Sunday, December 1, 2013

Power Rangers MegaForce Review: First half (episodes 1-20)

As you've probably guessed by now, I'm not much of a fan of this season. When MegaForce first started, I was excited for the season and I was really looking forward to seeing how Saban Brands was going to handle it. At first, I enjoyed the premier, I mean it brought back the unmorphed fights (unfortunately they didn't stick around for long) but after the initial nostalgia fog wore off, I became somewhat disillusioned with the season and then I just became bored with it. Just to clarify, I keep watching just to see if it gets any better and that I'm well aware that its a kids' show so please don't bring up that tired old argument. I won't be getting into the characters other than Roboknight yet because the entirety of MegaForce isn't over yet. If you've spoken with me about MegaForce before now, I'm probably sounding like a broken record to you. Anyway, I've got quite a lot to say so lets get started. Despite how this review may sound, it is not meant to be a rant in any way.
Saban Brand's Intentions: I'm starting with this instead of the writing or acting because its been bugging me for a while. Its made obvious from the very first scene in the first episode (Troy's dream sequence) why the company wants you to watch this season: The Legend War. With that in mind, this first half seems really lackluster and it really feels like the writers and production company don't really seem to care what they put into this half. I've constantly asked myself why they didn't just bring the veterans into the first half to spice things up if they were going to make it this bland.
Its obvious why you want people to watch when this is the first scene you show.
I've had people respond to me with "Then it wouldn't be its own show. It'd just be the season with the returning rangers". It already doesn't feel like its own show. It feels more like a love letter to MMPR than anything else. Thats another issue I have with this half, other than being what started it the franchise, there is no reason why MMPR deserves the entire first half as its tribute. Its just Saban Brands trying to recapture its glory days from that era. When the first thing you show is a dream sequence with older rangers and couple it with bland and boring writing, then it becomes quite obvious that you intend it to be the "season with returning rangers"and expect older fans (and to a lesser extent children who have seen other seasons) to watch for that reason alone. If they wanted to make it feel like its own season then they should've either: 1. Not shown clips of the Legend War as the very first scene or 2. They should've put more effort into this first half. Though I will give them credit for not shutting out the Titanium ranger completely given the photos that have surfaced over the past few months even if its just the suit and not the actual actor.
I will give them credit for this.
I've also come to the conclusion that they're likely saving most of their money for the second half but that just shows how lazy they appear to be if the only thing they're going to put a decent amount of effort into is the nostalgia value of having veterans return. When something is touted as being a "mega celebration of 20 years", they should go all out from the start. Clearly they intend on making this show more about nostalgia than anything else. I know people give Disney a lot of crap for its run on the franchise but at the very least, they put some effort into something other than the returning rangers during Overdrive, even if Overdrive itself wasn't that good. Yes I said it, Overdrive was a better anniversary than MegaForce has been so far!

Theme song: This is barely worth mentioning but I'll go over it anyway. Its one of the more unimaginative theme songs in the franchise. Like the Samurai theme song its just a cover of the MMPR theme but with the words "MegaForce Altogether" spliced into it at various points. This doesn't really help the case that Saban Brands isn't trying to recapture MMPR now that it has the reigns again and it sort of helps reinforce my belief that they're just trying to cash in on nostalgia. It fails to get you hyped up which kind of misses the point of a theme song.

