With a new group of “teenagers with attitude” returning cinemas this weekend, it seems appropriate to revisit the first cinematic outing for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The 1995 film aptly titled Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, is both a standalone story, as well as fitting in with the TV show that was airing at the same time. The cast is the same, and the movie served to change the status quo of the series, as elements introduced in the movie, we adopted the following season. I was a huge Power Rangers fan as a kid, as I am sure most kids under 10 were, because it combined kid friendly action elements, with karate, and giant robot fighting. Needless to say when the movie came out I was overjoyed, and remember checking out the film in theaters. With the new adaptation of the Power Rangers hitting theaters tonight, I went back and re-watched the original film, which to no surprise, does not hold up at all.
Now to get this out of the way, the movie is bad, laughably so, but it still has a sense of fun that made watching it still enjoyable. Watching it again with adult eyes, it is clear this was a cash in, they took the series at the height of its popularity, and sought to expand its reach, a smart enough venture, though the movie from the small to the big screen was not without its problems. The major thing that stick out when I was watching it was how much the elements that Power Rangers the show borrowed from the Japanese show, were missed. The TV show at this point in time was still repurposing footage from a Japanese show, while the movie was the first time that none of that footage was used. It makes sense that given the change from TV to Film, meant that all new footage needed to be shot, and while it looks better than the TV counterpart, there is something lost from what made the show so popular. The costumes all look fine, though there is a weird shine to them, as they are more of an armor, without actually being an armor the way the suits in the new film look. The film also had to recreate costumes for the shows main villains, with the character Lord Zedd looking especially out of place, despite always being an original American creation.
The biggest new addition to the film is the main baddie, Ivan Ooze, a ridiculous looking character clad in purple from head to toe. His look does fit within the Power Rangers universe, but his characterization sticks out. While Rita and Zedd typically struggle to walk the fine line between menacing believable villain, and slapstick buffoons, Ooze hams it up from the moment he hatches from his giant egg. The persona feels like that of an old Catskills comedian doing a bit, rather than a villain in an action movie. Watching it as a kid you think it’s just goofy, and since you are just hoping he loses so it doesn’t matter, but watching as an adult now, it’s painful. Every moment he is on screen is a chore to get through, and it isn’t helped by the fact that he doesn’t really have a plan. The plot of the movie boils down to, destroy the command center, hypnotize the parents to dig for robot monsters, make fools of the established villains, and lose embarrassingly to the Rangers. There is also an overlong segment where Ooze becomes a television pitchman for his ooze that turns parents into zombies, an odd choice given he has been buried for 6,000 years, and would have no concept of television or how to get on it. The whole thing is a giant mess, and the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as bad with a halfway decent villain.
The Rangers from the show reprise their roles, and all are the same level of actor that they are on TV, which ranges from ok, to not very good. It doesn’t help that most of their dialogue is cheesier than ever before, but they do the best they can. It also hurts that most of this film is spent with them as regular people, since they do not have the power to morph throughout most of it. The journey they take to get new powers is fine, though it would have been better had they found that power a little quicker. The new “Ninjetti” powers they receive provide for some cool costume changes though, and the moments of them fighting after they receive, is enjoyable.
Despite all of the silly moments, characters, and acting, the worst element of this film is the CGI. 1995 was not a high-water mark for even film CGI, so the choice to make the new zord animals, as well as the megazord is puzzling, and the effects are truly awful. The individual zords, and the megazord are all unconvincingly CGI, and have a weird shiny layer to them, which sticks out way too much. None of it looks like it belongs in the world, and the movement is clunky, which ruins the final action sequences.The show always looked like it was employing a stop motion, with models and miniatures, so even though those effects are not always the greatest, they work much better than what this movie comes up with. It would be interesting to see what these scenes would look like if the CG was updated, because the actual design of the new zords, are actually cool, but alas I don’t think we are getting an updated re-release.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie is a really bad movie, but it’s one of those movies that if you saw it as a kid, still holds that connection to those characters, which makes it ok. I thankfully can still enjoy movies even when they are bad, while still recognizing what a train wreck it is. I feel like that is where the new film will fall for me, and while it doesn’t have the same actors as the classic show, if the story and characters are close enough to the original it should be dumb fun. I’ll be checking out the film this weekend, and will have a review up once I do, but I think I know what to expect, and if it hits that somewhat low bar, I will be totally fine with that. If the film does well enough to warrant a sequel, look for my Throwback Thursday on Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, which if I recall, is much, much worse than Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.