Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 28: Island of Illusion Part 1


Sleepy Demon Head Breathes On Monster
Self Confidence Shaken By Snake







Let's wash our palette of last week's episode guys. Wheel of Misfortune was pretty shitty, but I can promise you today won't be that bad. Not from any prior knowledge of this episode, just the fact that we open with a scene of Zack dancing, which we've been getting tragically little of lately. Granted if I had my druthers every plot would be about Zack dancing while Billy gets turned down for a date.

But Zack isn't just dancing to get a bunch of 90's babes swooning for him, there's a big dance contest this weekend! Zack's moves are impressing Kim and Jason, because they're white and assume any non karate form of movement is wizardry. Bulk however, isn't impressed with Zack's dancing prowess, mostly because it isn't edible. The porcine bully tells Zack he's going to fuck up, and Zack accidentally spin kicks near Kimberly. She spills her milkshake all over Bulk having mistaken him for the nearest trash can.

As soon as this happens, Zack starts getting really bummed out and saying he has no chance to win. Lest we forget this is all because Bulk made a quick joke at his expense. Now Zack has dropped all pretense of his own ability and no longer believes in himself. This turn so quickly doesn't work for Zack because the guy is nothing but confident in himself. They probably should have burned this one a little slower instead of giving Bulk a milkshake facial and having Zack give up hope in life.

Rita's decided now that Zack's got a case of the Monday's, it's the perfect opportunity to bring in the heavy artillery. Rita's using the same crystal ball and altar that she used to turn Tommy into the Green Ranger, so you can tell whatever she has planned today isn't your everyday scheme. Or they ran out of props. She namedrops two new soldiers in her army of evil, Mutitis and Lokar. Oh no! Not Lokar!

The Diet Zorak

While Rita preps for the apocalypse, Tommy helps two kids learn how to do karate. Why two kids? Because they couldn't afford to hire more kid actors. Since this is a show for 3 year olds Tommy informs them that karate is used to put you in charge of the situation so that nobody gets hurt. It's sweet to tell kids that, but it rings hollow in a show where the second half of each episode uses violent karate to sell plastic dinosaurs.

Zack calls out Bulk on his shit and stages an impromptu dance-off between the two of them. They dance in front of four enormous Greek pillars that have never once been inside the Youth Center. Zack does well and Bulk humiliates the entire human race by doing some of the best shitty dancing I've seen in a long time. It ends exactly how you'd expect it to.

Bulk dancing gif
Let me make a promise here and now. If there's an episode with Bulk dancing, you will get a gif out of it.

Everyone laughs at the emasculated bully while Zack continues to feel unsure of his dancing prowess. Why though? Sure it's not much of an accomplishment to beat Bulk at anything outside of an "Ashamed Parents Contest", but it's not like Zack did a shitty job. He just thinks that Bulk's still right and he has no reason to feel confident in himself. If Zack was dancing against some out of state dance champions or there were some kind of stakes built up then maybe we could relate to his panic. Instead Zack just feels like he can't win a dance competition in a town full of awkward whitebread nerds.

I'm at a crossroads with this episode though, because the moral is very blatantly stated by Trini through Billy. Billy uses a bunch of thesaurus-y words to say Zack is lacking in confidence and doesn't believe in himself. Obviously this show hammers that point in clear as day, but it almost makes a good point about believing in yourself by putting those doubts in someone with talent.

Zack is clearly good at what he does, but is hit with doubt for whatever reason. Maybe this is supposed to tell kids that what they're doing will be good enough and not to give up. Or it's a clumsy shitty script that got a mandated "important lesson" to teach kids about that got shoehorned in. Draw your own conclusions. 

No matter what you think about Zack's confidence issue, Rita is happy as a kitten under a leaky cow about it. Apparently people who are lacking in self-esteem are much more susceptible to Lokar's evil magic, which sends people to the titular Island of Illusion. Baboo informs us of how lethal Lokar is and that he nearly wiped out the entire Moon Crew the last time Rita summoned him. Squatt begs for Rita to reconsider, and she responds as anyone else would.

Squatt GIF
When this creature is telling you things might be a bad idea, maybe you've gone too far.

While I like to make fun of Rita's schemes, there's something that really gives this one weight. It isn't just her crew looking nervous and talking about how scary Lokar is, it's a single look of panic on Rita's face as she's casting the spell. It shows how unsure she is this plan is going to work and it sets the bar real high for these new monsters she's got planned.

