Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Episode 1: Day of the Dumpster

A galactic witch screams at martians.
A teenage girl gives a cyborg a stroke.










The franchise starts as many do: with a couple of Japanese astronauts opening a space dumpster on the moon. This is why we cut funding to NASA you morons. Oh sorry, by "the moon" I mean a desert or something, that's what the moon looks like right?

I'm not quite sure why astronauts need battery packs.

We meet the Evil Space Aliens™ who were inside the dumpster. Why? Because a giant head in a glass jar put them there, and once this show hits 88 miles an hour, you're gonna see some stupid shit.

Squatt from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

This blue ogre is Squatt, he's involved in approximately two plots this season so feel free to forget he's there.

Baboo from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

This is Squatt's buddy Baboo, I guess he's the smarter of the two even though their characters are defined by being dumb. I always remember not liking these two as a kid but maybe with a new perspective I'll find their dumbness a lot more interesting.

Finster MMPR.

This shaved cocker spaniel is Finster. I'll get into Finster more as I do these but he's probably one of my favorite characters in the whole series. His job is to make monsters out of clay molds so he's significantly less expendable than Thing #1 and #2 up there.


Oh yeah and Goldar's there too, he's the muscle of the four and actually seems tough as nails. I guess that's not too hard when compared to the elderly artist and the bumbling dipshits he's with though.


And of course we have the leader of the group Rita Repulsa. Rita loudly exclaims she's been in that dumpster for 10,000 years. This is one of the moments where you'll see the writers of this show really have a weird sense of scale. Or it's entirely possible they realized nobody would ever pay attention to the details because nobody could possibly care about the little minutiae of a children's karate show like that.

Power Morphicon
Oh

Rita explains in a bit of well aged dialogue that the astronauts that freed her are going to miss her "coming out party". Her definition and my Uncle Jerry's are very different, as she plans on destroying the nearest planet which happens to be Earth. I have a feeling the reason places like Jupiter never get invaded by aliens is because they don't have nosy dickhead astronauts waving their space pricks everywhere.

We move from the Japanese version of the Moon, to the American version of California. The place we'll be hanging out for the next 200 episodes is called Ernie's Juice Bar, sometimes referred to as the Youth Center. Inside we're introduced to a group of teenagers who are the sheer embodiment of the 90's. They're all multicultural and come together cause there's no such thing as boundaries in the 90's dude! I swear all it would take is one of the teens to be in a wheelchair and we'd have a live action Burger King Kids Club.

Kim's your typical valley girl doing gymnastics on the balance beam and saying things like "As-if" and "Whatever." Zack is in the purple shirt practicing karate with Jason in the red. I guess they're supposed to be really close friends, but the five teens are going to all be ~the bestest friends there's ever been~ in about 25 seconds so it doesn't really matter. We see Trini doing karate, which to this show's credit was prefaced by Zack and Jason doing karate. The show's not gonna have her be the only person who is already good at martial arts, but they're not gonna not have her be good at martial arts. Then our token loser walks in, Billy. Billy's always been my favorite ranger, but I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's because he's an enormous nerd, or because he isn't good at anything, or because he writes a blog about Power Rangers.

Billy Trini Zack Kim Jason Power Rangers
The best of the 90's all in one convenient package.

You might also notice the teenagers are all wearing the colors of the Power Ranger they'll become (spoilers, sorry.) Of course we could say this is destiny and their fate was set in stone when they picked their outfits this morning. However this could also be because the producers didn't care and didn't feel like spending another 50 bucks at J.C. Penny's. Possibly they wanted kids to immediately know which ranger was which so they knew which toy to demand their ugly parents go out and buy for them, but fuck all that, cause Bulk and Skull are here.

Bulk and Skull Power Rangers

Bulk and Skull are some of the most amazing characters in the show because they're just one dimensional idiots all season long. A typical interaction between the two is Bulk saying something mean, and Skull repeats it and laughs. Then they immediately receive comeuppance in the form of falling down, or a mess getting made all over them, sometimes both if the director is feeling sassy. This sounds like it should be the worst thing ever, but there's something so goddamn goofy and great about how the actors play these idiots that it's captivating. What also helps is every time they show up you're treated to their wacky theme describing them better than anything else. Just listen, it's like the musical version of a fat man falling into a cake.



Bulk and Skull ask Kim and Trini if they want to go on a date, which turns into a running plot thread that these two lummoxes think the girls would be interested in taking off their purity rings for the two biggest losers in school. It's never really said which of the girls the bullies wants to date, but maybe Bulk wants them both and Skull just wants to watch. Thankfully before we get a scene of Bulk trying to Biff Tannen Trini in the back of his car, and Billy telling him to "get his damn hands off her", the girls trick Bulk and Skull into flipping themselves over onto some gym mats. 

We cut to Jason teaching a karate class that Billy is trying to keep up with, but he's trying to do Street Fighter moves and can't even do a Sonic Boom. Jason takes pity on Billy having the hand eye coordination of a generic 90's nerd, and opens the floor for the standard Karate class pop quiz. Billy is selected to give the answer because they didn't want to pay an extra to read a line, and then Bulk comes in and falls down fatly.

