Okay, so after the obligatory Star Wars style text crawl setting up the premise (I promised a lot of people who care about me that I wouldn’t do another drinking game) the movie opens as almost every episode does, with the Power Rangers doing X (bake sale, organising a petition, giving martial arts lessons, donating bone-marrow, whatever) for charity in order to save Y (orphanage, the environment, some local historic landmark, pandas with leukaemia, whatever) . The Power Rangers may in fact be the only superheroes that actually did more good in their civilian guises than as heroes (in fact, considering they spent most of their time stomping through a heavily populated city in mile high robots, this was probably the only way they could sleep at night). The original Rangers were goody-goody to the point where your teeth began to hurt watching them, something that even later series of the show poked fun at. For the movie X equals “sky-diving” (got a bigger budget, might as well use it) and Y equals “the local observatory”. Huh. You know, in a city that’s subjected to weekly alien attacks, an observatory sounds like the kind of thing the government really should be funding. Anyway, the rangers are on a plane getting ready to jump and they’re joined on this little plummet by Bulk and Skull, our comic relief. Bulk is a morbidly obese school bully and Skull is his 90 pound idiot lackey. Over the course of the series, these two bullied our ridiculously handsome, incredibly buff heroes who were adept at martial arts even before they had super powers. Yeah. Even as a kid, this was one aspect of the show I never bought.
Alright, so Bulk and Skull are about to jump out of the plane when Kimberly (Amy Jo Jonson) says “Uh guys, you might want to put those on” and points to the parachutes with a cutesy poo little gesture and ha, ha, ha, ha, ha they almost died screaming and in terror. Bulk and Skull chicken out but the six rangers skydive, with Tommy on a frickin’ snowboard all while the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Higher Ground plays. And that, children, is how the nineties began.
Actually, speaking about music, let’s talk about the soundtrack for a bit. If there was one element of the show that was undeniably, unironically, balls-to-the-wall awesome it was the music of Ron Wasserman. For the movie, Wasserman’s original theme tune Go, Go, Power Rangers! (already a most righteous hair metal anthem), is given an epic overhaul, becoming something so awesome it must have descended from Rock Valhalla carried on the golden wings of bodacious Valkyries. Listen to this.
It’s so epic, so ridiculously ornate, that it takes almost two minutes before we even get to the main chorus. I love this track. I adore this track. I love this track so much I actually had it played at my wedding reception. I’m not joking.
“He’s not joking.”
“I’m not joking.”
“He’s. Not. Joking.”
The movie version is performed by “The Power Rangers Orchestra”, well known to be the most awesome and morphenomenal orchestra in the world. I can just picture the rehearsals.
“First violins! We need more power on those strings!”
“Brass section! Combine trumpets with trombones for maximum volume!”
“I can’t hear the percussion section! I call on the power of Titanus!”
“TITANUS PLAY TIMPANI! RAAAAR!”
Down on the ground there’s a crowd waiting for the skydivers to land and we learn that there’s a rush to repair the observatory because “Ryan’s comet” is going to pass by the earth in three days and Jesus these guys are cutting it close. I mean, with the time it’ll take to transfer the money raised to the observatory and then for the observatory to get estimates and hire contractors…tick tock, guys, tick tock. A kid called Fred Kaplan, who is a good friend of the rangers who we have never seen before and will never see again, tells his father…Mr Kaplan…
Seriously? They don’t even give him a first name? He’s actually a major character in the B plot and they couldn’t even be bothered to give him a first name? Well fine, I’ll just have to call him Mr Kaplan, which will be really weird. It feels like I’ve shown up at this character’s house to take his daughter to the big dance. Anyway, Fred tells his father to watch as the six rangers land so that he can see “how the pros do it.” Mr Kaplan (yes sir, I’ll have her back by eleven, I promise) protests that he didn’t do so bad on his jump and Fred says “You landed in the parking lot! It was embaressing!”
Alright stop. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there.
I present to you, the most smackable face in the world.
Your father just jumped out of an airplane two frickin’ miles in the air, entrusting his life to a piece of fabric a millimetre thick for charity you little shit, show some respect. God DAMN this kid. The nineties were FULL of brats like this, growing up without the constant threat of nuclear annihilation made them cocky.
Not a problem we have to worry about anymore, thankfully.
The rangers land and Fred runs up and congratulates Tommy who says that next time he should join them. And that is a great idea. After all. Skydiving is…perfectly safe. Yes. Bring the boy.
