Near the end of the 20th century, a plot was hatched: What if one were to purchase Japanese super-hero footage and disguise it as American children’s television entertainment?
Delightfully devilish, Haim Saban.
Now, 30 years later, that small act of
laziness creativity has blossomed into a media empire the likes of which could never have been imagined. And sure, the concept has evolved and changed in those three decades – Power Rangers is not exactly what you can call a continuity-heavy franchise, reinventing itself every year or two with an entirely new cast, setting, and plot1. But if you mention Power Rangers sans context to a casual viewer of a certain age, they will almost always assume that you’re referring to a very particular team: The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
It is this team who we find ourselves revisiting in the Netflix special, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always. And quite a return it is – not only do we get returns from two of the original Power Rangers, Walter Jones as Zack Taylor and David Yost as Billy Cranston, we have the American voice of Rita Repulsa (now Robo-Rita), Barbara Goodson, and the return of Richard Horvitz as the voice of the latest incarnation of the comic-relief robot Alpha.2 3
Sadly, the special also needs to address the tragic absence of one of the other original Power Rangers: Trini Kwan, whose actress Thuy Trang sadly passed away in a car crash in 2001. This loss is central to the main plot of the special, which introduces Charlie Kersh as Minh Kwan, Trini’s orphaned daughter, who hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps and take on her legacy as the Yellow Ranger.
With its focus on death, loss, and legacy, Once & Always is definitely heavier than the original series was ever allowed to be, but it still has moments of the camp and humor that made the nostalgia-bomb that it became. And nostalgia certainly is a huge part of this special, with heaping scoops of references and easter eggs that call back to the 90s episodes.
Overall, Once & Always is an exciting adult return to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers of old, and there’s a lot to enjoy in it. For fans of the original series, the special builds on the beloved characters and brings them into the present day in a reverent, nostalgic blast of adventure, with all the visual style of the 90s show mixed with modern flair. As a fan of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, I loved getting to see these characters return and kick Putty butts again. But that nostalgia also is its major downfall, as it doesn’t really have a lot to offer past that.
Watching this special, there is a feeling of something missing at the heart of it. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly is a lot of love and respect, and I had a fantastic time watching it, but at the same time it feels a little bit empty in a way that leaves me wanting more. The special seems to be a celebration of 30 years of Power Rangers, but I came away feeling like it was a celebration of about 3 years of Power Rangers, with little interest in what came after. I kind of wanted something that could be a bridge into the excitement that I have about all of Power Rangers – something that could take fans of the original team and get them excited about the Rangers that followed in their footsteps. I realize that I am far from a casual Power Rangers fan, so this this is going to be very unique to me, so feel free to take my opinion with a heaping helping of salt. I realize that I’m coming in with hopes and expectations that were never intended to be met, and that’s fine.
By itself, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is an amazing tribute to a cast and series that builds on and extends its source material into the modern age. It’s fun and nostalgic, and well worth a watch for anyone who fondly remembers sitting in front of the TV and watching five (or six) teenagers with attitude fight evil every weekday afternoon. But ultimately, that’s kind of all it is. And I’m okay with that.
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