Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultra Defenders

| June 18, 2014

Looking back on my review of the first DVD volume of Power Rangers Megaforce, my frustrations with this particular iteration of Power Rangers are obvious and, I think, understandable. In a series like Power Rangers that shifts characters and narrative focus every season or two, the producers should really strive to raise the stakes from iteration to iteration. What follows an epic narrative such as that presented in Power Rangers Samurai and Super Samurai should by all rights be as, if not more, epic. And I’m not saying we have to shoot the Rangers into space (they already did that). All I’m asking of any post-Samurai Power Rangers is that it’s at least as character-driven as Samurai.

But then, not all Power Rangers can be Samurai and Super Samurai. I realize that. And having spent the last couple months trudging through the embarrassingly, horrifically, near-series-endingly bad Power Rangers Turbo, I return to Megaforce a tad less jaded—with renewed perspective. All I ask now is that Power Rangers never be as bad as Turbo again, and in that at least Megaforce succeeds by my estimation. I’ve sat through sixteen episodes of Megaforce as of the conclusion of Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultra Defenders, the fourth volume of Lions Gate Entertainment’s home video releases of Megaforce. And I now see that there are indeed things to like about it, namely Robo Knight (which I’ll touch on later), the overall design of the bug aliens, and the almost melodramatic sincerity of sweet, nature-loving Emma, the Pink Ranger.

Don’t get me wrong, it irks me to no end that I still feel like I have no grasp of how these Rangers’ card-based powers function, and the consistently sloppy execution of the Rangers’ coordinated movements underscores a pervasive laziness on the sentai creators’ part. Moreover, it still bothers me that the characters are predominantly two-dimensional, especially when compared to Samurai. But at least there are obvious reasons for that: the series is super heavy on sentai/battle footage. So when the non-costumed Rangers appear onscreen in but the opening and closing two minutes of many episodes, you can’t fault the writers per se, because they’ve obviously very little to work with.

What’s more, one has to be careful what they wish for, because I finally got more time with the characters in “Rico the Robot,” the fourth episode in this collection, and it was sickeningly, stupidly misguided. There we find the Rangers out of costume mid-episode at last, only they’re in the park playing tag and going on a picnic with Rico the Robot instead of, you know, developing as characters in relationships formed largely during wartime. And don’t get me started on how much I hate Rico! I seriously don’t know who the audience for “Rico the Robot” is, but I can tell you it’s not Power Rangers fans. And I can tell you that kids don’t find baby-talking, non-violent, whiny robots who get “short-circuited by friendship” very cool either! In the end, all the episode teaches us about the characters is that Emma is apt to fall in love with childlike robots with stupid voices. But here I go complaining again. Let’s turn to something positive and try to stay positive.

Robo Knight is by far the most interesting of the characters, which is telling of the season’s overall low quality given that he’s a robot apparently lacking in free will when we first meet him. Charged with protecting Earth, Robo Knight originally perceives humans as a threat to his objective, but eventually sees the value in man and decides not to pursue mass genocide. Thereafter, his arc centers around his attempts to come to terms with being a member of the team, unofficial and tentative though his collaboration with the Rangers may be. What’s more, as he comes to appreciate mankind and the Rangers more and more, his character takes on some welcome Robocop-like qualities in that he seems to be discovering his own humanity in the process of battling alongside the Rangers. (He even walks like Robocop too, except for the one shot in “The Human Factor” when he adopts a distinctive Beyoncé in “Single Ladies”-type swagger.) Granted, Robo Knight’s character progression moves at a snail’s pace and his character backtracks considerably in “The Human Factor,” even though the ordeal ultimately strengthens his convictions with regard to preserving mankind. Heck, by the end of that episode he doesn’t even object when Red Ranger Troy calls him “the sixth Ranger,” so at least there was some progression there. Plus, beggars can’t be choosers, and so I do look forward to time spent with Robo Knight when he turns up in each episode.

In short, Power Rangers Megaforce is a decidedly mixed bag, one that I certainly wouldn’t recommend as a starting point for anyone hoping to get into Power Rangers, but one that at least isn’t as bad as Turbo thus far. Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultra Defenders and the first three volumes of Power Rangers Megaforce are all currently available on DVD from Lions Gate Entertainment.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: TV on DVD

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