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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always’: Cheesy and heartwarming as ever

Maria Dach | The Observer
Maria Dach | The Observer

Inspired by their Japanese counterpart “Super Sentai,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has stood the test of time to become one the longest-running children’s television shows ever. Spanning over 30 years and 21 different iterations, it seems there is no end to this franchise in the near future. It made sense for the series to make a memorable anniversary episode starring the original cast, even if not all of them are there. Still containing cheesy and corny dialogue, this hour-long special still manages to be entertaining and give a loving tribute to the original Yellow Ranger Trini, played by Thuy Trang.

Trang passed away in a car accident in 2001, though this anniversary special is the first time her death is acknowledged in the show’s canon. Trang originally left the show in season two, with her character moving away for a peace conference. Now being killed by old foe Rita Repulsa, “Once & Always” deals with the team’s grief over their fellow ranger’s death, along with looking after her daughter Minh. With the show usually known for being light-hearted and full of jokes, it was interesting to see this special take a darker tone. Even though the show takes this approach, it is still full of entertaining fight sequences, weird monsters and a plethora of references to past interactions. Diehard and casual fans alike will recognize something from either the original show or a different season.

Nostalgia aside, I couldn’t look past the many flaws the show had. Now, I understand, Power Rangers is still a show meant for kids. However, from what I remember and looked up again before writing this, even older iterations had better CGI than this. With Netflix being the majority owner of rights to the show, I know for a fact they had plenty of money to spare for this special. The final big Megazord fight was hard to watch, even for a kid’s show. Plot elements also made little sense, even for Power Rangers. Of course, the showrunners had to find a way to write about why the original red and pink rangers, Jason and Kim, weren’t in the special. Due to scheduling conflicts and creative differences in general, Austin St. John and Amy Jo Johnson did not return. While this did allow for Steve Cardenas to reprise his role as Red Ranger Rocky and Catherine Sutherland as Pink Ranger Kat, they are mostly put aside and don’t make much of an impact. Having the original Blue Ranger Billy (David Yost) and Black Ranger Zach (Walter Jones) take on leading roles instead of being the usual side characters, however, was great to watch.

It is also worth noting that this special was filmed before the tragic passing of Jason David Frank, who played the most popular Power Rangers character in the entire series — Tommy Oliver. While this special is meant as a tribute to actor Thuy Trang, it is hard to not also think of Jason as well, though I’m sure the series will eventually make a proper tribute to him in the future as well.

While not an amazing television spectacle, “Once & Always” is what it is supposed to be: a tribute to 30 years of Ranger history and those who were sadly lost along the way. It’s hard to film any kind of tribute and bring back cast members who have all gone on separate paths since. This special is a fun watch for the whole family no matter what your familiarity is with the show.

Title: “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always”

Director: Charlie Haskell

Starring: David Yost, Walter Jones

Streaming: Netflix

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5