Bulk falling down

The Power Ranger Teens all sit down and give Billy and his stupid overalls some speech about how martial arts is all a state of mind and he needs to think more positive, and I'm actually kind of impressed they set up some kind of arc for any of these characters at all. All I remember the Ranger Teens being were a bunch of goody two shoes flat lines. I love that there's an actual progression to be made for Billy that plays out over his tenure as a ranger.

Paul Schrier as Bulk
 Also the fat guy gets smoothie in his dumb face

The plot kicks into high gear when the teens are teleported into a magical chamber known as the Command Center by a giant floating blue head named Zordon.

Jambi as Zordon
Artist's Approximation

The teens are then greeted by Zordon's panicky robot assistant named Alpha 5.

Conky from Pee Wee's Playhouse as Alpha 5 from Power Rangers.
Artist's Approximation

Instead of being terrified, Jason literally folds his arms, looks up at the 10 foot tall blue head, and says "So who are you?" We don't know much about the Ranger Teens but they must have seen some shit before today. Zordon shows them what's going on using his magical Viewing Globe (Patent Pending).

Goldar flying
A space witch of unspeakable horror.

Zordon explains the entire plot to the teens, with what I like to imagine is the exact same pitch Saban gave to network executives to sell this show. He then offers them super cool dinosaur powers where they'll turn into multi colored warriors and fight using gigantic machines called Zords. Zack as the Black Mastodon Ranger, Kimberly the Pink Pterodactyl, Billy the Blue Triceratops, Trini as the Yellow Saber Tooth Tiger, and Jason as the Red Tyrannosaurus Ranger and leader of the Power Rangers. Because we're dealing with the biggest bunch of pussies on the planet they turn down the offer to have super cool giant robots and go back to live a boring life of comforting Billy in the Juice Bar.

Rita's Moon Crew decide to make first contact with Earth by sending down a squadron of Putties. These are her go to minions and they remain threatening for all of 12 seconds after their introduction. The putties intercept the (Non) Ranger Teens and this is where the casting for the rangers really shines to me. They're honestly damn good at being more than a couple pretty faces who throw fake punches. They can actually move and do their martial arts nicely, so they make some kind of sense doing all the crazy junk happening in the Japanese footage. Obviously the acting isn't great but at the same time it's a kids show so who fucking cares?

 We get to see each of the teens bust out some moves, including Zack doing some weird hip hop bullshit which I'm 100% positive a middle aged white man wrote. Even though the Putties are complete buffoons the teens are getting beaten to the ground, so they decide to use their magical Power Morphers to transform into Power Rangers, and a franchise was born!

Power Rangers morphing
Billy I think you have some dirt in your eyes.

The Rangers are teleported to the city to fight Goldar, mostly so we can ignore the Putties that had them cornered, and when the theme song starts playing you know shit's about to get realer than it's ever been before. This is the moment you know kids watching realized how awesome what they're watching really is. The rangers start mudhole stompin the assholes of about a dozen Putties and showin Rita the business.

Rita, having been shown the business, chews out Finster for following her exact orders perfectly, and Squatt and Baboo for being ineffectual comic relief. Rita, sick of everyone else's comedic foibles, decides to take matters into her own hands. She throws her magic wand at the Earth from the Moon, it creates a huge crater that releases smoke and turns Goldar into a goddamn giant. Rita Repulsa rules.

Jason offers the astute observation that "That dude's huge!", prompting the rangers to do what they do best, pose and talk smack to the 300 foot tall gladiator dog. Oh yeah and they summon some giant robots or something.

Dinozords

Their Dinozords all combine into the Megazord Tank Mode which, like most everything in Sentai shows, only exists to show off what the toys the show is selling can do. Jason activates a bunch of superfluous control panels to make the Zords change into the Megazord and as a kid I can promise you little touches like this were the coolest thing in the world.

Whatever this does it's worth it for...

Megazord from Power Rangers formation
Oh my god yes. YES!

Goldar starts duking it out with Megazord and the two seem to be unevenly matched, with Goldar dishing out the beatings and Megazord barely keeping up with him. Probably because he's a fucking evil gladiator space gryphon and they're a bunch of high schoolers who just learned how to drive their new dinosaur robots. Megazord knocks Goldar right on his ass and Billy gets all whiny and nervous and says "That blow didn't even phase him!" Billy are you even paying attention to the fight? For being so smart you sure are fuckin' dumb.

Before Goldar rips 'em apart Jason, apropos of nothing, summons the Megazord's Power Sword. Goldar decides this is a good time to retreat, probably because they didn't feel like killing a major villain off in the first episode. They probably also knew if they put a monster like Mr. Ticklesneezer in episode 1 they'd get kicked off the air faster than you can say "Heil Honey I'm Home."

Mr Ticklesneezer is the devil
Imperio imperio inferna fortuna crudelitas

Rita is livid that all four of her henchman proved absolutely worthless in the fight against five high schoolers. Fortunately for the Moon Crew, Rita has a headache and can't punish them right now. I want to take umbrage with one thing, Rita threw her goddamn wand 239,000 miles from Space, but she can't magic herself a fucking aspirin? Get your priorities straight lady.