But Mr Kaplan (yes sir, I’m in college, but I just turned eighteen this year) says no, Fred can’t jump out of a plane and go hurtling towards the earth at terminal velocity. So why am I even watching this? The Rangers then leave. On rollerblades. Because nineties.
Meanwhile, Bulk and Skull (who’ve finally gotten up the stones to jump out of the plane) land in a building site where some construction workers have just unearthed something rather odd.
Yeah, I preferred the old Kinder Eggs.
The site foreman, who I’m guessing was picked because of his halfway convincing American accent, reaches out and touches the egg and instantly gets shocked. He collapses and lies on the ground twitching while the other builders crowd around him and say “John, you alright?” But then the movie cuts to more shots of the rangers rollerblading and we will never find out if John was alright. Did he recover and live a long and happy life, occasionally telling his grandkids about the time he was almost electrocuted by a purple Kinder Egg of evil? Did he die shortly after, afraid and panicked, never knowing what happened? Or did he recover, but paralysed and unable to work? Does he have a wife? Does he have children? How will they live? How will they survive?
Alright, so the rangers are summoned to the Command Centre where Alpha 5 tells them that there has been a surge of “evil energy” and all the instrumentation is going crazy.
“This plasma globe is showing readings I’ve never seen and the lava lamps are OFF THE FUCKING CHARTS!”
Zordon appears and tells the rangers that six thousand years ago, the world was ruled by a morphological being named Ivan Ooze who was building two machines called the Ectomorphicon Titans that would allow him to expand his empire and conquer the universe. So let me just clarify something. Six thousand years ago, an alien warlord conquered the entire world and ruled an intergalactic empire from this very planet. You know, that would have been pretty useful information to have, Egypt.
“Ohhhh shit. Sorry. Really sorry guys. Yeah, we meant to leave you a note on a tomb wall about that.”
No, no, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. Hey, at least you managed to leave us that story about what happened to Osiris’ dick. That was super important, you had your priorities, I understand, no really I do. Alright, so Zordon and his allies arrived on earth and after a huge epic battle with giant robots…
“Giant robots. Yeah. Yeah that happened. Sorry.”
…they were able to trap Ooze in an egg-shaped prison which they buried deep under ground, with the warning that if he was ever released he would wreck untold destruction upon the universe.
“Look. We dropped the ball. Simple as that.”
Zordon tells the rangers that Ooze’s egg has been uncovered and they have to bury it again before he has a chance to escape. Meanwhile at the building site, the security guards who’ve been left to guard the egg have unexpected visitors.
Between fans of the original Super Sentai and Power Rangers there is
bloody sectarian conflict passionate and lively debate over which series is better. One area though where it is more or less generally agreed that Power Rangers has the edge is in its recurring villains. As I already mentioned, the first series had Rita Repulsa as the main villain, who was simply footage of Super Sentai’s character Witch Bandora with English dialogue dubbed over her.
And somewhere, a young Lady Gaga was taking notes.
Even the kids watching this understood that Rita was kind of lame as a villain. She was more of a comedic foil, constantly throwing tantrums and complaining about her headaches and unable to make her dialogue match up to her lips. Throughout the first season, many fans wished for a villain that could provide a more genuine threat to the rangers. And boy howdy did we get one.
Lord Zedd was introduced at the start of the season 2 as essentially Space Satan. The ruler of a vast empire of evil and looking like a skinned corpse with cyber implants and the voice of Christian Bale’s Batman, he banished Rita and took over as the Rangers arch-enemy. Zedd was such a sinister presence in fact that parents began to complain that the show had become too dark, so the creators quickly began making Zedd more comedic and less threatening. How did they do this? They married him off. Halfway through Season 2, Rita returns, basically slips Zedd a roofie, and the two get married (not joking). So it’s at around this point in the series that the movie takes place. Zedd and Rita, (who are still married but well out of the honeymoon phase) and their two lackeys Goldar and Mordaunt, arrive to crack open the egg. Zedd zaps the two security guards (we will never know their fate) and releases Ivan Ooze.
ALL HANDS! BRACE FOR INCOMING HAM!
Ooze is played by Paul Freeman, who has been working without interruption in the industry since 1967 but is probably best known for playing Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Freeman has been in front of the camera long enough to know that there are times to be serious, and times to have fun, and swanning around in a cape with a load of plastic purple dicks attached to your face is the latter. The man is having a ball here, taking bites out of the scenery and spitting them out while practically waggling his eyebrows at the audience. Most of the best lines in this thing are Ivan’s and by all accounts he ad-libbed a lot of them. For me, his performance is what pushes this thing from kiddie schlock into genuine campy entertainment. He’s really fun to watch.