Acting: Power Rangers has never really been known for its acting caliber outside of Time Force and RPM. With this half the acting ranges from meh to sub-par, especially in the cases of Troy and Emma. Troy for the most part is emotionless when saying his lines, a cinder block would be a better actor than him and even Roboknight shows more emotion than Troy does (thats right, the bland robot shows more emotion than the red) but I'll get to Roboknight later as I have a lot of issues with him. I know Power Rangers isn't supposed to have Tripe A acting but Troy's acting is sub-par even by Power Rangers standards. As it stands right now, Troy is on par with Kevin from Samurai acting-wise. He just looks bored throughout most of this half, other than the episode that was nothing but one big joke and it came off more creepy and forced than anything else. Granted he does improve slightly near the end of this half and he isn't as bad as Vypra from Lightspeed Rescue, but the dude seriously needs to start showing more emotion. He is in my bottom three actors in the franchise, the other two being Vypra from Lightspeed Rescue and Kevin from Samurai. He just can't seem to get rid of that look of boredom.
This face says "I'm happy!" least I think it does.
Gia, Jake, and Noah are decent enough actors though Gia hasn't had many focus episodes compared to the others so far. Emma's problem oddly enough is the complete opposite of Troy's, while Troy underacts, Emma overacts. Her actress tends to come off as a little too cheery when saying her lines even during what should be more serious moments for her and the other rangers but she is definitely better than Troy. Her focus episodes have thus far been a little too environmental for my tastes with the writing not being nearly convincing enough for it to work out well. I'm not even sure how Troy's actor got the role. Even the nameless child actor from the episode "Staying On Track" is a better actor than Troy and Emma and that kid had at most 5 or 6 lines in that episode. In the episode "The Human Condition", the writers seemingly acknowledge how much trouble Troy has conveying emotions. When Roboknight asks Troy to tell him about tears, Troy pretty much says "Go ask Emma. She knows more about tears than I do.". Granted it was probably just away to pass Roboknight's question off to Emma and who in turn would lead him toward the other rangers, I can't help but think it was the writers taking a subtle jab at Troy's actor.

Writing: The writing has been sadly sub-par for this half and on occasion it has been downright painful. It hasn't changed much from Samurai's level of writing. The lowest point would have to be two episodes in the Mutant arc: Roboknight's premier (which was really bland for a sixth ranger's premier) and the end of the mutant arc. In those episodes they basically spell out the underlying environmental message of this arc by basically having the villains say "Humans are lazy for not cleaning up the planet" or "Its humanity's fault we exist so we're gonna make you suffer". Not to mention that they kept bringing up the Mutants origin every episode. Did they seriously think kids would forget that in-between episodes? The whole thing about Jake being love-struck by Gia and her not picking up on it makes Jake come off as slightly stalker-ish and his crush on her honestly feels kind of forced on the audience. This is definitely not how you celebrate 20 years. There is no excuse for this when you have 19 other seasons as a guide to help your writing. At certain points, it feels like it is talking down to its audience or even insulting their intelligence like Emma's over-done obsession with the environment and the Mutants' motivation. The writers feel the need to spell everything out for the audience for some reason. Just because your target audience is children doesn't mean you should spell it all out for them.

Its also really weird when the better one-liners are given to the villains and occasionally random extras instead of the rangers. For some reason it seems like they have a lot of trouble writing Emma's focus episodes and they just feel off to me. The only passable focus episode for her in this half is the episode Dream Snatcher. The humor is just par for the course consisting of cheesy jokes and one-liners without the show having enough cheese to make it work. I'm not asking for gold here, I'm just asking for decent/tolerable writing. Another issue I have with the writing is Troy's logic behind why the wild sword rebelled against Vrak, his whole line about how the sword "wanted to protect the Earth" was really just speculation on his part. That line might have worked better if they had done some build up to the sword's appearance but the sword comes out of nowhere and it kind of felt forced. Had this not been a combined season, its appearance would've most likely been a two-parter since it lead to the ultra mode power-up. On a semi-positive note, Jason Smith (Jungle Fury Red) is going to be doing some of the writing for Super MegaForce, including his own tribute episode and I've heard he has some decent writing experience. While I don't much care for the thought of Casey returning as the Jungle Fury representative (he was the most boring character in JF and RJ would've been a better choice) I can only hope he helps the writing get better. He can't possibly make it any worse.

