Fans buzzing over bloody online 'Power Rangers' 'bootleg'

A "bootleg" called "Power/Rangers," based on the 1990s show, has set the Internet on fire.

Story highlights

  • "Power/Rangers," rethinking of 1990s show, is a huge online hit
  • The 14-minute video is grim and violent
  • The video may be facing legal issues

(CNN)These are not your older brother's Power Rangers.

Yeah, there are some helmeted costumes and martial arts in "Power/Rangers," the 14-minute short inspired by the 1990s children's TV series. But there are also some grim postapocalyptic settings, terse dialogue and violence. Lots and lots of bloody, graphic violence.
The "bootleg," in producer Adi Shankar's term, is the product of a thought experiment: How would fighting an intergalactic war really affect some high schoolers? (In the original candy-colored show -- which reused some campy Japanese programming -- a group of teens gets drafted to battle aliens.)
    "How is that any different from child soldiers, man? That's super f***ed-up," Shankar, the producer of "The Grey" and "Dredd," says in an accompanying video. "They're going to have PTSD, and they're going have the most f***ed-up lives."
    Hence, "Power/Rangers," which has been buzzed about all over the Internet. The less-violent version has picked up more than 6 million YouTube views in less than two days; the NSFW version has just slightly fewer. The video stars James Van Der Beek and Katee Sackhoff.
    Director Joseph Kahn, known as a music video powerhouse (Taylor Swift's "Blank Space," Britney Spears' "Toxic"), told HitFix that he was unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts of the Power Rangers universe but liked the challenge.
    "The trick that I really wanted to do with this was to make that dark and gritty version that everybody keeps talking about, but really do it," he said. "Really see if I could totally accomplish it with essentially a really incredible incredibly silly property."
    The Internet was gobsmacked, of course.
    "Holy Hell This 'Power Rangers' Reboot Is Dark As F*ck," headlined Io9.com.
    But the video may be in for a legal battle. According to Kahn, the producer of the other "Power Rangers," Haim Saban, is "trying to shut 'Power/Rangers' down." A new theatrical film version is scheduled for 2016.
    Vimeo took down the NSFW video Tuesday, and Deadline Hollywood reported that it was at the behest of a copyright infringement claim.
    Kahn has fought back on Twitter.
    "Every image in 'Power/Rangers' is original footage," he posted in a series of tweets. "Nothing was pre-existing. There is no copyrighted footage in the short. I am not making any money on it and I refuse to accept any from anyone. It was not even kickstarted, I paid for it myself."