Let’s Watch: “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” (Pt.1)

To inaugurate this blog’s initation of Let’s Reads and Let’s Watchs, I figured it suitable to start with a classic—the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie.

A film I remember enjoying greatly when I was little, during the last year, I have watched it a number of times for old times’ sake. But because I know I am not the only person who remembers this film, especially with the remake on the horizon, I thought that it would make swell commentary fodder should another fan come across this group of posts.

So, join me and let’s watch this… err, ‘gem’ of a children’s’ movie and see if it stands the test of time. Is it a great film and every bit as awesome as you recollect? Or is it horrible? Only one way to find out.

~

Part One

The movie starts out with an introduction to the premise of the television show which the film is based. I actually found this to be odd. Why? Well, children who begged their parents to take them to the theater or to buy them the movie, already know what the movie is about; so, this sort of crash-course is pretty much meant for the adults and the curious onlooker who decided to attend. I say that it is odd because it actually does an unintendedly good job at de-familiarizing the franchise. In short, when the narrator reads the text aloud, you get an idea at just how absurd the whole Power Rangers premise is. It is reprinted below.

Centuries ago, a legendary interdimensional being known as ZORDON came to the City of Angel Grove to establish a command center for his never-ending struggle against evil.

With his trusted assistant, Alpha 5, the noble master sought out six extraordinary teenagers and gave them the power to transform into a superhuman fighting force. In time of great need, the young heroes could use their powers to call upon colossal assault vehicles known as ZORDS.

The identity of the six remain a guarded secret.

Today, that tradition continues.”

This scroll is reminiscent of Star Wars.

Okay, so I am iffy on the timeline here. The film was released in 1995. Yet, the film says that ZORDON came to the locale centuries ago. Wait… so, he had been here for hundreds of years before he found the teenagers? Or, is this supposed to be a kind of historical recount where the narration is supposed to represent something that happened in the past (i.e., the movie)?

Secondly, why teenagers? If you are so invested in your battle against evil, why do you seek out teenagers? Wouldn’t people not controlled by hormones be a better choice? People like, for example, former mercenaries, marines, Special Forces, you know? It doesn’t make any sense to select youth.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that it is great that ZORDON is an equal opportunity exploiter of youth labor, I just don’t understand the rationale for manipulating young people instead of battle trained adults.

Thirdly, I say that this introduction acts as a bit of de-familiarization due to the way it describes ZORDON. Not only is ZORDON all capitalized, but he is described as some sort of interdimensional being, one who has a never-ending fight against evil.

As a child, I always assumed that ZORDON was some kind of cyborg or computer program with sentience. I never thought of him as a being from another universe. One, evidently, with a supreme grudge against all things evil. It is just weird. It is sort of like anime: when the story and character attributes are all held within your head then you don’t really see all of the oddness of the franchise. Once you speak aloud about the details, though, you start to perceive just how bonkers your beloved show actually is; teenagers with super-solider powers fighting for good? Easy. Teens battling on the behalf of a being from another dimension? What?

Moving along, though.

The actual movie opens with a show of an airplane; apparently our young heroes are sky-diving. Later, in a bit of poorly written dialog, we learn that they are doing this as part of a charity fundraiser for a planetarium, though at the time, it is not explained in any great detail. Additionally, it is an odd moment since they are not, like, you know… in their suits as Power Rangers, they are just normal teens. I don’t remember from the TV show if skydiving was ever an explored hobby, so other than the screen-writers need to open with a dramatic flair, I’m not sure if there is any actual reason for a bunch of high-schoolers to be sky-diving (I say ‘high-schoolers’ with a bit of salt, since the actors playing the rangers look like college seniors).

teenagers_with_attitude
High schoolers? No, more like, growth hormones.

In the airplane, though, my favorite gay couple is there as well—Bulk and Skull.

