangers’ Instagram, it was officially announced that Banks would play Repulsa in all her screaming glory. If you don’t know who Rita Repulsa is, she’s a character from the popular 1990s kids show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which has seen several incarnations over the years.
A photo posted by Power Rangers (@powerrangersmovie) on
So far the Power Rangers movie has a few key players lined up. According to the Hollywood Reporter, director Dean Israelite from the film Project Almanac has signed on to direct the kids’ film, and it will be produced by Saban Brands’ Haim Saban. Saban Brands is an investment firm that was started fifteen years ago.
The Hollywood Reporter described Banks’ character as “an alien witch who has designs on the planet.”
Rita Repulsa was originally played by Machiko Soga and was voiced by Barbara Goodson for the American version. Carla Perez eventually took over for Soga in the second season. In the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, she was played by Julia Cortez, even though Goodson remained the voice of Rita.
The last we saw of Rita Repulsa, she was played by Soga with the voice work of Susan Brady. The character also makes appearances in the series Power Rangers: Zeo, Power Rangers Turbo, Power Rangers In Space, Power Rangers Mystic Force, and Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive.
In addition to Banks, the Power Rangers movie has also cast Becky G (Yellow Ranger), R.J. Cyler (Blue Ranger), Dacre Montgomery (Red Ranger), Ludi Lin (Black Ranger), and Naomi Scott (Pink Ranger).
That said, mere hours after it was announced that Rita Repulsa was going to be played by Elizabeth Banks, a controversy has brewed over whether or not producers are white washing this production.
when actual rita repulsa sees this whitewashing pic.twitter.com/j3eumfFV0e
— Mrark (@Mrarkon) February 2, 2016
Everyone saying Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa is Holywood whitewashing again must think all evil space aliens are asian #PoweRangersMovie
— Zach Decay (@Zachnado) February 2, 2016
First Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa, and now Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene? Way to combat whitewashing there, Hollywood.
— Justin Robinson (@JustinSRobinson) February 2, 2016
Lionsgate: People got mad about us whitewashing Egypt, so let’s whitewash Rita Repulsa
— Snuggle Monster (@discoscientist) February 2, 2016
I agree that whitewashing in movie casting is a big problem, but Rita Repulsa is not the hill I’m gonna die on.
— Kasey Kopp (@undercoverkopp) February 2, 2016
I don’t care about Power Rangers canon, but Rita Repulsa was a Japanese woman. Elizabeth Banks is very white and blonde. That OK?
— Jordan Zakarin (@jordanzakarin) February 2, 2016
This isn’t the first time the Power Rangers have been accused of being anti-PC. The original cast of the Power Rangers seemed to be assigned by ethnicity. For example, African American actor Walter Emanuel Jones was cast as Zack Taylor, the “black” Power Ranger. The late Asian actress Thuy Trang portrayed Trini Kwan, the “yellow” Power Ranger, and Jason David Frank portrayed Tommy Oliver, the “white” Power Ranger, whose powers are created by the “Light” of Goodness.
As for Elizabeth Bank’s role in the film, the hashtag #RitaRepulsaSoWhite was started up, which is a play off of the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag.
The Power Rangers movie is set for a March 24, 2017, theatrical release.
We don’t see Lionsgate or the producers issuing any statements about Elizabeth Banks’ part in this, but perhaps Banks will address this concern that so many people seem to have?.
[Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images]