The look I have before posting every blog entry.

Lightning strikes and earthquakes shake the ground down at the Youth Center, all caused by Rita's summoning spell. Kim loudly shouts that it has to be Rita, and not any of that bullshit global warming garbage the vice president's been on about. Jason takes the other Ranger Teens sans Zack over to a corner of the Juice Bar to call Zordon. Their mentor tells them some bad shit's going down and they better get the fuck out of dodge before they fall into a sinkhole.

As the Rangers leave to find Zack, Tommy notices his two karate students hiding underneath a table shouting for help. Tommy tells his team he can't leave the students unattended, since they don't have parents or anyone that loves them, so he tells them he'll catch up later.

The rest of the Rangers run into Zack at the park where all that storming and quaking has apparently been completely ignored. Zack's just been off practicing and mentions none of the hell that's been breaking loose due to Rita's spells. Probably because it would have cost money to superimpose lightning on the screen while a grip holds a hose above the actors.

The Rangers are soon swarmed by a group of Putties to distract them from the fact Rita's making their planet go to shit. The Ranger Teens beat the bejesus out of the Putties, as often is the case. Even Zack, who's going through crippling self doubt, demolishes the Putties with no trouble whatsoever. Why not write a scene of him missing a kick and looking guilty? Did that not go through anybody's mind? Why are the Putty scenes always excluded from the mad-libs that these scripts are?

Goldar and Scorpina show up so the Ranger Teens morph to avoid getting killed by a dog man and his Japanese wife. The Rangers fight Rita's duo for a whole 4 seconds before we cut back to Rita doing more of her spells. Thanks for that precursor to a fight guys, almost got engaged! Rita's spells finally work and she brings forth her newest monster, Mutitis. Squatt is the one who says it best though, "Wow he's ugly!"

Why does that weapon look familiar...

Since Rita's already summoned a giant monster, the Rangers know they have to call in the Zords if they want to stand a chance against this ugly fuck. They form the Megazord and do battle with Mutitis. Immediately the monster starts chucking its mace ball at the Megazord and we get a pretty choppy fight between Mutitis and the Megazord before we cut to Rita in her palace. The evil empress then looks off camera and says "Finster, I made my own monster. And it's winning."

You are an ice cold bitch Rita. Finster works tirelessly for you and this is the thanks you give him? You can take that ugly ass Mutitis and throw it in the trash can Kim spilled her milkshake in. How dare you.

Rita, not satisfied with hurting her most loyal servant's feelings, teleports down to Earth to give the Rangers a little smack talking as well. She says Mutitis is a total pussy compared to the real monster she's got in store for them next. Rita then chants one final spell to summon forth Lokar. The skies go dark, lightning strikes the Earth, and a massive fireball erupts to bring forth the ultimate evil.

Lokar gif
He just woke up

Yeah that's Lokar. A giant floating head with spiky hair. That's the thing Rita's been building up so much. It's goofy as fuck but really, what else are you watching this show for? It's crazy dumb fun and let's be honest, was that what you were expecting when you were told Rita was releasing her ultimate evil? It's one of those things that's so goddamn crazy and ridiculous that it wraps back around to being beautiful.

Tommy gets a call from Zordon who informs him, "No really you're a superhero, get in the fucking fight you idiot." Tommy hesitates because if he leaves the Youth Center now two kids might be scared! Zordon finally drops the bomb that a giant head is fighting the Rangers, and Tommy realizes shit's getting too real for him not to battle. Tommy tells Ernie to watch the kids while he's off doing nothing in particular, and that's the end of that. We'll never see these kids again. Hope they enjoy the rest of their lives in Ernie's slave labor camp.

Rita commands Lokar to use his "breath of doom" on Mutitis to make him even more horrible. What monster are you looking at Rita? That thing can't get any fucking uglier. Lokar spews a bunch of white smoke and Mutitis immediately turns into a new form. We don't get a name on him, but in the script they called him Fang-Gor. So let's do the sensible thing and just call him Mutitis. That name is fucking horrible.

Mutitis
Just noticed you can see the original face split in half behind his neck. That's fucking rad.

