It’s certainly no secret: I love the Power Rangers, and honestly only a fraction of that affection is ironic. Sure, from an academic standpoint I’m fascinated by the production of Power Rangers, which forces writers to fashion new, average-American-friendly narratives out of footage from Japanese series. But then, I also love kung fu and giant, fighting robots. So it’s a win-win. What’s more, when a season/series of Power Rangers is well-written, it can result in some of the most genuinely exciting, family-friendly action television available to viewers. Among the most successful iterations of Power Rangers I’ve yet to experience are Power Rangers Samurai and its follow-up, Power Rangers Super Samurai (the 18th and 19th seasons of the series, respectively), which I have of course reviewed at length. Having so admired those seasons, I approached the first volume of Lionsgate’s home video release of Power Rangers Megaforce, the 20th season, with terrific excitement and understandably high expectations. After all, the series’ producers promised fans an incredible spectacle in Megaforce to celebrate 20 years of Rangers.
And as such, the series opens strong. In its opening moments, Troy, our Red Ranger to be, dreams of a forthcoming battle between a sea of monsters and an army of heroes composed of every Ranger there has ever been! Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there as I found myself irritated by the slog of the four episodes collected in Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultimate Team Power. And this review could easily turn into a massive rant detailing every little thing that irked me about the series in these early episodes, but I’ll spare you that and instead touch on what I see as the root causes of Megaforce’s awkwardness.
To begin with, it’s too fast, which I know sounds mighty crazy. After all, speed is what a series like Power Rangers is all about, right? How else are you going to hold the kiddies’ attention? This is different. In addition to the normal break-neck Rangers pace, Megaforce finds the Rangers becoming a competent team simply too damn fast. There is essentially no build-up to their success as Rangers whatsoever. They know how to use all their weapons and Zords immediately and have none of the difficulties, doubts, and worries that plagued the original Mighty Morphin gang. It makes them less believable and therefore more difficult to care about or identify with.
And that leads me to the next issue I have with Megaforce, which is that it tries too hard to emulate Mighty Morphin, as though replicating the original is somehow all they need to make this anniversary celebration successful. To that end, the writers rehashed Mighty Morphin’s first episode in Megaforce’s premiere to such an extent that they directly lifted dialogue from that script (and some of the worst dialogue, I might add). What follows an almost identical setup is simply dull and tedious product placement from one end to the other, highlighted by interactions between flat characters and meandering, inconsequential storylines.
Granted, Mighty Morphin was jam-packed with filler episodes, and you might argue that that provides a precedent for Megaforce. But to that I say, maybe that model was fine then, but we’ve come to expect a bit more in the years that followed the shift from Mighty Morphin to Zeo. What’s more, the audience for the series has changed. More specifically, the audience has broadened as many of the original fans have grown up. There are a lot of kids watching the show, to be sure, but there are a lot of adults as well. As such, merely referencing Zordon or Ernie’s Juice Bar is not going to be enough to make us look the other way when a series is as mind-numbingly dull as this is shaping up to be at the four episode mark.
But this not to say that I have no hope for Megaforce. I’ll withhold total condemnation until I’ve seen it through to the end. Who knows, maybe it takes a turn for the better in the fifth episode. And even if it doesn’t, we have an army of Rangers to look forward to somewhere in the series’ future, and that’s good enough for me.