Thats right, he gets his own section. This is one of the most frustrating parts of this half and its my major gripe about it. His character is something I feel could've been something good but sadly, it feels like he has been relegated to being a simple placeholder for the Silver MegaForce ranger. While that in itself was a terrible idea, they took it a step further and tried to disguise it. They tried to give him this really cliche "robot learns from humanity" plot-line and it hasn't been executed well in the first half. He has gotten arguably less development than Gia, the only thing I'd even dare to call decently handled or convincing development for him was the meteor scene during the episode "Dream Snatcher". It was a nice looking scene and seeing the meteor shower reflected in his visor was a nice touch. It feels like the writers don't even care for him as character and the voice actor doesn't sound like he is trying. Its Power Rangers for crying out loud, robots have emotions in this universe. Roboknight doesn't need to sound like he doesn't care.
This is how I feel when I think of what Roboknight could have been.
They've tried to make him feel as inhuman as possible and it really doesn't help you get attached to him as a character, he is just there and he isn't as interesting as other robots in the PR universe. It feels like they were just trying to hide that he is a placeholder and he won't show up in Super MegaForce. They even rushed his development to make him seem like a complete character in the episode "The Human Factor" with a less than convincing internal conflict about humans being good or bad for the Earth that lasted all of two minutes. That might have worked better if the episode had been a two parter. In the episodes "Staying On Track" and "The Human Condition" they try to make you think he is actually a character by adding on some extra "development" and to make you think he actually mattered in this half. The scene of him rapping at the end of "The Human Condition" was funny just because of how awkward it was with the voice actor's monotone voice. Due to the pacing (I'll get to that later), a lot of his "development" wasn't that convincing. It feels like he was only included because the stock footage called for it. They tried to force so much development into the last few episodes that it made wonder why they just didn't do it starting after his premier. He has been around since episode 8 and they decided to give him development that is just barely passable at the end. They've had 12 episodes to work with him yet they only decided that they want it to look like they care about him during the last 3 or so episodes. No character deserves to be treated this way.

They could've helped push his whole "robot learning to be human" plot-line in a more positive direction by giving him a sort of hologram projector to give him a human form so he could blend in with humanity more thus make him learning from the rangers feel more impactful. With a boring tone to his voice you just don't feel for the character and the hologram projector could've helped balance that out more. If they wanted him to feel like a ranger or that he actually mattered much, they should've come up with a better plot-line for him. The fact that he is a temporary character was even more of a reason why they shouldn't have wasted him.When you give a temporary character the title of "ranger" or whatever title is equivalent to a ranger, you should make him/her as memorable as possible simply because they won't be around for long. You should want to make sure the character has as big an impact as possible on the audience. Take the Phantom ranger from Turbo for example, he was a temporary character but he still had some sense of importance during his short time on the show, even if he did get written out of In Space before they could close his plot-line. Under no circumstances do you relegate a character to place-holder status just because they won't be in the footage you're planning to use in the latter half of the season. Sadly, it seems Roboknight was just reduced to being a bland, boring character that neither Saban Brands nor the writers cared much for in the first place.

Villains: Since this half was based off Goseiger, they decided use all three villain groups that were present in the Sentai. The Warstar were just boring with really weird plans and they were just used as standard fodder for minor very character development for pretty much only Jake, Emma, and Noah during the first arc. The second group were the Mutants. They are my least favorite group of this half since the writing gets worse than it already was during this arc . They had weirder plans than the Warstar did, such as stealing people's shadows or sealing them away when they laugh. Their constant need to bring up their origin started to aggravate me very quickly and the blatantly obvious environmental message of their arc didn't help much.
The machine arc is where the villains get tolerable for me, specifically Metal Alice. While on her own, she would just be an ok villain, compared to the others she is great. She feels like the only villain in this half that feels like a semi-legitimate threat for the rangers. Unlike the other villains she has some sense and gets straight to the point. In the episode "Staying On Track" her plan was basically kill people by disabling the train system and it almost resulted in the destruction of a loaded passenger train. Her ruthlessness makes an appearance once again in the episode "The Messenger" when she holds a tower full of people hostage by pointing a missile at it to try and buy Vrak some time so he can adjust to his new body. She is the only villain I've semi-liked in this half and she is by far the most tolerable one for me. She is a refreshing change of pace from the boring Warstar and the annoying origin obsessed Mutants. Her voice actress beats half the rangers in terms of acting. Vrak is kind of useless and I can't help but think they are trying to play him off as this brilliant tactician and manipulator but he doesn't do much other than form pacts with other villains and make monsters grow. The episode "The Messenger" built him up as being more important to this half's overall plot than he actually was. Yeah he is going to be related to the guy leading the invasion in the Gokaiger half but that is pretty much the limit of Vrak's importance in this half. With that said, the episode "End Game" gives me some hope that he will become more important in the second half. However, the most useless villain in this half is definitely Malkor, he did absolutely nothing for most of this half and his defeat in the episode "The Human Condition" amounted to essentially nothing at all. He felt more like another monster of the week than he did an enemy general and I honestly forgot he existed until the episode before his defeat.

