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Power Rangers: Once & Always Review

April 20, 2023 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Power Rangers: Once & Always Image Credit: Netflix
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Power Rangers: Once & Always Review  

* David Yost as Billy / Blue Ranger
* Walter Jones as Zach / Black Ranger
* Steve Cardenas as Rocky / Red Ranger
* Catherine Sutherland as Kat / Pink Ranger
* Karan Ashley as Aisha
* Johnny Yong Bosch as Adam
* Charlie Kersh as Minh
* Richard Steven Horvitz as the voice of Alpha
* Barbara Goodson as the voice of Robo Rita Repulsa

Story: Thirty years after the wise and powerful Zordon formed the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the team comes face to face with a familiar threat from the past. In the midst of a global crisis, they are called on once again to be the heroes the world needs.

Probably showing my age by saying this, but I watched the Power Rangers pilot when it aired on August 28, 1993. AS a young fan, I was immediately hooked. I can’t imagine many kids weren’t that grew up in the 90s. I would then watch the show pretty religiously from then on, through cast changes, show changes and even perhaps when I was “too old” to do so. I stopped after In Space ended, but would still occasionally check in when I heard an original ranger was coming back. That’s how I saw the entire season of Dino Thunder in college. Luckily, you can be a nerd in 2023 and still like things like this. Power Rangers was a gateway drug to comic book movies and eventually kaiju movies, so it shaped my interests today.

So to say I was excited for this is an understatement.

Right off the bat, some fans may be disappointed. After all, this isn’t the original team. Jason David Frank (Tommy), Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly) and Austin St. John (Jason) are not present for various reasons. Frank never gave an official reason but seemed to want to distance himself from the show. Johnson seemed to suggest she didn’t like what was offered to her. John was charged with fraud last year so he was likely unavailable. That said, you do get two of the original Rangers that hadn’t been back since they left. Plus there’s Rocky (Steve Cardenas) and Kat (Catherine Sutherland), who were part of the show from season two and three, respectively, until Turbo.

The best way to sum up this review, for those who need a summary, is that this is Power Rangers. That means if you’re expecting something on the caliber of say, a Marvel movie with these characters, you might need to temper your expectations. This is still based on a 90s kids show that used half its footage from Super Sentai. And that means it carries the flaws that the show inherently carries. You just have to decide if you can ignore things like questionable dialogue or stilted acting for the sake of a nostalgia boost.

The script is arguably the strongest and weakest points of the special. The dialogue is clumsy and the attempt to handle heavier themes is cursory, at best. The show opens with one of the Rangers outright dying, as Trini sacrifices herself to save Billy. And if you expect any the show to get very deep with that, you should remember you’re watching Power Rangers. It moves past the grief stage entirely to a year later to go straight into the action. That’s not so much a complaint, as you wouldn’t want this to spend an extended amount of time on things like tragedy.

That said, the target audience for this is clearly millennials that grew up or followed it, so they may appreciate a more ‘adult’ Power Rangers. Trini’s death sets the plot in motion and explains the absence of Thuy Trang, who passed away in 2001. Once again, if you’re wondering why the same wasn’t done for Frank, it’s because it was filmed before he died last year. It still features a tribute to him at the end, and his voice is used through archives. What is there to pay tribute to Trini is handled well enough, and like Frank, her voice can be heard in the opening.

The point is, it’s Power Rangers. With that comes a certain bit of leeway when it comes to more critical aspects of media. The real question is how good is this at being a nostalgic special for fans wanting to see the Mighty Morphin’ era again. The answer is not bad. We get several fight sequences, an updated morphing sequence and even a monster fight with new CGI animated zords. This isn’t your Dad’s Megazord, as it’s able to be more mobile than the clunky suit from Zyuranger.

There’s also plenty of Easter eggs to the other shows, even if those rangers do not appear. I saw or heard references to nearly every iteration at one point or another, no matter how brief. There’s a lot more than that. They recreated the Juice Bar set, for example. They mention the storyline reason that Billy left the show back in Zeo. They don’t ignore the sacrifice of Zordon from In Space and suitably explain Rita’s return. They also sink a certain ship once and for all, which some fans may or may not be happy with.

A perfect special would have been longer and included Tommy, Jason and Kimberly. But circumstances are what they are and while the script isn’t great and the acting could be better, it’s all delivered with heart. (That said, Walter Jones does well and Charlie Kersh is great as Trini’s daughter Minh). The people involved are there because they want to be there and want to do this for fans. For what it is, it works as a fun nostalgia ride that can be complimentary to the still-running show.

More importantly, it’s not one giant excuse for Disney to push the current season over the older ones. Yes, I’m still bitter over Forever Red. Deal with it.

The final score: review Good
The 411
This is a special meant for fans of Power Rangers and all that entails. The script isn't strong and the acting is hit or miss, but that's not why anyone watched. So is it perfect? No, not even from a fanservice perspective. The absence of Jason, Tommy and Kimberly is felt. But they made the best of what they had and most importantly, made it with love for the franchise. It's a nice self-contained special that does what it's meant to do: evoke nostalgia. And that's not a bad thing.