Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)

Version: Actors: 6/10Plot/script: 6/10Photography/visual style: 6/10Music/score: 6/10OVERALL: 6/10I maintain that I was not exactly a fan of as a child, but I cannot deny that I watched it, and enjoyed it. However, I was old enough to recognize that, although it was entertaining, it was also objectively bad. I am sure I was not the only person laughing at rather than with it, and this was what I hoped for when I tuned in to watch on television recently.It is common knowledge that Power Rangers was 'creatively' adapted from a Japanese kids' action television show called , with scenes inserted of western teenagers replacing the original Japanese dialogue, and martial arts and other action scenes dubbed over. It is probably fair to say that the adaptation was made with little respect toward the original, but then the same goes for the adaptation of from French into English, with reportedly making up his narrations from scratch without having a clue what the French translations were, and that is as loved by its fans now as it was then.The first thing I noticed about the movie is that it does not appear to be using footage from any Japanese version. Unlike the TV show, the main characters are sometimes seen during action scenes with their masks off, or even completely out of costume, so we can see it is the American actors and not Japanese ones. The six rangers themselves are indeed all American, although many of the supporting cast are Australian or British, including villain Ivan Ooze (played by Brit , probably best known as another villain, Dr. RenBelloq in ). Of the rangers, almost all have done very little work outside the Power Rangers franchise, the obvious exception being 'Black Ranger' . Bosch is possibly the biggest English-language voice actor in anime at the moment, with lead roles in major series such as , and . Needless to say, his acting ability has come on in leaps and bounds over the years since Power Rangers.In fairness to the film, I should point out that there are a couple of areas where it genuinely, unironically impressed me. Many of the costumes and props are really quite ornate and impressive, so kudos to , and for the props, and(now of the esteemed ) and for the costumes. It's a real shame that recognition for such sterling work has to come across as damning with faint praise, but it is true that it took such weakness elsewhere for these generally less prominent areas to stand out.

So, for instance, much of the acting is simply awful, and especially by the supporting cast. Some lines are delivered with simply agonizing awkwardness, and there were characters I almost watched through my fingers because I didn't want to face the embarrassment by proxy of whatever they would do next.The fight scenes are a mixed bag. Some of them are pretty good, exciting and dynamic, with an emphasis on style rather than gritty violence. Back-flipping into place is utterly pointless, but it is impressive to watch, and that emphasis on flashy moves has always been a part of what makes movie martial arts good to watch. On the other hand, the underlying key to a good fight scene, I always think, is how well the enemies fight, and these ones are rubbish. Have a look at it the next time you see a fight scene: if it's less good, the villains will spend quite a bit of time standing around, waiting to get hit, and assault the hero one by one. The better choreographed fights generally find ways to hide or evade this unrealism.I'm running out of non-bad things to say, but I found nothing to complain about in the overall direction and cinematography. If there are problems with the film (and there are!), they are not with the framing or shot selection. Director is another of those who have found redemption from previously dicey careers in the TV series , where he has shown a bit more style and vision in his 13 episodes to date, when given something more solid to work with.Which brings us to the real gaping chasm at the heart of the matter: the screenplay. Let's look at the main characters for instance, the rangers. I noticed that their characterization is very limited. Although there seems to have been some effort to make the team ethnically diverse (one black, one asian, one hispanic...), this does not extend to giving them character aspects in any way associated with their origins, as was the case in, for example, , a cartoon series from a similar period. I suppose they were scared of accusations of racism that might arise from racial stereotyping, which is absolutely fair enough, but the alternative is not to leave them without any personality whatsoever.I realized after a while that almost any line that comes out of any character's mouth could have been given to any one of the other rangers, without it changing the scene significantly. Once I noticed this, separating the characters again at all became very difficult. It was especially laughable when the scene came in which they were assigned animal totems based on their personalities: they were either totally interchangeable or, yes, just slightly racist - or both. Why did the Asian guy get that one, when it could have gone to anyone else? Does the caucasian male, already the implied leader of the group, need even more of an ego boost?Another fatal flaw is that characters frequently turn out to know or surmise things we know because we saw them, but they shouldn't because they weren't there. This is a common feature of especially low-quality scripts (see my review of ), betraying the lack of thought which has gone into them. Sometimes, these are presented as clever guesses which are taken as fact thereafter, despite a complete lack of evidence, but other times it just seemed that the screenwriter (shame on you, ) had forgotten that the character(s) was/were not there when that fact was revealed.To be fair, I said originally that I came to the film looking for something bad but fun, and I did find that in places. The film had its fair share of quips of varying quality, including some that are distinctly lame or groanworthy, but groaning at a particularly bad pun is part of what we enjoy about action films. It's not good, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is fun.Similarly, you've got to love a camp villain, and Ivan Ooze is uber-camp in the very finest tradition. The computer-generated special effects are totally incongruous when intercut and superimposed on real photography, but that struck me as great nostalgic fun, and I can't bring myself to treat it as an actual criticism. I have been told by people who were true fans of the show back in the day that they saw the CGI as an unwelcome change from the model-work that was used for giant monster and robot battles beforehand. This is no doubt a consequence of the fact that the movie was not based on the Japanese series, from which all these scenes were taken, and so they had to create them themselves, and using hardware well below the film industry top end at that. The full budget for the film was around $15 million, which didn't stretch far in terms of computer graphics in those days.When I told my friends I had seen this film, some of them said that they felt it was the beginning of the end for the franchise, that the film heralded a split from the Japanese original that weakened it and left it less enjoyable to them as kids. Power Rangers sequel series and spin-offs are still being made to this day, and pretty much continually during the intervening period. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie earned them a lot of money from a legion of young fans, and would appear to still be capturing new hearts. Don't ever think, though, that high production values, or even high standards in any way, have anything to do with that success.
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