The fact that its a combined season really hurts these villains and it barely gives them any time to shine. Due to it being paced so badly, they would've been better off ditching the three separate groups concept and just combining them all into one custom villain group. They really could've done more to make the Mutants and robots feel connected to the Warstar other than just showing scenes with them and Vrak together. The Warstar could've acted as the first wave of the invasion and when Malkor got destroyed Vrak could've summoned the Mutants to Earth to begin their onslaught and they would act as the second wave. The robots could've acted as the third wave after the Mutants were crushed and still have kept their "beacon" status as a signal for the Zangyack's counterpart to takeover the invasion. It would've worked nicely given how diverse the alien populace is within the Zangyack Empire in Gokaiger and given that Vrak is going to be the brother of the leader of the Zangyack invasion it would make sense that he has access to all three factions if they were apart of the same overall force. They could've made them seem more like one large interconnected military force that way and it might have helped give the impression that the Warstar and the Mutants were actually a threat or that they amounted to something at all. Otherwise, the only connecting factor with these three groups is Vrak which just seems like a misstep because as I said they didn't build up his importance much and they even make him seem more important than he actually was. Just because they had to work with the stock footage that was provided doesn't mean that they had to have all the groups feel so disjointed like that and they definitely didn't have to follow the Goseiger concept of having them be separate groups. All they had to do was take a few liberties with the script and this disjointed feeling they give off would've never been a problem. Sadly the villains in this half other than Metal Alice just seem like filler villains with none of their plots being interesting to me and even in Metal Alice's case the only notable thing about her is her ruthlessness.

Worst episode: As for the worst episode in this half, well that award goes to the fake ranger episode "Stranger Ranger". You have no idea how mad this episode made me. This episode was insanely stupid and its the dumbest episode I've seen in this half. What aggravates me the most is how stupid the extra character for this episode was. He almost dies and runs back to the fight to get a better seat. I understand the need to teach kids' to be themselves but you do not do it with such a stupid character.
The idiot on the the far left is the one I'm referring to.
It would've been a decent episode if they had made him go back to save a civilian caught in the crossfire and it would've actually shown him how a ranger is supposed to act since he was so keen on imitating one. Unfortunately, the episode only results in him putting his life in danger as well as the rangers' lives all because he wouldn't listen and got in the way again after being told to run. This was all in an effort to throw the old cliche of "Be yourself. Don't pass yourself off as something you're not." in our faces. While that is actually a pretty good lesson, it was presented to the audience in a very badly done way. There is a far better way to get the message across. Though I will give the writers credit for not having the rangers forgive him immediately afterwards. I'm so glad the rumors about him becoming the silver MegaForce ranger weren't true because that would just be rewarding the guy for stupidity and I would've had to do a rant about him. This episode is on par with the Buddyroid Strike episode from Gobusters for me. This episode is better left dead and buried in Power Rangers history.

The Halloween clip show: While this is technically a bonus episode and not actually part of the first half, I'm bringing up this episode specifically because the monster of the week could've been used for an interesting episode. He was a monster that could mess with technology. They could've used him to show just how dependent humanity has become on technology and shown how devastating the grid going down could potentially be. Sadly they decided to go the lazy route and just waste him as a filler/clip show villain. Its really a shame, for the first time in this season, they ignored the obvious yet  far more interesting and thought provoking route for the sake of writing filler. I will never understand why they chose to do that. It also had a rather out of character moment for Gia. While viewing the images in the crystal ball she gets scared and grabs onto Jake despite having already seen the images once before when she was fighting the actual monsters. Seriously the big tough girl Gia is afraid of things she has already seen and is the only one of the rangers sitting at the table to react like that. It felt like it done was just to push the Gia/Jake thing the writers seem to be going for on us. Even if it was a clip show but they should've at least kept her character consistent with that they've shown so far.