The rangers celebrate their "victory" over Goldar back at the Command Center. Zordon congratulates them on their success and then lays down the three laws of being a Power Ranger. Don't use your powers for personal gain, never escalate a battle unless Rita forces you to, and keep your identity a secret. The Ranger Teens take no umbrage to these rules because they're total squares.

All the teens seem onboard with this saving the world business, but Kim says she's hesitant. This isn't because she's afraid of dying or anything, but because the helmet messes up her hair. As everyone is about to chew her out for being such a stereotype, she soothes our nerves with a grating "NOT!!!!!!" Alpha starts to have what appears to be a robot stroke, presumably because of how embarrassing that last line was, and the rangers all put their hands together, and jump in the air. It reminds me of every single kid's sports movie ever released, except with giant dinosaur robots.






Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Not Jokes.


Personal Thoughts:



There's something really surreal and unique about how this show is done. As you can probably guess if you've ever seen this show once in your entire life, they use Japanese footage cut together with American actors to make a new product. It's so odd to see scenes in Ernie's juice bar with a bunch of goofy 90's shenanigans cut together with a Japanese superhero show because something about it feels so viscerally off. Personally that's what enticed it to me in the first place though. It, probably unintentionally, makes you feel like Rita and her goons are completely otherworldly creatures unlike things we could even fathom.

The only one of the main five villains we see in American footage so far is Goldar. There are a lot of these moments where Rita makes a plan and it cuts to Goldar bobbing his face and sword at the camera to further explain the plot. I think this was a suit Saban made based on the Japanese stuff and it looks a little off compared to the Japanese one. The helmet has a duller color and looks a bit cheaper than the Japanese Goldar's. I take a weird interest in seeing what monster suits we got in America and which were clearly trashed by the Japanese crew because it always promotes a clever way of filming the U.S. actors interacting with the villains in Sentai stuff. I'll probably blather about that more as it becomes relevant.

Goldar Sentai Footage. Griffozar
Japanese
Goldar US Footage
USA
Also interesting (to me) is that the Megazord fight with Goldar is cut from about 4 or 5 different episodes of Zyuranger. This actually seems like quite a bit of effort considering this is supposed to just be some dumb kids show to fill time on Fox, but I think it's things like that which show there's a lot of creativity in making this show presentable to American audiences.

This pilot does a genuinely great job of setting up this goofy world. We get the heroes, the villains, the plot, the morphing abilities, Rita's ability to make monsters grow, the Dinozords and Megazord and a nice fight with the Putties and Giant Goldar just to show you the kind of action you're in for. It puts all the chips on the table to let you know they're not messing around. You get almost everything that is going to become important in Season 1 in just this episode, excluding the rangers individual weapons and a couple of characters we'll be meeting later.

Like I mentioned earlier Billy actually has his arc begun in the very first episode. You can count the character traits of the Ranger Teens on one hand, and I mean all five of em, but that doesn't mean they don't try and do something with them. This show may be cheap and cut corners, but it at least tries to have something worth tuning in for aside from karate fights and D-grade Saved By the Bell plots.



8 comments:

  1. That demon monkey really creeps me out worse than clowns. His face looks half real half fake. As if he's some porcelain China doll come to life. It's super unsettling. All the muppets are so damn creepy. I can't wait for the episode where Zordan just hands the Rangers a gas can and they just burn the blue Yoda and all the rest of those things with fire. :D

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  2. I just discovered your blog, this was absolutely fucking hilarious. I'm super stoked on this project.

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    1. Thanks pal! Hope you enjoy the ride. It will probably never end.

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  3. For what it's worth, I saw Walter Jones at a panel last fall (along with David Yost) and he said that he basically invented Hip Hop Kido, though a middle aged white guy may have come up with the concept. :) They basically told him they wanted to mix martial arts with hip hop and he made it up from there. He made it sound like the fights, at least the unmorphed ones, weren't super planned out, they just kind of made it up as they went.

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  4. Catching up on the blog to where I am in the first season, plan to watch an episode and then read your take. Glad to see you are still doing these!

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  5. Just found your blog. I just got into MMPR via Netflix last night, watching this episode. I just watched episodes 2-3 tonight. Outside of maybe a handful of episodes throughout the years, I have never really watched this series, though I certainly was aware of its existence. Count me in as being along for the ride.

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  6. Aww, man. Now how am I supposed to make a blog where I review every Power Rangers episode WITHOUT coming off as someone stealing your idea? Well, your summaries are kinda long....And I was thinking of giving each episode an actual score based off plot quality and rewatchability, for lack of a better term......But still, though..........

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    1. A set of gimmick score categories could be a good draw! Just a couple of months before I learned of this blog, I was told that Chris Sims was writing Power Rangers reviews for Comics Alliance, and he rates episodes on five things he considers central to Power Rangers, along with reviewing most of the Super Sentai episodes that were adapted. But it seems the 2017 movie has made both of these reviewers take a long break, so maybe you can help fill the void!

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