Recommendation — Power Rangers

Original blog post here.

You may be wondering what a Greatest Living Author watches when he’s not writing. Well, how about all the proof you will ever need that Haim Saban is a genius?

And Haim Saban is indeed a genius.

You can get the long version on the Power Rangers episode of Netflix’s excellent documentary series The Toys that Made Us (which I would also recommend; it’s a heck of a nostalgia trip of you’re about my age).

Speaking of nostalgia:

The short version is this: thanks to buying the rights to a series of ridiculous Japanese transforming superhero shows, Haim Saban has gone from the bassist of an obscure Israeli rock band to the creator of a franchise that has been going steady for 30 years.

Also, dude’s worth nearly three billion (with a b) dollars.

A photo of Power Rangers creator Haim Saban.
Image via Wikimedia Commons,
from the US Department of State.
Public Domain according to Department policies.

Like I said, dude’s a genius. And Power Rangers is one of the smartest series that has ever existed on TV.

Well, no. Power Rangers is and always has been super dumb and kind of a hot mess where its storytelling is concerned. But from a production point of view, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Each new seasons of Powers Rangers has really only needed to film half a show’s worth of content. For the most part, any scene that involves the Rangers in costumes, the villains, or the Zords reuses the original footage from Super Sentai with the English actors’ voices dubbed in — the advantage of most of the characters either wearing helmets or being monsters whose mouths don’t move when they talk.

The only new footage, with a few exceptions, that needs to be filmed is when the Rangers are in their civilian clothes going about their daily lives.

This, combined with the fact that every transformation sequence, every Zord formation sequence, every decisive final blow via crazy special move, and more than a few of fight scenes just reuse the same stock footage over and over and over.

There’s a playlist of basically the entire Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Youtube. Watch a couple episodes and try to count how often you see the same footage being reused. (Spoiler alert: very)
There’s a playlist of basically the entire Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Youtube. Watch a couple episodes and try to count how often you see the same footage being reused. (Spoiler alert: very)

I think that the production has realised from the very beginning that they’re making a cheesy, low-budget adaptation of an original series that is itself pretty cheesy and low-budget and decided to deliberately lean into the inherent ridiculousness of the whole endeavour (“Recruit a team of teenagers with attitude”).

From the very beginning of the very first episode, the producers have recognised the futility of making Power Rangers something it’s not and fully embraced the thing that Power Rangers is, even though (and maybe precisely because) that thing is “ridiculously dumb, but also awesome.”

And, seriously, how uptight do you have to be not to enjoy 27 years of racially-diverse teams of transforming teenagers (with attitude) with themed superpowers (usually, that theme is some variation of “Dinosaurs”) and giant robots fight hammy, intergalactic supervillains with the help of a sentient lava lamp?

As a final aside, if I were an actor, Power Rangers villain would be my dream job, because you don’t have to act well so much as loud.

As a final aside to the final aside, the first season of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers featured several monsters voiced by none another than Best TV Actor in History Bryan Cranston, including one who was, and I quote, “half-snake and half-lizard.”

Yeah, the writing has never been one of the franchise’s strengths…

On the other hand, if the past 27 years have taught us nothing else, it’s that Haim Saban is. a. genius.

As of 2022, it’s been 30 years of Power Rangers, and the franchise is marking that as big deal. In fact, they’re doing a special that involves several of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cast returning.

That 30 years works out to about 28 seasons. The newest seasons air on Netflix and basically the entirety of the rest of the series is available on the Power Rangers Youtube channel.

There’s also the 2017 movie, which is a standalone work in its own continuity that’s kinda-sorta a reboot/retelling/reimagining of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Although it wasn’t financially successful enough to start a franchise of its own, it actually manages to be a pretty enjoyable watch. Although it does operate under 21st-century conventions of gritty realism, it does still have more than a few moments of classic Power Rangers goofy self-awareness.

Plus, a fairly positive portrayal of an autistic Blue Ranger. Which is always a plus for an autistic audience member.

Copyright 2022 J.B. Norman. Revised 2023.
Adapted from an original post written 2020.

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