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Review: 'Power Rangers' provides a great generational bridge

Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 4:23 PM Central

by John Couture

Did you know that Disney nearly ran the Power Rangers franchise into the ground in during the early 2000s? Did you even know that Disney once controlled the spandex clad, kung fu fighting kitsch that has come to embody everything that was right and wrong about the 1990s?

No, you probably didn't. And no, this isn't a cautionary tale given the fact that Disney now controls arguably the three most successful franchises on the planet (Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars), but rather a tale of enduring legacy and trial by fire that ends well for both the movie studio and perhaps the most overexposed entertainment franchise in the world.

When I say the words Power Rangers, I'm sure you can conjure up something in your head. Most likely, you'll remember their tacky color-coordinated outfits and miserably bad "kung fu." And yet, they continue to live on as one of the most successful brands in entertainment to this day.

This fact was made glaringly clear to me recently when my daughter started to take a liking to them. And when I say liking, I really mean obsession, because she watches them non-stop and is already planning her Power Rangers-themed birthday party in December.

Much like Barney (thank God) and The Teletubbies (really, thank God), I was born too soon to really enjoy the golden years of the Power Rangers. When they debuted in 1993, I was graduating high school and getting ready for my freshman year at college. I wasn't exactly their target demographic. Or maybe I was because I remember laughing along with the show plenty during my college years.

Of course, I was laughing at a lot of things for oh so many reasons, the fact that goofy kung fu-fighting, spandex-wearing teens were on TV was just but one.

Like many other things, once I graduated college, I never looked back, but I sort of knew that the Power Rangers went on to explode in popularity and for many, they came to epitomize the 1990s. There were movies and many different seasons and various teenagers recruited to save the Earth from the next nefarious threat.

The Pink Power Ranger (Amy Jo Johnson) was my favorite, but eventually, even she left the group. As my attention diverted to other things, I had forgotten about them until last year, when an awesome Power Rangers video went viral. The cool thing about the video was that the tone was much darker than anything ever associated with the franchise before.

Naturally, it was fan-created, but I think the video's success demonstrates that there is a market out there for a more mature take on the themes tackled by the show. As the audience that grew up on the show has gotten older, we are now open to a grittier take on our favorite characters.

So, that little video put it back on the radar and not surprisingly, Lionsgate and Saban Films are busy putting together a new Power Rangers film starring Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston. The new film is set for release on March 24, 2017, and while it will most likely be more reality-based than the TV series, I doubt we will see a shift in tone as drastic as the video from last year.

When my daughter started watching them earlier this year, I paid more attention than I would have normally and I found myself enjoying the newer incarnations of the Power Rangers. So, when I had the opportunity to watch and review Power Rangers Megaforce: The Complete Season and Power Rangers Super Megaforce: The Complete Season, I took it as an opportunity to bond with my daughter over cheesy kung fu. And bond we did.

If there's one thing that four-year-olds are wired for, it's binge watching TV. She can sit for hours and watch the same thing over and over again, so the opportunity to watch two complete seasons of Power Rangers was something that she quickly agreed to. You see, the problem with having your DVR record a handful of episodes of a show and then watching them piecemeal is that you are never able to develop much of a flow to the story. But the Power Rangers are meant to be watched in order.

Each season has an over-riding arc broken into four or five mini-chapters. The unique thing about Power Rangers Megaforce and Power Rangers Super Megaforce is that it's really one long story broken over down over two seasons. It's also the perfect series of episodes to catch up on the franchise if you haven't seen any of them since the mid-1990s.

Particularly, Power Rangers Super Megaforce is almost a tribute to all of the Power Rangers that came before the current group as they must unlock the powers of those earlier Rangers to defeat the big baddie (the Warstar Empire). You really don't appreciate the history of the Power Rangers until you see them all (or rather other actors pretending to be them) on the screen fighting together. That's precisely what you get in Power Rangers Super Megaforce and it's a moment that allowed my daughter and I bond over a generation of Power Rangers.

Each season contains a bonus featurette that looks back at the legacy of the Power Rangers. My daughter was a bit too young to appreciate it, but it will hit home with the older set of fans. It's a great primer on the franchise and will help to get you caught up if, like me, you haven't been following them as regularly lately.

Power Rangers Megaforce: The Complete Season and Power Rangers Super Megaforce: The Complete Season are both now available on DVD and will provide you with a nice weekend of nostalgia. If you have young kids that are into the series like I do, then it is truly a great way to bond with them over incredibly cheesy, but fun, kung fu.