MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: ONCE & ALWAYS. Sentimental return to the 90s [REVIEW]
On August 28, 1993, the series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted – the story of teenagers chosen by the mysterious Zordon to fight the evil forces represented by Rita Repulsa, and later Lord Zedd. Produced by Saban Entertainment, the series was based on Japanese Tokusatsu series (of which costumes and fight scenes were also used) and gained such popularity that subsequent series appear to this day, and we also saw three full-length films along the way, one of which was a reboot. Another element has just been added to the universe – a special, hour-long episode titled Mighty Morhpin Power Rangers: Once & Always produced by Netflix to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the original series.
I was born in the early 90s, so my childhood also coincided with the time when Power Rangers began to be broadcast so I often sat in front of the TV and followed the adventures of teenagers from Angel Grove, who struggled with bizarre monsters sent by Rita. Then, of course, I really liked it, because it was dynamic, there were interesting costumes, there was a bit of slapstick thanks to Bulk and Skull. Just right for a toddler. Years later, I returned to the series and looked at it from the perspective of an adult, it was harder not to focus on the wooden acting, nightmarish effects and costumes of the villains and how pretext the plot was, but well – this is apparently the charm of this series, since still has a lot of fans, not necessarily several years old.
The creators of Once & Always know this very well, because the special episode retains all the components of the original, including the fact that it is badly played, and the CGI is so bad that you can find better one in amateur videos on YouTube. However, it is hard not to reach for the immortal argument “that’s how it was supposed to be” here, because the Netflix special clearly shows the sentiment for the episodes from the early 90s, and it deserves recognition for how similar the production looks 30 years later.
What is Once & Always all about? Well, Rita is once again trying to conquer the world, because what else? The episode takes place thirty years after the original, with the Power Rangers still actively fighting evil despite the passage of decades. Billy accidentally releases Repulsa while trying to find Zordon. During the fight with the Rangers, Rita kills the Yellow Ranger, who was raising her teenage daughter Minh alone – the latter vows revenge on Rita and a year later wants to join the Power Rangers team, which Billy and Zack do not want to agree to. The death of the Yellow Ranger is unfortunately a reflection of reality; Thùy Trang, who played Trini died in a car accident in 2001 at the age of 27. The entire special is basically a tribute to the actress and is also dedicated to her, as well as to Jason David Frank (Green/White Ranger), who died last year.
Go Go Power Rangers
Of all the actors who played the Rangers over the years, only a few of them return in Once & Always – from the first cast David Yost and Walter Jones, who are also the main characters, from the next Steve Cardenas, Karan Ashley, Johnny Yong Bosch and Catherine Sutherland. We see other Rangers, but they are always in costumes, and we only hear them briefly once (off-screen, using archival recordings), and for most of the plot they are imprisoned by Rita – in a way that is quite ridicolous, but I don’t want to give it away details – and that’s what their absence boils down to. The other Rangers spend most of the story plotting how to help their friends, and additionaly there is Minh’s plot, who wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and also face the threat. In the end, everything is absolutely predictable and happens just like in the original series. There are plenty of fights with putties, visits to Zordon’s base (although without Zordon), the Alpha robot, Zords and a Megazord clash with a minion enlarged by Rita, this time on the moon, which makes absolutely no impression on any of the heroes. It’s just a slightly extended episode in the style of the original series, so if someone is counting on such a return to the past, they should not be disappointed. The biggest change is that the Netflix special was shot with digital cameras and everything looks clean and tidy.
At the same time, it can be seen that the creators prepared Once & Always only for fans of Power Rangers and/or people who remember this title with fondness. Apart from a few emotional moments related to Trini, the creators had nothing in store to attract a new viewer – a person unfamiliar with the world of Power Rangers or not emotionally connected to it will simply see a pretext, sprinkled with crude jokes and poor effects, a B-class production. For such a viewer, it will be just that, for those who have an inner child and remember with sentiment the afternoons spent watching Power Rangers on TV – so much. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.