At the height of their TV popularity, it was a no-brainer to bring the brightly coloured chop socky antics of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the big screen.
Tiring of Rita Repulsa’s continued failures to eliminate the Rangers, Lord Zed revives Ivan Ooze from his six millennia imprisonment. Ooze quickly destroys Zordon’s base, robbing the Rangers of their power. While Zordon lies dying on what looks like a bed salvaged from a Kryptonian jumble sale, Alpha 5 uses his remaining energy to send the Rangers to the planet Phaedos in search of a Great Power which may save Zordon. Meanwhile, Ivan Ooze enslaves the parents of Angel Grove and, usurping Zed and Rita Repulsa, sets himself up as absolute ruler.
The original TV series, adapted as it was from the Japanese original, always had a cheap and cheerful feel to it and director Brian Spicer does a fine job in making sure that the increased feature film budget doesn’t make it to the screen in terms of production values, performances or screenwriting.
After a prologue aimed at bringing non-TV viewers up to speed and emphasising how important it apparently is that the Rangers protect their secret identities, we’re treated to an opening skydiving sequence where each of the teens wears a jumpsuit colour-coded to their Ranger colours. It’s that kind of non-sequitur that ensures the movie retains much of the camp charm of the TV series. The main cast’s performances are as flat as you’d expect and while Rita and Lord Zed ham it up with all the subtlety and nuance of a regional pantomime, it’s in Paul Freeman’s Ivan Ooze that the film gets its biggest and best performance. It’s hard to believe that underneath that purple make-up is the elegant and coolly villainous René Belloq from “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” but he chews the scenery with such gusto that he nearly makes the whole thing irresistible.
Most of the stuff set on the planet Phaedos feels like padding and an excuse to change up the Rangers’ outfits as they’re given new spirit animals (no matter how you rationalise it, a frog will never be a cool creature) and cheap looking ninja-inspired costumes. With some lacklustre and shoddy fight choreography and some narrative handwaving about ‘the great power’, the Rangers eventually find their way back to earth and we discover what the director decided to do with the extra feature film money: spend it on some of the worst CGI ever to grace a movie screen. The Zord fight – which should be the movie’s crowning glory – is, instead, an atrociously bad, cheaply animated CGI slam down that makes you long for men in suits lumbering around a scale model sound stage.
It remains to be seen whether the forthcoming modern reboot can retain the charm of the original as it tries to give the franchise a modern edge. Its appeal lies in its cheesiness and for the under-teen market there’s plenty to enjoy in this bright and breezy, endearingly wholesome adventure. Mertmas loved it, and can’t wait for the forthcoming reboot. In the meantime, he’s been devouring the TV series but although “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has its share of fun moments, it’ll try the patience of anyone older than 12 and parents may find themselves envying their mindless onscreen counterparts.