The pacing: The show has been moving at break-neck speed for the power-ups and Megazords for this half. They've left us with virtually no room to breath. Granted this can be partially attributed to Nick's ridiculous 20 episodes a year limit. That is the main reason why I don't think Saban Brands should've renewed their contract with them. That combined with their contract with Toei not allowing them to skip seasons pretty much forced them to combine Goseiger and Gokaiger into one season. However, they could've completely avoided that by simply saying the remastered MMPR 2010 season doesn't count but thats beside the point. This is first time since MMPR that they've combined Sentai seasons and it hasn't helped the pacing one bit. The main reason it worked for MMPR is because each season was still at least 50 episodes long. I'm predicting major pacing problems with Super MegaForce. When you have such a slim time-frame like Nick requires, it becomes that much harder to write because you have to whittle it all down to less than half of each season of the source material and you still have to try and come up with some sort of coherent and interesting story when you're combining seasons like this. Proper pacing becomes all the more important when you're doing something like that. Unfortunately, it also meant that they had to rush the development of the place-holder Roboknight.

Final Thoughts: I'm not even going to bother giving this half a rating. The show has been pretty underwhelming so far and I can only hope it gets better in Super MegaForce. The show was promoted as a "Mega celebration of 20 years" but it hasn't even come close to living up to that title. Its more of a disappointment than anything else. It just feels like they aren't even trying with this half and that they're intending to make their money off of the nostalgia value of the second half, Super MegaForce. Contrary to what my past rants about MegaForce might have you believe, I didn't want to dislike this season and yeah if this was a regular season then I'd let some of the writing issues slide but this is supposed to be an anniversary season meaning its supposed to celebrate everything the franchise has done until now and how far it has come in terms of storytelling, but it just doesn't feel up to par with even the regular seasons. I've really tried to let some of my criticisms go this season but I just can't seem to do it. Its really weird when I can only pick 2 or 3 episodes out of the first 20 that I can honestly say I've semi-enjoyed. This is not a good way to start an anniversary season or to even lead up to one. I've had people explain to me that its bland because they're saving everything for the second half. My questions are: Why should the half with the veterans take priority while the first half suffers? Are they just trying to bank off of the nostalgia of the older fans and hoping they'll stick around for the second half? That harkens back to my MMPR fanboy rant so I'm not going to repeat myself here. I've also had people tell me that its Super MegaForce that will be the true anniversary for this season. If that is Saban Brands actual logic then that makes me think that due to Nick's 20 episode per year limit they decided to cheap out on this half simply because they can make more money off of the veterans in the second half. If you're going to promote something as a mega celebration then your best bet is to go full force right out of the gate. That is how you repay the fans for their loyalty all these years. Its very bad when half a season makes a loyal fan like me question why they stuck with the series for its entire run. I don't like being made to doubt my place in this fandom. Will things get better in Super MegaForce? I sure hope so.
Let me be very clear that I have given this show chance after chance after chance to impress me, but alas, it didn't work. I was actually tempted to drop it after Roboknight's premier but I decided to keep watching. I've seen good seasons and bad seasons but never one that outright bores me like MegaForce has. You could argue that I'm being too critical regarding a kids' show and its fine if you think that, but the truth is that this season just isn't up to snuff compared to other PR seasons and its turned into one of the most frustrating seasons I've sat through so far. It feels like no one cared enough about this half to put some effort into it, especially the writers. Unfortunately, that glowing review I gave the premier has since turned into a huge middle finger from me. The most infuriating thing about this half isn't that its bad, its that its boring which is arguably worse than being bad. If something is bad then I can at least have some fun cracking jokes about it but the only thing I can joke about at the moment is Troy's acting. You'd think that would mean I love the season so far, but no! While it does get a bit better near the end, it isn't enough to outweigh its blandness and how boring a lot of the episodes are. Seriously, this half is so bland and boring that I got tired of dealing with it after episode 15 and it takes a lot for a show to do that to me. I found myself semi-exhausted after watching a lot of the episodes. That in and of itself just tell you just how messed up this first half is for me. Though the cliffhanger ending for "End Game" was a nice touch. Despite how boring this half was for me, I will still watch Super MegaForce.
Really hoping this makes up for the first half
It really doesn't feel like an anniversary caliber season outside of the nostalgia value and its kind of weird that a show this bland has given me this much to talk about. As for the rumor that the veteran rangers will only be in the last two episodes of Super MegaForce, all I can say is that since they seem to care more about that half, those two episodes had better be among the best in the franchise because its clear to me that its the only reason they want the fans to watch. If they're going to treat something as special and as important as an anniversary like this and only focus on the veterans then it kind of makes me worry about the seasons to be adapted after the Gokaiger half. They should've put a lot more effort in this half than they did. I hate having to say things like this about any season in the franchise especially one that could've been so much better if they had at least tried more. I can only hope that Saban Brands steps its game up in Super MegaForce.