Lokar cackles at the Power Rangers while the new Mutitis completely shithouses the Megazord. They already didn't stand a chance when he was in his first form, so clearly they aren't doing so hot this go-round. It's pretty fantastic to see them in such danger. It makes all of Rita's spellcasting mean a lot more knowing what she summoned was as dangerous as this.

Just when the Rangers think they're totally fucked, we hear the comforting tune of the Dragon Dagger playing. Tommy's finally gotten off his lazy ass and shown up to summon the Dragonzord for backup against Mutitis. This leads to the most satisfying zoom in of all time. When Rita Repulsa has had just about enough of these fucking kids.

Rita Repulsa gif
SOMEONE TALKIN SHIT?

It's perfect. There's no cackling about how she's going to win. No spell casting. Just her mean mugging the Dragonzord and Tommy. It's everything I want for Christmas and more.

Dragonzord manages to knock Mutitis back with the Dragonzord's drill tail and the two zords try to take him down, but he manages to keep the upper hand against the Dinozords. He blasts them with energy from his chest and spews foam from his mouth that starts short circuiting the Zords. Meanwhile, Lokar...laughs. That's all he does. What the fuck has Lokar done but upgrade your monster Rita? For the ultimate master of evil you built this guy up as he just seems like a gigglepuss.

The Zords short out and topple over, while all of the Rangers are sent to the Island of Illusion. Rita commanded Lokar to do it, so it's good to see he had time to do something other than laugh and breathe on monsters. Alpha tells Zordon everyone's in danger and they're off his radar now, but Zordon says to chill the fuck out because if the Rangers can believe in themselves they'll be fine. He then makes a mental note to begin looking for a new Blue Ranger. 

The Rangers have been demorphed and teleported onto Rita's Island of Illusion. It doesn't look too mystical or dangerous, because that would have cost money. The real danger of the island is that their Communicators and Power Morphers have been taken away from them. With no idea where their gear is, the Rangers begin to wander around the island to find it.

While Zack informs his friends the situation is "not cash." Speaking of not having cash, we cut to a beautiful stock footage shot of a Gila monster while the Rangers are walking around. It's supposed to make you think the island is dangerous, but it makes me wonder why Rita sent them into a nature documentary.

Now's when you're going to think I'm making shit up, but hand to God this is what happens. While the Ranger Teens are wandering, we see shots of a dwarf dressed in a Robin Hood getup watching them. They start to hear a fucked up noise and follow it to find the dwarf playing a flute inside of the bushes. He goes on the defensive when the Rangers start to talk to him and mention Rita's name.

It's the REAL Rumpelstiltskin!

His name is Quagmire, and every single thing he says is in rhyme. Since he only has two lines it's not that obnoxious, but it's also baffling because what the fuck is a dwarf playing a flute doing on an Island of Illusions? If this is Rita's island why does she have someone living there who hates her? Did she kill all of his friends? Is he trapped there? Doesn't matter. He's just a guy chilling on her island playing a flute. Don't worry about it.

He disappears in a puff of smoke because who gives a shit, and Kim asks what the fuck his problem was. Suddenly a giant vision of Goldar's head appears in the sky and tells the Rangers they're going to lose more than their Power Coins now that they're on Rita's turf.  All of a sudden we see some old friends pop in to play.

Power Rangers Monsters
Literally all 5 of them look ready to fall over.

Eye Guy, Shellshock, Pineoctopus, Snizard, and Pudgy Pig all show up and the Rangers are terrified. Maybe they saw something behind Pudgy Pig that was scary, not quite sure. Jason screams out that the Monsters are charging, or more accurately stumbling forward. The Ranger Teens strike a pose to fight the Monsters but just before they attack, all five vanish. Thanks for the childhood blue balls Power Rangers. A fight with five old monsters and the unmorphed Rangers? It's all I ever wanted and you took it away from me.

Goldar's giant head shows up again to tell them here on this island nothing is real except the danger. Yeah, those fake monsters were real dangerous alright you asshole. Thanks for nothing Goldy. Zack starts freaking out and running off to get away, when all of a sudden he spies a massive anaconda. His friends come up and we see from their perspective it's not really there. They try to tell Zack his anaconda don't want none unless you got buns hun. Instead of listening though he just keeps screaming.

As Zack freaks out, his body starts to disappear through the use of shitty 90's effects. The rest of the Ranger Teens look on in terror as their friend is vanishing before their very eyes. Goldar tells them that their loss in self confidence will make them disappear forever. Consider those stakes raised boys and girls. Hope they have Dance Contests in Hell Zack!



