Update 2/28: The "POWER/RANGERS" film is back on YouTube and Vimeo. Watch the censored YouTube version with a new viewer discretion disclaimer here:
You can also watch the Vimeo version, featuring more adult content. The video's description emphasizes its lack of connection in any official way to the Power Rangers:
"Deboot of the Power Rangers. My take on the FAN FILM. Not a pilot, not a series, not for profit, strictly for exhibition. This is a bootleg experiment not affiliated or endorsed by Saban Entertainment or Lionsgate nor is it selling any product. I claim no rights to any of the characters (don't send me any money, not kickstarted, this film is free). This is the NSFW version. An alternate safe version is on youtube."
Director Joseph Kahn tells Deadline, "They put these disclaimers on so kids so don’t confuse our super-violent film with their Power Rangers brand. There are no hard feelings. We signed contracts. We can play it anywhere we want on all platforms. I think they realized that people just want to see it."
Previously: A Power Rangers short film went viral this week, starring Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson!) in a Tarantino-meets-sci-fi take on a dark future for the formerly Mighty Morphin'.
The company behind the 22-year history of the kids/toy icons issued takedown requests, leading to it being pulled from Vimeo and, on Thursday afternoon, a toned-down version being taken off YouTube. At the time, the video had received over 10 million views. It's still available to watch in this Facebook embed from the producer's Facebook page:
The film was directed by Joseph Kahn, best known as the music video director behind clips like Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" as well as videos for Britney Spears, U2 and others, and produced by Adi Shankar, who was also behind "The Grey" and "Dredd." Kahn co-wrote the film with Van Der Beek and lesser-known writer Dutch Southern.
This isn't the first quasi-legal fan film produced by Shankar. He's also done the same with Marvel Comics characters the Punisher and Venom. The Punisher film even had one of the actors who played the character on screen, Thomas Jane.
Watch those films (Warning: Adult language and violence):
Kahn tells HitFix that Shankar came to him, offering him the chance to reboot an existing property.
One reason for the current legal contentiousness: The Power Rangers are set to hit the big screen next year in a Lionsgate film. Kahn says that, if that film was offered to him, he wouldn't be interested.
"I wouldn't even want to make 'Power Rangers: The Movie' for real," Kahn told HitFix. "Like if I had to make a 'Power Rangers' movie, this is it. It's 14 minutes long, and it's violent, and this is what I have in me. If they offered me the $200 million version, the PG-13 version, I literally wouldn't do it."
There's been a strong response to the video, but the response has been mixed — among the original Power Rangers. The original Green Ranger, actor Jason David Frank, said on Facebook that he was approached to be in the movie but declined. (The film's director denies this claim, saying that Frank must have confused them with another project.) Frank also criticized the adult content.
"I'm just a PG-13 guy," Frank said. "The cuss words, the drugs, all this other stuff, it doesn't fly with me." He says that he thinks the Power Rangers are still connected with kids, and he didn't like the idea of doing a dark and gritty version in that context. (Watch his video below.)
But the original Pink Ranger, actress Amy Jo Johnson, gave the film her stamp of approval, which Sackhoff enthusiastically responded to.
Sackhoff told the Nerdcore Movement site that she loves fan films.
"Doing a fan video is kind of the biggest honor you can give a franchise. It’s something that inspired you so much that you want to create," Sackhoff said.
Kahn defended "POWER/RANGERS" on Twitter as being protected due to it being a satire and also cited fair use laws and free speech. He argued that there are lots of other fan films and pointed out that YouTube showed more leniency, leaving it up.
"Every image in POWER/RANGERS is original footage," Kahn wrote in a series of tweets to Vimeo. "Nothing was pre-existing. There is no copyrighted footage in the short."
He also said that it's being given away for free and that Kahn paid for it himself.
"It is just as if I drew a pic of Power Rangers on a napkin and I gave it to my friend," Kahn wrote. "Is it illegal to give pic I drew of a character on a napkin to someone for free? No. The world is watching your actions right now."
In a touch of irony, the video had been selected as a Vimeo staff pick before the service took it down. They also responded to complaints about it being taken down, saying that they had to due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and that they would restore the video immediately if the copyright claim was withdrawn, telling fans to complain to Power Rangers copyright holder Saban.
Despite the short film's success, hardcore Power Rangers fans are less sure about it, Shamus Kelley tells KPCC. Kelley created his own Rangers fan series, as well as co-hosting a Power Rangers podcast with over 300 episodes so far.
Casual fans are "far more open to the idea of dark/gritty because they see it as the show growing up with them," Kelley says. To hardcore fans, "it was either an abomination or the greatest unintended parody ever."
Kahn tells HitFix that the parody, of both Power Rangers and fan films in general, is definitely intended.
"The dark and gritty reboot thing is such a cliché that the intention was not only to make it dark and gritty but make it even darker and grittier than you could possibly imagine, hence the brains, the blood and the violence and the sex," Kahn said.
Kahn is set to answer questions about the film in a Reddit AMA on Friday at 2 p.m. We'll have to wait and see if there will be anywhere to watch it at the time.
Take a look behind the scenes of "POWER/RANGERS" via posts from the director and stars:
The film also includes a techno take on the classic Power Rangers theme song, which you can listen to here:
This story has been updated.