Saban’s Power Rangers movie is now out on home video – on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.
And one of the movie’s most iconic scenes comes as Billy Cranston the Blue Ranger, portrayed by actor RJ Cyler, dies at the hands of Rita Repulsa’s evil magic. As the team remains tied up, trapped at the Angel Grove boatyard, Rita takes Billy’s life as a way of sending a message to Zordon and his new team of teenagers.
Perhaps the scene is iconic because of how moving it is, or perhaps the scene is iconic because of how rare it is to see a character legitimately die in Power Rangers’ 24-year history.
Power Rangers has seen very few characters killed off because of the TV show’s younger age target audience, and because of show owner Haim Saban’s apparent disdain for seeing his characters succumb. As Director Dean Israelite and Writer John Gatkins joked in the home video’s Audio Commentary, it took some effort to convince Haim Saban to allow the duo to kill Billy.
“You remember pitching Haim Saban that Billy dies?” – Writer John Gatkins
“Yeah Haim didn’t want Billy to die, and I understand why. And then as we kept talking about it, he came around to the idea and ultimately really liked it. But, there were a bunch of ideas that were really bold, new directions that the show would never take, or that the first versions of the draft would never take. And ultimately what’s so kind of amazing is that Haim, that this is baby, let us be very bold with all of it.” – Director Dean Israelite
One thing Israelite made sure to note about Billy’s death was that the character did not die by drowning, but instead died as a result of Rita’s evil superpowers. In order to ensure this perspective resonated with moviegoers, it required the production team to perform some editing to what had originally been filmed for Billy’s death.
“I had shot some very cool stuff of RJ underneath the water. And the problem is when we put it in, it felt like RJ had drowned. And not that he had been affected by her sorcery. So we added this green all over the ropes, and cut the underwater stuff to avoid this confusion.” – Director Dean Israelite
The decision to kill Billy ultimately unified the team, allowing them to unlock the powers of the Morphing Grid and become Power Rangers.
And as Cyler joked around in our exclusive interview (re-watch here), he was initially concerned hearing his character would meet his end, until he too learned that his death would be the action that propelled the team to become Power Rangers.
“Well, Dean broke it down to me very softly. And I’m like ‘I come back to life right? This isn’t just a one-hitter quitter thing for Billy?’. So when I died in the movie, and my brother saw it, he literally called me before the scene could even end and he was like ‘Bro what the…’.” – RJ Cyler, who portrayed Billy the Blue Ranger
Many fans lauded the move to kill Billy for being both powerful and moving, as the scene brought many moviegoers to tears, witnessing the crowd favorite character fall to his demise. And similarly, both Israelite and Gatkins applauded the Saban Brands team for allowing them to push the boundaries of the Power Rangers brand in a direction the franchise rarely explores.
“I give Haim Saban, and [Producer] Brian Casentini, and [Co-Producer] Joel Andryc a lot of credit for taking something that’s worked for them so well for 30 years and letting us push it around and put it back together, and invent and reinvent characters. It was a great partnership.” – Writer John Gatkins
Billy, of course, returned to life, and went on to exact his revenge on Rita Repulsa when his team slapped her into the frozen corridors of outer space. But as both Billy and Power Rangers fans came to learn, both Rita Repulsa and the makers of Saban’s Power Rangers movie are fully capable of pulling off death.