To Be Continued



Your Weekly 90's Nostalgia: Self Esteem


Personal Thoughts

Coming off of last week I was worried I wouldn't enjoy this episode at all, but I was completely wrong. This is a really fun episode by my standards and it does a pretty good job of making a relatively nothing monster like Mutitis threatening. It's mitigated by all of Rita's spellcasting hyping up Lokar as a massive threat worth being afraid of.

Unfortunately they cut out a lot of scenes from the Japanese Mutitis fight for no discernible reason, so the monster ends up looking unimpressive.  They also cut a pretty great shot of the Megazord throwing the Power Sword at Lokar, but it gets blasted out of the sky by his eyebeams. Strangely, both the things I mentioned here were in the script and were cut from the episode likely for time reasons. Guess that Gila Monster stock footage was more important.

Another cool thing about this episode is that it focuses on Zack. None of the fight footage dictated it being focused on Zack, so it's pretty cool that the writers are trying to explore what they can do more of when the footage isn't holding them to a specific Ranger. It's one of the fun things to watch for in Power Rangers. How the civilian U.S. plots compare to the Sentai plot that's getting laid down as a framework. It gets even more fun when they try to deviate from the Sentai, but that's going to take some more time.

I have to give them credit on Tommy's excuse for not going into the fight. It's not a great one, but so far they've managed to have almost entirely unique reasons for Tommy not showing up to fights. The first two times he didn't show up because he was training, but then it was him fixing Kim's float, getting attacked by Putties, getting tied up by Putties, and now having to keep an eye on his students. They're changing things up just enough that it doesn't really bother me that Tommy has to sit so many fights out.

Now's where we get to have some fun. The monsters. Remember all the blathering I did about Frankenstein not being done yet?  Well that's because our good buddy Frankie and Mutitis are in fact one and the same. At least in the Japanese version. In the Sentai, after Frankenstein takes the finishing blow from the Dragonzord in Battle Mode, he doesn't explode. Instead, this happens.

Zombies don't wear clothes. Sorry Frankie.

This is why he's holding the bolt/mace weapon Frankenstein had previously. That's also why Rita summoning Mutitis alongside Lokar is such a second thought kind of thing. Originally her summoning was only for Lokar. Mutitis was a diversion to keep the Rangers busy while she did it.

Did Power Rangers make the right call splitting up the Frankenstein stuff and Mutitis stuff? Would it have made a big difference to kids if Rita teleported Frankenstein away after becoming Mutitis? Who knows. I'm mostly just bummed we didn't get to see him transform because it's pretty cool.

Oh man though, that's not even the best transformation. That honor goes to what Lokar mutating Mutitis in the Sentai version. Power Rangers cut around it so that Lokar's breath just made him immediately exist as a new monster. However things got a little more extreme in the Japanese version. I'll let you compare the two.

U.S.

Mutitis transformation gif
Japan

Interesting to note that, again, Mutitis having a new monster inside of him was in the script initially. It's possible that they just figured Standards and Practices weren't going to go for it, and parents were going to complain about a monster's face ripping itself in half. Thank goodness parents never got around to complaining about Power Rangers!

Finally, the old monsters. I mentioned that we hadn't seen the last of them, and here we are. Of the five of them, Eye Guy is the only one who hadn't already shown up in US exclusive footage, but seeing them all together was so cool as a kid.

This would be a well that Power Rangers would return to rather frequently. Using old monster costumes they had on hand to make up a group of monsters for the Rangers to face. It's fun to see old monsters come back, and even more fun to see which ones the US team had that they could use. We'll never see Pineoctopus or Shellshock again, so for fans of them I apologize sincerely. I hope your day will still be as bright without them in your life.



4 comments:

  1. I had forgotten about Mutitis when I watched Zyuranger, and I immediately had the thought they might not be able to use the second and third forms on US tv. I think it'd scare my 4 year old.

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    1. You kidding me? I don't think I'm old enough to see it.

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  2. I'll be honest: Lokar genuinely gave me nightmares when I was a kid. And he's still residually creepy now, despite his complete impotence.

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  3. Ernie's reaction regarding looking after the kids comes across as "I don't give a shit." It's no wonder that we never see the kids again. Ernie let them die.

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