Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: the Motion Picture

Shotaro Ishinomori will always have this last week of January, his birth (25th) and death (28th) three days apart, I hope he knows just how much he's changed my life and everyone he's inspired or given joy to, rest well.

(Power Rangers or Super Sentai)

In the world of Tokusatsu there's a man that made all of my afternoons amazing, even the Saturdays proceeding and my current form of relaxation. This man's name is Shotaro Ishinomori the creator of Super Sentai, and Cyborg 009, but to a lesser sense Power Rangers (created by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy). Since the footage was a derivative of the Japanese episodes, which at times felt like (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge [MXC] or Kung-Pow) a parody, than a children's melodrama. Though it still captured my heart of bad movies and over the top action, but at it's core it's a conversation about objectivity.

The progression of media that talks about Justice, justice is grim, since it's a grey area. Some people see the destruction of the world and others see it born anew. It's hard to tell if one's house burned to the ground is horrible or a way of taking all the pain of the past and leaving it there for a new future. That's what a lot of contemporary shows want to tell people "There's no black and white anymore, it's all shades of grey"! Now, that's true and makes for a more interesting setting for characters created for one purpose, to fight/defend those who detest justice. That was more or less Shotaro Ishinomori's intention, one can totally see this in Kamen Rider (another series that Shotaro Ishinomori has created and is an influence in my life). The interpretation of justice is a wonderful theme, since definitions vary from person to person so one's characters (villain or hero) become more three-dimensional.

That's something that Japan has done many times, having these characters of rainbow justice fighting a season ending war, then cameos where ever fits. This was something that the later seasons of Power Rangers explored. Though in true franchise fashion each nation makes their own lore, America likes to use a dream team, so they take about three Super Sentai teams to make Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. The best example of a season ending war was with a final movie. Something that showed people that this series is done, the next band of teens will come and help save the world. Though with the way TV was made (in America) you need to keep the actors, since people wouldn't get the concept of alternating warriors and warrior teams, also money, people need to get paid and syndication money allows one to continue to live one's passion. So they keep reusing the same suits, just with variants that make the characters stronger and finding footage harder.

Gom dressed as the Bronze Ranger, KumaRanger, an original design to homage Gosei Sentai Dairanger

Honestly, making a "dream team" is something that isn't a bad idea, though while making a TV series it becomes problematic for editing, since this is a series of pieces. I know that there's a ton of shows and comics that I'd want to have a "dream team" of the characters, though sometimes having the unstoppable team, makes the series less. One needs to see one's faults before making them better, since this is the best type of character arc and drive. Though from what I've watched there's been three series that I've seen it work best, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, X-Men, and Teen Titans. This is my opinion about teams that have many in their roaster that work the best in multiple media formats. I'm sure there are more, though these are the ones I'm most familiar. Anyhow, through this analytical I'll be looking at Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Motion Picture.

I could talk about the nostalgia of these series all day, though I'll let Linkara be the hero of history and analytical precision. I've been impressed and awestruck by the amount of detail that goes into his History of the Power Rangers series, if you want a more thorough understanding of the Power Rangers as a series (and each team) I'd recommend it. Though like I said I could talk about how a lot of my life imagining and enjoying the Rangers and their many adventures.

In the original Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger series they had motorcycles and side cars for the rangers, it was an interesting idea. I feel like the reason behind them not having that was one censorship and two convincing the audience that this was in America. It would have been a feat to do so, but still with the opening to the Motion Picture they all jump out of a plane to skydive through the credits, it's an amazing scene and still one of my favorite ways to open a film. Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger was where the original costumes came from, this series went in a completely different direction from it's American counterpart, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tea Steeping dressed as the Lemniscate (Teal) Ranger, an original design to homage Ressha Sentai ToQger

If I had to like a certain series it would be the Gosei Sentai Dairangers, since they were a reflection of popularity in the 80's/90's for kung-fu focused shows. Each ranger had their own fighting style and mythological beast. Yellow ranger fought with drunken fist kung-fu, very fluid, very well performed, it's my favorite style of martial arts. Which is where the White Ranger is originally from, also the character was nine years old, the youngest ranger to this day.

Compared to the Japanese footage and the American series this movie is beyond anything that anyone expected, though at the same time it was still a kid's movie. For me I wanted this movie, I wanted everything that this film had to offer, since it was one of the first films of shows I saw on TV. It was a surreal moment and I bet this was completely new to the cast and crew working on this TV show turn feature film. Though on the flip side this is a yearly occurrence to the Super Sentai crews that make a film every year for the newest team of  these colorful warriors of Justice. Still it's great to see all of the production value increased tremendously for the Motion Picture.

The Motion Picture is interesting, it gives into the spirit of the 90's though it's still a great origin story for the established series, which will continue after this film with the new Zords and powers. We see that Ooze is freed from his long slumber, sounds like a lot of evil, though this feels more like King Piccolo (from an egg, though his song was born from an egg not him, who was found in a old rice cooker), since Ooze will control the Earth or at least the City, until defeated by a teenager, or in this case a group of teens in a giant fighting robot.

One thing I have to give to the Motion Picture is the set and costume design, it's amazing and so beautiful. The Monster reactions and the redesigned costumes all feel out of place, but make the film more stunning. It's weird that the villains from the series just popped in to summon the evil from the film, but just left as soon as they created the purple W. C. Fields.

I don't think there were teenagers in 6,000 years, though "a bunch of kids" would be a better term, since teens are a recent development in our biology.

The morphing sequence is stunning and angelic, they're the beacons in this film for hope and the suits are designed well, it looks like armor, though it's blocky. Which make it transition better for toys, since they look like giant versions of the merchandise, but it seems out of place too, still it's wonderful and the suits look stronger, more competent.