There is some cheeky banter with them and the rangers, but it doesn’t amount to much. What does amount to something, though, is that Bulk and Skull’s dialog and outfits hint strongly at their, uh, sexuality and favored positions. You know, their fucking life.

Both Bulk and Skull are wearing black leather outfits. Skull’s’s nickname, evidently, is, and I shit you not, the “Swooping Swallow.” So we are given an intimate look into what role he plays in the bedroom—in the words of George Tekai, Oh my! Need more? We see skull wearing a helmet with a flamboyant, rainbow colored plume ridge running down its middle; the back of Skull’s jacket has embroiled on it an elaborate pink skull.

When jumping out of the plane, Bulk shouts, only somewhat comically, to “come on, baby!” just prior to grabbing Skull across the shoulders and jumping (yes, they fall clutching one another by the hands). If this and their BDSM gear is not enough to convince you that these characters are gay, even after seeing their intimate ‘friendship,’ then I don’t know what will convince you.

Oh, and it should be noted that Bulk and Skull do not jump until after the rangers have jumped; meaning, Bulk’s comment about imploring his ‘special friend’ to jump, would have been a private affair not heard by anyone else, i.e., heterosexuals who could out them.

bulk-skull-mmpr-movie
Oh, yeah… no, they are “straight.”

(It is my understanding that at some point in the television series, Bulk and Skull had female romantic interests, but let’s be honest—these are ‘teen’ characters who would have been gay in the early to mid-nineties. It is perfectly reasonable that they would, at one points or several, have superficial heterosexual relationships in order to ‘pass’ during their public life.)

Anyways, after everyone jumps out of the plane, things settle into the plot proper.

The rangers, after some aerial antics, land perfectly on their targets; the camera glides over a banner which reads “Jump-a-Thon” while an announcer speaks about the charity events to ‘save the observatory; this is weird, since it seems like a counter-productive way to go about fundraising: I am no financial expert, but wouldn’t hiring a plane and finding qualified sky-divers overtake any profits made from the charity event? Aren’t there less cost-intensive ways to fund-raise? But, hey, we get some additional exposition: after we learn that the rangers, despite only being high schoolers, have set a new city skydiving record, we learn that ‘Ryan’s Comet’ is passing over in just a couple of days. I’m not sure if Ryan’s Comet is an actual comet, but this connects to the need to save the planetarium and, ultimately, the dues-ex machina at the end.

fred2
Fred is too young to be a high schooler, but he would still make for a more appropriate teenager than the rangers themselves. Alas, time!

At any rate, the rangers encounter a young boy of middle school age named Fred (whom I have no idea if he was in the series; if he was not, then I wonder why he’s in the film since the rangers seem to know him). The banter is about the planetarium and Bulk and Skull’s landing. But, here is the thing, it is so, so badly written that the exchange should be displayed below.

 

“‘You were great out there!’ [Says Fred to Tommy].

‘Thanks, man. Maybe next time you could join us?’ [Replied Tommy]

‘Really, could I?’ [Says Fred excitedly to his father].

‘Yeah, well, we’ll talk about that Fred; in about ten or twelve years, all right?’ [sardonically remarks Fred’s father].

‘Hey, congratulations, Tommy, the observatory just got a new lease on life.” [Comments Fred’s father to Tommy].

‘Hey, yeah, thanks man!’ [casually replied Tommy still shaking the older man’s hand.

‘Awesome—Ryan’s Comet is passing over in two days!’ [Fred happily shouts].

 

Okay, I am going to admit that after doing a bit more close reading, and understanding only now, after years and several prior watching’s what Tommy’s accomplishment was all about (setting a city record), that this dialog doesn’t quite as feel as stilted as I remember, but still, it remains pretty stilted.

I can forgive some of Tommy’s dialog with Fred’s father, after all, he is supposed to be a teenager and some sorta friend’s father is commending you on a job well done; I’m honestly not sure my response would have been any different. It is not like that you know the person, after all. But this doesn’t fully excuse Tommy’s dialog since after the rest of his friends arrive—meaning, his fellow rangers—and they also commend him on an excellent performance, he says the exact same thing—‘thanks man, you too man.’ It is pretty tedious and stilted.

