We all watched Power Rangers as a kid. Despite just being dubbed action sequences from a Japanese show with some American footage tacked on, we ate that stuff up with a spoon. Depending on you age, it might’ve been anything from the original Mighty Morphin’, to Time Force, to Dino Thunder (if you grew up with a later Power Rangers, you’re probably too young to be on this site). Some of us moved on as we matured, while others continued to watch through the various seasons out of nostalgia and genuine enjoyment of the cheesy, fast-paced fun it provided. Unfortunately, Power Ranger’s quality has never been consistent. Sometimes, you get something brilliant like Zeo, Lost Galaxy, or Dino Thunder, while other times you get Operation Overdrive, Ninja Storm, or (ugh!) Turbo.
The original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was a rarity – it somehow managed to be very good and very bad simultaneously. It was cheesy, riddled with plot holes, overly dramatic and the effects were pretty awful. Simultaneously, though… well, who cared? We had giant robots, awesome weapons, giant robots, cool enemies like Lord Zedd, giant robots, and best of all, Tommy Oliver, the living embodiment of everything that’s right in Power Rangers. As kids, it was easy to ignore Mighty Morphin’s faults so we could enjoy giant dinosaur robots punching equally giant monsters in the face. The quality fluctuated a bit through its three season, before it evolved into Power Rangers Zeo, causing its quality to skyrocket (well, except for those lame shape-based Zords, and that Dear John letter Kimberly sent Tommy, but oh well, nothing’s perfect).
Unfortunately, while Zeo was basically “Mighty Morphin’, but cooler” an attempt to reinvent Power Rangers resulted in the mess known as Power Rangers Turbo. Switching Ranger powers and team members for no discernible reason, introducing a new villain who was was actually less cool then Rita Repulsa, and using embarrassingly silly concepts like a monster that baked the Rangers into a pizza, Turbo was generally considered a train wreck. Oddly, one of their dumbest decision – that is, using a twelve year old kid named Justin as the Blue Ranger – while annoying, was actually less show-wrecking then anything else because he was actually the most competent member of the team. Not because he was particularly bright, though; the other Rangers were just that dumb. In total, the only good thing to come from Turbo was it’s catchy theme song and admittedly awesome Zords.
After Turbo, the quality rocketed up again with In Space and Lost Galaxy. The “Zordon Era” of Power Rangers series that were connected to each other ended with In Space, but Lost Galaxy wasn’t even slightly impaired by the loss of continuity. Both shows had strong stories and interesting characters (and no twelve year olds), even though Lost Galaxy was hampered by it’s source material being about nature, not space. They both had some great villains, In Space especially, and Lost Galaxy added the coolest Sixth Ranger not named Tommy, the Magna Defender, who looked less like a Power Ranger and more like a knight.
After the two space-themed shows came Lightspeed Rescue, my personal favorite. It’s villains were lame, but it made up for it with great characters, a solid plot and the biggest Megazord ever seen in Power Rangers history, before or since. Time Force was much the same – lame villains, great everything else, though their Megazord was a little lack-luster. Then Disney took over the show’s production, giving us the bland but still enjoyable Wild Force, then their overly-goofy Ninja Storm, before getting their act together with Dino Thunder. They overcame lame acting and rushed scripts with some great Zords, the best effects Power Rangers had ever seen, a pretty cool villain and best of all, the return of Tommy Oliver as the Black Dino Ranger.
After the high point of Dino Thunder, however, the quality started steadily declining. SPD made a valiant attempt with some strong characters and a solid plot, not to mention the first obviously non-human Power Ranger (no, those Alien Rangers from Mighty Morphin’ don’t count, they were humans with weird hats), but it was brought down by annoying comic relief, a villain that tried way to hard, and a Seventh Ranger who might as well have not existed. The next series, Mystic Force, was excessively bland save for cool Zords and snazzy outfits, and was mostly forgettable. Despite a great concept, Operation Overdrive was a massive failure for a wide variety of reasons, mainly weak writing. Luckily, the trend began reversing itself with the comfortingly bland Jungle Fury, and was really got back into gear with RPM. RPM invoked a strong love-it-or-hate-it response, due to great plots and characters combatting poor editing and goofy-looking Zords, but the general consensus leaned on the ‘love’ side. After that, Disney took a break from new Power Rangers, instead releasing a fairly awful recut of Mighty Morphin’ before giving the show back to it’s original producer.
Now that the show is back in it’s old owner’s hands, a new show is currently in progress, Samurai/Super Samurai. The first multi-season series since Mighty Morphin’, the show combines cool new effects, awesome Zords and abilities, fun villains and a large helping of Mighty Morphin’ related nostalgia to make an enjoyable if cheesy breath of fresh air for Power Rangers fans. Despite poor dialogue and some pretty awful acting, Samurai seems to have resurrected the franchise, and a new series is being planned as I write this: Power Rangers Megaforce, which will again invoke as much Mighty Morphin’ Memories as possible. Only time will tell if this proves to be the next Zeo, or the next Turbo.
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