So Zedd is all “Ohmigod Mr Ooze, HUGE fan!” and Ivan asks him how he can repay them for freeing them. Zedd tells him that Zordon is still on Earth and that if Ooze wanted to pay him a little visit that’d be just swell. Ooze promises to not only kill Zordon, but to destroy everything and everyone that even looks or smells like him. Zedd, while a physical manifestation of pure evil, is not a micromanager (honestly making him less evil than many of my former bosses) so he leaves Ivan to get down to business.
Ooze then takes a deep breath and hisses “What is that revolting stench? Smells like…teenagers.” On a completely unrelated topic, the six rangers then arrive to find that they’re too late and that the Ooze is looze. Okay, so I haven’t actually introduced the rangers properly. Three of the original Rangers had left the team by this point for trying to renegotiate their contracts to attend a peace summit in Switzerland so our current rangers in order of acting ability are:
- Amy Jo Jonson playing Kimberly the Pink Ranger. (Acts)
- Johnny Yong Bosch playing Adam the Black Ranger (Sort of acts.)
- David Yost playing Billy the Blue Ranger (Acts?)
- Jason David Frank playing Tommy the White Ranger (Not really acting, you get the feeling he’s like this in real life. And that’s cool.)
- Karan Ashley as Aisha the Yellow Ranger (Ohhhhh.)
- Steve Cardenas as Rocky the Rend Ranger (Just. Just. Just. Just sit over there.)
Alright look, I don’t want to rag on the actors too much. Most of the Rangers, especially in the early seasons before CGI and wirework were available, were cast on their martial arts ability rather than their acting chops. Which makes sense, for a kid’s action show it’s really more important that the fight scenes look cool than that the Red Ranger is adept in the Meisner technique. Most of the early rangers had little or no acting experience and had to learn on the job. Jonson is far and away the strongest performer (and I’m not just saying that because I’m forever ensnared by her feminine wiles like every other nineties boy). Anyway, Ooze and the Rangers face off and are all “Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?” and Ivan creates an army of purple Goo Men to fight the rangers and then teleports away. The movie turns now to the subject of punching. Fair is fair, this is actually a really cool fight scene. I mean, the choreography is nothing spectacular but all six actors are actually doing all those flips and kicks and there’s almost no CGI or wirework here. Also, the soundtrack once again punches above the movie’s weight with the fight being scored to Devo’s Are You Ready?!
Alright, so the rangers are outmatched so they decide that it’s morphing time and transform into their ranger costumes. This involves each ranger pulling out their morpher, shouting the name of their spirit dinosaur/archosaur/ice age mammal and then doing an elaborate interpretive dance. It takes so long that by the time they’re finished the Goo Men have wandered off.
“Huh. I guess this is why Zordon keeps telling us not to milk the transformations.”
Meanwhile Ooze slimes his way into the command centre to confront Zordon. He rants about all the things that he’s missed by being locked away in the egg, the Brady Bunch Reunion, the Black Death and the Spanish Inquisition. Wait a minute, how does he know about the Spanish Inquisition if he’s been locked away in the egg? Did he go down to the local library on his way here and skim a history book? Or did he just know it was going to happen six thousand years ago? Did he expect the Spanish Inquisition?
I said, did he EXPECT THE SPANISH INQUISITION?
DID HE EXPECT THE SPANISH…oh forget it, moving on.
Ivan then starts wrecking the command centre, blowing up consoles, breaking the plasma globes and even smashing the lava lamps, the uncouth bastard.
The ranger arrive back to find the command centre destroyed and Zordon out of his bowl and dying like a goldfish. Zordon weakly tells them that “the power” has been destroyed and with it all the rangers’ costumes, weapons, Zords, the entire merchandising wing of the operation it’s all kaput. Kimberly begs him not to leave them and he tells them that they must be strong. You know, not strong in the sense of having superpowers and being strong but, y’know, in here.
Right in the spleen.
Anyway, Alpha tells them that there may be another power that can save Zordon but wouldn’t you know it? It’s on the distant planet Phaedos and everyone who’s ever gone after it has died. The rangers decide to go anyway and Tommy says “We may not have our powers, but we’re still the power rangers!”
No, I’m pretty sure the powers are a deal-breaker on that one Tommy. Sorry. It’s called “Power Rangers”, not “Self Belief Rangers.”