The random swipe folly noise is really annoying, though it's not intentionally funny, but is really funny because of the over the top gestures. Something that bothers me is all the gadgets that they use in the film. I'm sure it was just for the movie, but it feels out of place, this time in a bad way. It's good as a literal tool for the plot, though anything else it's nonsense, since they never use them again in the movie.

Zordon needs to do the time warp again, or he'll die, do you think he came from the same planet as the Rocky Horror trio? Power Rangers and Planet Transsexual, in the Galaxy of Transylvania!

Professor Steeping the creator of Gom and the Uncle of Tea Steeping as the ever watching Zordon.

With a weird monster skeleton and a creepy over seer we move on, to the purple snake oil salesman. It seems that 6,000 years ago Ooze wanted to sell himself for the masses to ingest. I'm not sure if that's intended, though back to the love scene, beautiful ocean, attractive teens in their early to mid 20's. Then we take on the crows ruining the lovely setting and the mood changes to a fight, where our bikini clad Star Wars reference pops into the fray as she swings her pole in all the crows faces and blows out the ear drums of her and the ranger's enemies. She proceeds to attack our rainbow colored heroes. It makes me think why would anyone need to power up if they had her training in combat, also she was our creepy stalker from the hills.

Back on Earth, Ooze literally sells his goop like a snake oil salesman, yelling that kids should buy cases of the stuff that's never been heard of and is weird to them. Like if something seems off or weird and smells weird and a weird person is asking for you to buy their product from them, it's a good chance that it's gonna be evil, that wants to take over the world. Then like the reference implied (earlier, when he was destroying the command center that keeps Zordon alive, forever dancing the Time Warp) Ooze acts like the pied piper stealing the parents of all the children in Angel Grove. Also he's encouraging people to "get sticky"… I'm not sure about this…

Over to the Planet, our Bikini wonder blows glitter on all of our heroes and they become ninja. It's a little weird, since there wasn't any training to this point for them to earn this power upgrade. She turns into an owl and tells them to do their best to defeat Ooze. Speaking of Ooze he calls them his crow warriors tengu, though I think it's ten-goo, but still I like that they gave the homage to Japan with the reference. That's the whole scene, the crows report back after being defeated, there's a lot of this back and forth that could have been cut. So back to the planet with the six rangers all looking over this world, as they head to a jungle, back to the rock quarry to advance the plot on Earth parents are digging up something. Now back to the jungle with every type of wild fantasy animal's bones, that they now have to fight, though none of them except for Rocky and Tommy did anything that was defensive. Only one bone creature attacked them in a forest where they are literally surrounded by bones, only one is enchanted.

Ooze starts up his giant fighting robots, then we're back to the jungle where our colorful band of heroes find their new Zords. First they need to show that they are super fighting heroes, teens with martial art skill and their warrior bravery. By fighting monsters made of stone, that's something I don't really understand, why are the guardians of power monsters? Not knights or beings that seem more elegant and less savage. I think the quipping is my favorite, I'm a fan of chatter during a fight, since it can be fun, dumb, and fantastically done, though most of the time it's by those that have no wit, I'm happy to hear that in some quips there was thought behind the words, not just talking to fill the silence.

Tea Steeping dressing like a Ressha Sentai ToQger
Gom in his custom bear Gosei Sentai Dairanger
Professor Steeping as Zordon

The gang get their new animals and merge with their spirits or something like that. Anyhow, they grab their belts and fly off back to Earth. We come back to the City of Angel Grove under attack from the giant robot monsters, chrome and poorly rendered. Though I'm glad to see all of the rangers back on Earth, ready to take on the good fight as they call their Zords, though with the original show (Power Rangers original), they were in the Earth, these Zords seem to just come out of nowhere. Also no explanation for why they are here so soon, since we're going with the lore of beings that built them 6,000 year ago on another planet. Anyhow, the cockpit of all the Zords for the film are neat looking and reminds me less of Power Rangers and more of Star Wars. At times it feels like the writers or director or storyboarders are referencing things that would be neat to see in a movie instead of making original things, but this really isn't the place for original ideas, since this was a show based on footage from another series from another country. Still a fun and original movie, though I think they aimed too low with the demographic, but if you were around in the 90's there's been a huge censorship war that canceled a lot of good shows or toned down a lot of potential shows for being great. This could have been one of those films that were going to dig deeper than the TV series, but lost it's way through the sea of hyper critical censors of the time. Don't get me wrong, censorship is important, though it's importance is mostly for guidance not as an absolute.

I guess the one thing that bothers me in this film is that all the Zords are robots and not mystical beings or something from another planet, it feels like they're robots that were built by someone on this planet, kinda like Ooze's robot that was built 6,000 years ago. Like it feels too modern and tech influenced by Earth standards to be an alien giant fighting robot.

At times it feels like the actors in the suits weren't told what was being said in post, so they just posed and hoped that whatever they did would make sense for the scene.

Anyhow the parent wet T-shirt contest is over and the Rangers save the day, by kneeing evil in the balls, then hitting a giant robot with a meteor. After that they head over to the command center, circling Zordon, hoping for his well return, or somehow getting is tube back (so he can jump to the left and then a step to the right). They summon their spirit animals to save Zordon, surprisingly it works, as they do the time warp again. I liked it better when Zordon didn't have a clear face, his face is a bit more horrifying this clear. We end with everything saved and the world goes back to normal as fireworks color the sky while Bulk and Skull wait for their names to appear in lights. Over all it's a dated film, but still a fun easy watch especially if one has children in the audience, but it's nothing challenging, mostly something to waste time and enjoy a few fights and giant robots. Personally I think the Game Gear fighter video game was a ton of fun, more fun than the film, but still an all around nostalgia romp to the most 90's movie conceived.

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