  1. I agree with a lot of what you have stated here. I also give you props for watching all of Megaforce and continuing it when super Megaforce comes out. This season infuriates me. I have watched every season of power rangers and i have really loved the series which is why i hate this season. Another reason is because I have watched Shinkenger(samurai) and Gokaiger(super megaforce) and they were both good. Shinkenger was decent but still better than samurai and Gokaiger was really good and I mean that. It was awesome. I dont really want to see that get remade and then the remake ends up being total garbage. But I do hope Super Megaforce is an improvement.

    1. I just wanted to say thanks for the kind word. I hope Super MegaForce is better given that most of their budget likely went to re-shooting a lot of Gokaiger but it doesn't excuse making this half suffer. After this half, Saban Brands kind of owes it to the fans to make it spectacular.

  2. Nice review. Very well detailed.
    While I understand where you coming from and respect your opinion, but I personally think you were little too critical and over-exaggerating.

    Samurai and Megaforce was produced in very unique circumstances.
    Samurai/Super Samurai was made under very tight and rush schedule and Saban didn't have a lot of time regarding production and ended up with what we got.
    Granted, I wouldn't go far as to say "rushed development" to be "completely" excusable, since there were plenty of room for improvement, it was at least understandable, and I was satisfied for what we got (I know lot of people disagree with me, but I didn't hate Samurai/Super Samurai).

    As far as Megaforce, while I didn't hate it (I thought it was OK) and didn't think it was bad as most people thought it was, I do admit it was very cluttered when it comes to overall story arc. I do agree that Nick's 20-episode per season/year, REALLY hurt the show a lot than writing than acting IMO; it just loses the momentum. I could tell this because after watching Samurai/Super Samurai in one-sitting, it REALLY changed the perspective and atmosphere of the show, which made me wonder how would have it been if Samurai aired in 1-year instead of 2 (...OK, maybe not that different, but it does change viewing experience).

    As far as Super Megaforce goes.... don't give high expectation.
    I know it's been hyping up to be REAL anniversary, but don't expect it to be REAL epic show.
    In fact, I personally think this is a kind of show kids like these day, rather than the one we grew up with back in the day. The audience perspective of children has changed a lot in last decades or 2. Heck, I have a friend who works at preschool and kids absolutely love them.
    Some kids (aside preschool; 7~11) stated that they prefer Samurai/Super Samurai over RPM (no joke), indicating that kids perspective these decade are much different our generation.
    My point is that, we just have to accept with what kids enjoy and just accept for what we got. I will watch and enjoy Super Megaforce, regardless of overall quality.

    As for post-Super Megaforce, that's a million dollar questions and we don't know as of this writing. Since, Saban renewed their contract with Nick for 2 more years (2015-2016), I'm speculating that it might be Samurai/Super Samurai format; I doubt that it would be hybrid again (Go-busters/Kyoryuger). I personally prefer 1-year/season format, but that's another topic.

    Take care.

    Seriously, it's such a shame that they're putting all their effort into Super Megaforce, and therefore just not seeming to care at all about Megaforce! These idiots need to know that the story needs to be interesting RIGHT OFF THE GATE!!!

  4. Yup. Agreed. But I have one question: What would happen if the PR fight scenes were worked on by the makers of Ip Man or Ong-Bak?