Then there is the issue of Fred’s father suddenly talking about the observatory, followed quickly by Tommy’s acknowledgment-grunt, and Fred’s sudden exclamation. Over all, the effect of this exchange, when seen and heard on screen, feels very forced and dry—not like a conversation you would really have in reality. Not at least for a group of teens which, I would imagine, are a bunch of extroverts. Though it works a bit better when read as a string of alphabetical text, it still would only constitute pulp literature at best.

So after this awkward exchange, the film cuts to Bulk and Skull jumping from the plane right after the rangers’ fat shaming of Bulk. Then the scene after is the rangers doing a skateboarding routine while “Free Ride” plays in the background. This happens until they decide to take a shortcut through a construction site which, assuming that wasn’t illegal, sounds hugely dangerous. But it works out since, wouldn’t you know it, the construction site is were Bulk and Skull land—not the roof of Ernie’s Diner!

But as one would imagine, the construction people do not care very much for sky-diving personalities after a bunch of other kids had just skated past their work-area. Don’t worry, though, Bulk retorts to his confronter that “We’re from the Angel Grove Builder Inspector’s Office.” Amazingly enough, after some haranguing about the incorrect placement of buildings, the worker/foreman buys their story, or perhaps simply doesn’t care, and go to attend his co-worker’s shouts of ‘you gotta see this.’ Cliché? Yes. Does it keep the plot moving? Also yes.

Turns out that the construction crew has unearthed what looks like a man-hole cover donned with a screaming monster face. So they do the sensible thing—bring in a crane and open the sucker up, while any nearby archeologist cries. But the lid pops off and out comes the prison of our villain—Ivan Ooze!

Now, before we resume, let me comment on this part of the Power Rangers mythology: it is absurd that Ivan Ooze’s prison was built the way that it was, especially since we learn a little later that it was a “hyperlock chamber.” Let me explain.

When the manhole cover pops up, we see a bit of its girth… it is not impressive, that is, the amount of dead weight on the bottom of the cover keeping the egg prison in place; seriously, bank vaults have, easily, four, five, or even six times the amount of girth protecting their goodies and they are just keeping tight hold of money—dead bits of tree and ink.

Then we have the prison itself… for something which is supposed to be a ‘hyperlock chamber,’ something which brings to mind an ethereal connotation, the prison is not only corporeal, but extravagantly decorated: Ivan’s prison egg is aesthetically enhanced by a giant set of claws clenching the egg; evidently, whoever designed the prison had enough time to consider how the prison would look if, you know, god forbid Ivan’s jail was ever found. Weird.

Then there is the Evil Zords which Ivan was on the verge of completing. Turns out that they were buried next to the prison; I dunno… if I just defeated the most Evil-Bad-ass ever in the history of ever, I find it hard to believe that I would simply allow his war-machines to remain untouched and buried right next to his prison. Really, I think I would have them destroyed, not have them remain right next to his prison. But I digress.

(Also—why and egg?!)

ivanegg
Pictured: the most conventional and secure prison, like, ever built– dude!

So, one of the construction workers, John, tries to touch the egg but the egg has a firm ‘No Touchy’ policy and shocks John into unconsciousness. So he goes kaplooy and we return to the rangers who are still fucking skating as they answer a summons from Alpha-5. (Seriously, skydiving, skating, how physically active are these brats?)

So the rangers hurry back to the command center and Alpha-5 is freaking out (as one would if the super evil baddy you put away—instead of just killing—found a way out of his prison). Her nonsensical dialog is worth hearing.

Ayeyaiyaiyaiyai—the subtronic interfaces are short-circuiting. I have to find a way to alternate the frequency modulators.”

