Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Power Rangers Films and You, or How Either End of the Fandom Can Express Mutual Contempt

I am a Super Sentai fan. I grew up with Power Rangers, but have in recent years found the series is not my cup of tea. These are important to know as I make the following statements, as this is merely an opinion piece and not meant to cause any frustration to the reader.


So, I've recently watched two films, as a means of feeling nostalgia and looking at my former self. A friend and I, just two weeks ago, watched Mighty Morphn' Power Rangers: The Movie. Then, this past Sunday, we watched the "sequel", Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.

Dear Gods, what did we put ourselves through.

Now, the first film came during the peak of the series' fame and was meant to be a big blockbuster hit. Mind you, these were also the times where that could also mean it was a hot pick-up at your local Blockbuster Video.

The story followed the Rangers of that time, where we had Adam/Rocky/Aisha in place of Zach/Jason/Trini, just after a big skydiving fundraising event to save an observatory and hide a plot point comet. The only reason we had to see this event was to get some action in that wasn't directly tied to hero-shenanigans.

Then we stumble upon an ancient evil, Ivan Ooze, who is badder than bad and has a fit that Zordon is still kicking around, even though the timeline that is offered here states that Ooze was imprisoned 3000 years ago, while we know that Zordon was already well into his time-space-interdimension-whoziwhatsit-warp and would have no way of making direct contact with this movie character. And it is never touched on again. Anyway, this fit makes him set out some goons to keep the Rangers busy while he goes to cause a ruckus at the Command Center Library of the West Coast.

Finally, we get to see battle with our Rangers and their wonderful Sentai-suit...


Armor suits? With poorly-attached gizmos that have no real bearing on the plot and are there to make the heroes more Techno-American? What gives?!?

And then the fight sequence: gag me. Poorly-used sound bites make the fight WAY too goofy, and bad pre-Ang Lee wire-fu is disgustingly noticeable. The use of acrobatics over stage combat is also so far in the foreground, it's hard to believe I wasn't watching Cirque du Soliel.

-Yes, I understand this is a film for children, and they can suspend their disbelief. But who else sees it? The parents who brought them, and then years later the former children themselves when they think they've found old cinema gold. So yes, the effects matter. Especially where this film (and the entire franchise) stems from tokusatsu [live-action special-effects media], where the effects are of great importance to the overall production.-

*Back to the rant-view*

End fight, just in time for powers to be drained. Zordon's been assaulted and become a gray raisin, Kimberly oversells the father-on-his-deathbed bit, and they have to travel to the Planet of Knockoff Xena and not-ninja Ninjetti.

Ooze betrays familiar villains Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa [of the poorly-fake-dubbed USA variety]. He spreads around magical purple Gak that turns parents into zombies and kids into brats. Oh, hey, look at Nickelodeon already prepping for the future merger with Saban...

Back on Planet Dull/action, She-Ra gives the Rangers the Ninjetti spirit animal ritual, gives Johnny Yong Bosch a stroke over the whole Frog=Prince bit, then becomes an owl to fly off and hang out with David Bowie.

The Rangers fight a Lv 12 Dracolich, find the blatant metal pin holding it together (you can see an actual pin in the puppet, not even kidding), then fight monsters from Jason and the Argonauts to find out their Spirit Talismans are the same as the Pyramid of Power's, so they get their same suits back with different not-even-supposed-to-be-there medals, and a poorly CG'd mecha based loosely off of a secondary mecha from Kakuranger.

We fly back to Earth, Ooze and the lackeys Goldar & Made-for-the-Movie-so-we-didn't-have-to-have-Squat-and-Baboo have unearthed two machines Ooze crafted to run on his goo to destroy the Earth. Alright, mecha fight!

No. Wait. Just a lot of walking around and being shot at, my bad.

And then the Power Rangers destroy one mecha, the other whimpers somehow for help, and Ooze pulls a Yami Yugi and possesses his Mecha-Waspinator (yeah, I know, already a mecha, deal with it). Rangers fly Oozebot Prime into space, bring plot point comet into the mix, and blow up super evil guy.

Then fireworks, and the feeling that Bulk and Skull might be the only two characters you might enjoy in the entire series comes to your thoughts. Then you cry violently into the nearest pillow, hoping to suffocate the last of your childhood innocence and poor screenwriting tastes with it.

As for Turbo:
Rocky falls five feet and hurts his back, even though he's survived many worse things.
Rando-kid Justin becomes the first Kid Ranger, and apparently can drive a truck.
Fan-service by way of Jason and Kimberly showing up.
Cleavage intended for the dads all over the villainess Divatox.
Bad writing.
Making a more hardcore mecha-building sequence to literally just use the Carranger mecha anyways.
Winning a kickboxing tournament to save a kid shelter.
Also: Bulk and Skull doing awful accents.


Let me return to my very first statement - I am a Super Sentai fan. This means I prefer the source material, without question.

But even taking that out of the equation, these two films are bad by the same rules that would make any other movie bad.
-Poor script
-Poor acting by most involved
-Poor use of special effects with the size of budget (even when considering the time period for both films)
-Poor soundtrack

These are things I noticed as someone who, as I should have mentioned earlier, studied and currently produces film and other media.

I can say the same things about certain Rider or Sentai films that have come along in the past, notably scripts like Kamen Rider Kabuto: God Speed Love. My allegiance to the Japanese shows does not cloud my judgement for the sake of media overall.

And I strongly believe that any person, fan of Sentai or Ranger, can agree that from an objective perspective outside of our respective fandoms, that these films are garbage. They offer no substance of any kind, and are basically filler in the history of the series. Even though Turbo was used as the lead-in for the series Power Rangers Turbo, the first film was not even canonical to the series for any reason. The events are told completely differently as far as the series' episodes are concerned.

I'll part with this:
If you find yourself one night wondering how much you love your fandom of the two mentioned, and you want to test yourself, find both of these films and sit down. Watch them. But remember, just for your own comfort, have a pillow ready.

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