The rangers teleport out and Zedd and Rita watch them go from their lunar fortress. Ooze comes swanning in and Rita reads him the riot act for letting the rangers escape. Ivan announces that he’s taking over and traps Rita and Zedd in a snowglobe. And you know
a villain is serious business when he uses the same tactics as the Other Mother
. Goldar and Mordaunt quickly switch sides and declare loyalty to Ooze and they ask Ivan what he’s going to do about the rangers. He hocks up a loogie which transforms into an army of crow men (‘kay) and he orders them to fly to Phaedos and kill the rangers. They take off. Flying through space. On their wings.
This movie is sometimes so surreal it borders on the eerily beautiful.
Anyway the Rangers arrive on Phaedos and begin searching for the great power, all the while watched by a mysterious hooded figure. The bird men (or “Tengoo warriors” as they’re called) swoop in and attack them and the rangers get their asses handed to them until the hooded figure joins the fray. Okay, there’s a kind of Star Wars fan who thinks that the original trilogy is pretty good but that everything that comes before Leia in the gold bikini is just pointless filler. Power Rangers poses a fascinating question. What if, in the scene where Obia Wan Kenobi saves Luke from the Sand People, he throws off the hood and is actually…Leia in the gold bikini. Like, what if we just go to the reason why we’re all here and saved everyone three hours? I give you, Dulcea.
Which, of course, is Italian for “Yowza!”
Dulcea drives the Tengoo warriors off like t’ain’t nothin’ and proceeds to kick the crap out of Tommy for daring to speak words to her. See, Dulcea is the guardian of the power and is getting real sick of having to clean up the corpses of everyone who’s come to claim it and tells the kids to screw off. But the rangers tell her that they need the power to save Zordon and Dulcea says that that’s a ranger of a different colour and tells them to follow her.
Back on Earth, Ivan is putting his evil plan into motion, disguising himself as a friendly wizard and giving out jars of his ooze to the children of Angel Grove and oh my God, oh my God, oh my God what did I just type? Fred is clearly suspicious of Ooze, which is good, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s making this face:
Oh that is IT! TYRION!
“What is it, my hirsute little friend?”
I need you to smack this kid in the face!
“I’m afraid I must decline.”
What?! But you owe me! And a Lannister always pays his debts!
“Ah, but you see, I’m not really a Lannister. It turns out I’m a lost Targaryen prince who… “
Alright, so Dulcea has taken the rangers to an abandoned temple and shows them the way to the great power. To help them, she shows them how to get in touch with their animal spirits, with Tommy being the Falcon, Billy the wolf, Aisha the bear, Kimberly the crane, Rocky the ape and poor Adam getting stuck with the fucking Frog. I mean, how ridiculous is that?
“WHY DOES NO ONE EVER WANT ME AS A SPIRIT ANIMAL?!”
Well you know what? I don’t even want to be part of their stupid quest. Honestly, this quest is stupid. It’s probably my least favorite part of the movie. The quest is basically this; they wander in the forest and find some giant dinosaur skeletons and fight them and beat them. Then they get attacked by rhino men made of rock and then they beat them too. And then they get the great power. That’s it. I have a couple of problems with this. Firstly, they got the order ass backwards, the dinosaur skeleton battle is much more visually impressive and should have been saved for last. Second, any good quest should have at least three challenges. Third, no one else has ever made it to the great power alive? Seriously? Six unarmed human teenagers (I don’t care what martial arts training they have, they have no damn weapons) were able to do this and no one else, no alien monster, no all-powerful Emperor of Evil, no army of trained soldiers in the galaxy was able to get there first? Fourth, how exactly are these trials supposed to stop the power getting into the wrong hands? It’s all just mindless combat. If there had been one trial to test their martial prowess, and then one to test their intelligence and then maybe an old knight with a load a of cups to test their faith that would make much more sense. And lastly, and the one that bugged me so badly as a kid that it almost drove me crazy, when they finally get the great power the six animal spirits merge with them and they become power rangers again…but they still have their old costumes with the dinosaur helmets. Why don’t they have new helmets to reflect their new spirit animals? Yeah, I know, because for the series they need to be able to match up with the old Sentai footage but goddamn it irritated me as a kid.