Yes, dear reader: I had the sub-titles on for this part and that is what the text at the bottom of my screen actually said.

In terms of fancy science talk which is make-believe and doesn’t actually mean anything, this is amusing because when I was a child I thought that is meant something, but now, as an adult, I know that it is not worth a damn. I mean, ‘subtronic’? Additionally, how would finding a way to simply alternate, or said again, to switch between, something that modulates (I.e., balances) a frequency (like a radio signal, for example), make a difference? Spoiler, it doesn’t, it is just talk that the screenwriters put in to get to lunch faster.

So then ZORDON pops in and regales the rangers with a lowdown on Ivan.

zordon_movie
Evidently, he has a body… of sorts.

6000 years ago, a morphological being named Ivan Ooze, ruled the world with a reign of unparalleled terror. He was on the verge of completing construction of his ultimate weapons—the ectomorphicon titans—twin machines capable of enslaving the entire universe.”

So, if he ruled just six thousand years ago, why is there no evidence of his rule? I mean, I’m no historian, but we do have some basic artifacts from that time, and if there was any kind of civilization at this time, you figure it would show (unless the screenwriters would have us believe that the previous groups of young warriors who trapped him lured him to a untamed Earth, which stretches credibility). Not unless they are going to Creationist rote on human history.

Also, I am surprised that Ivan Ooze is his actual name: ‘Ivan’ is a human name, why the antagonist of all that is good would adopt it for himself is baffling… I guess to freak people out with his evil? More likely it is the screenwriters trying to conjure up the ghost of Ivan the Terrible. Which actually makes sense, I guess, if Ivan is supposed to be a patchwork quilt of some bad Russians, such as the terrible but also Rasputin (Ivan Ooze does have an evil wizard thing going for him).

But these twin titans are pretty epic. Not only are they capable of enslaving the planet and the galaxy, but the entire universe—they are capable of enslaving every galaxy in the universe! Hyper advanced space empires beware!

So ZORDON tells the teens to be careful since Ivan is an “evil beyond all imagination.” Then the scene cuts to a cordoned off egg-prison protected by two security guards. Then, woe and behold, Rita Repulsa and Zedd (Repulsa?) teleport into the site (so as to free Ivan, of course).

So to teleport in, Rita and Zedd use this red whirlwind kind of energy system which forces their bodies through from one part of the universe to another. It is pretty cool. This special effect actually holds up pretty good even by today’s standards. Over all, the film actually has some good practical effects, despite its dated non-practical effects; but even then, this bit of computer generated effect for the teleportation I feel is really well-done and marks a high point in the effects budget.

zedd
Zedd chooses you!

So Rita and Zedd are arguing about the egg, because I guess Rita didn’t get the memo about Ivan. But their arguing wakes up the security guards and Zedd puts them to sleep, since murder is out of line with what to expect from a children’s movie about teens fighting sentient spouge. But that happens and Zedd waxes eloquently about his two-thousand year search for Ivan’s jail. So of course he ends with a pun—“So now, let’s crack this egg!” When the egg finally opens Zedd remarks “excellent’ with an overly emphasized first syllable so it sounds like he is saying ‘eggs-ellant.’ I really get the feeling that Ivan’s prison was an egg so that the screen writers could make childish puns.

So the egg opens and Ivan is in his liquid state. Soon he forms solid and kicks the cranks out of his body. Ivan introduces himself and asks how he can ever repay them. Zedd asks if he recalls the name ZORDON of Eltar and he does, so that is a match made in heaven. Revenge is always so simple when it is one in the same with paying back your liberators.

incoming-ham-300x200
I too would stretch if I was imprisoned for thousands of years.

So Rita and Zedd skedaddle leaving Ivan to “weave his evil ways.” Ivan sniffs the air and asks “what is that odious stench? It smells like… teenagers.” Just for the record: I find it incredibly creepy that Ivan can detect teens by their smell. Sounds a bit pervy.

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