Meanwhile, back on earth, all of the parents of Angel Grove have been mentally enslaved by Ivan’s ooze and he’s put them to work excavating and rebuilding the Ectomorphicons. Fred tracks his father to the construction site and tries to get Mr Kaplan (no sir, I don’t have designs on your daughter, I swear, I’m actually gay) to snap out of it but fails. With the machines complete, Ivan orders the brainwashed adults to head for the nearest cliff and leap to their doom and they trudge off. Ivan then fires up the machines and we get our first look at the terrifying mechanical monsters that once threatened the entire universe and HAHAHAHAHAHA OH MY GOD!
Actually no, you know what? That is completely unfair to the PlayStation.
That’s more like it.
Christ I’m old.
“Two…uh.. Three for the Unshaved Mouse, please.”
Anyway, the Rangers arrive back to find the Ectomorphicons wrecking unbelievable destruction on Angel Grove. By which I mean, it’s impossible to believe this destruction, the CGI is just so bad you can’t suspend disbelief long enough to believe that it’s happening. Also, while I don’t want to nit pick here (I have a professional nit for that) these things are only a couple of stories tall. In the series, the monsters were typically taller than skyscrapers, which kind of makes it a little hard to take these bozos seriously as a threat. Anyway, the rangers call on their Zords and oh Christ in heaven look at these things…
“But all the other movies were using CGI!”
“And if all the other movies jumped off a bridge, Power Rangers, would you do that too?”
The Zords and the Ectomorphicons duke it out (hilariously, the Frog Zord is pretty much the only one worth a damn). Meanwhile Fred rallies the kids of Angel Grove (who’ve gone all Lord of the Flies) along with Bulk and Skull who were just hanging around with all these children not creepy at all and they stop the parents of Angel Grove from plunging to their deaths like lemmings in an early Disney documentary. The Rangers combine their Zords to form the Megazord and BWAHAHAHAHA!
Oh boy, I think I owe the Foodfight! animators an apology. I mean, I’m not going to give them one, but still.
The Rangers destroy one of the Ectomorphicons and a furious Ivan Ooze merges with the remaining one and OH SWEET MERCIFUL LION OF JUDAH!
KILL IT WITH FIRE! KILL IT WITH FIRE!
The Megazord tussles with this, the most terrifying use of special effects technology since John Carpenter’s frickin’ Thing, and the rangers hit on a plan: to fly Ivan Ooze into the path of Ryan’s comet. You’ll remember, of course, that the fact that the comet was passing by earth was established earlier in the movie to foreshadow this resolution.
They fly Ivan into the path of the comet but he refuses to let go so they press the emergency button that allows the Megazord to kick Ivan in the nads. Not even joking.
They won. But at what cost to their souls?
The comet destroys Ivan and the Rangers return home. Zordon is saved and Angel Grove throws a big citywide party to thank the Rangers. The six Power Rangers congratulate Fred on saving the parents and say that one day he could be a Power Ranger too.
“Fred is supposed to be me, right? He’s the one I’m supposed to identify with?”
“How fucking dare they?”
And so the movie ends with the Rangers watching fireworks light up the Sydney Angel Grove sky and the credits roll.
“Nobody expects the Spanish…”
Power Ranger is a bad movie but it is very safely in “Fun Bad” territory. It hits the sweet spot of being bad enough to have fun riffing on while still being made with enough competence that it’s not a chore to sit through. It’s never boring, it has a fun villain, the soundtrack is surprisingly kick-ass, it relies mostly on practical effects (that last fight scene notwithstanding) and it feels like everyone had fun making it. There are movies being made today with literally fifteen times the budget of this thing that can’t even manage that. If you’re looking for a good nostalgia sugar high, you could do a whole lot worse.
Hard to tell from the plot description, I know, but this is not in fact a cartoon.
These people were hired to punch. You want acting? Call Vanessa Redgrave.
In case I haven’t made it clear, I really dig Paul Freeman’s portrayal of Ivan Ooze. The new costume for Lord Zedd is also a major step up.
Supporting Characters: 05/20
Soooo…there is literally no one in Australia who can hold a convincing American accent for more than five seconds?
*throws up the horns and starts head banging to Go! Go! Power Rangers!*
*pulls muscle in little mouse neck*
FINAL SCORE: 54%
BABY MOUSE’S SCORE: %
NEXT UPDATE: 17 July 2014
NEXT TIME: We return to the canon with the movie that was meant to be the rebirth of traditional animation and everyone wants to know one thing:
Does Mouse love Princess and the Frog, or is he a racist?
Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every other Thursday. This was review was made possible by the kind donation of Darragh O’Bradáin. Thanks Darragh!