Thursday, 10 March 2011

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Dino Thunder

Well it's time again for another category in my ever extending blog. This section will be devoted to all things TV bar anime (which as you know has its own section). That means Western cartoons and live action series from all over the globe (I say globe, I mean UK, America and Japan probably). While Doctor Who has had its own little section for the last few years (one I wish I did more with to be honest) it might get integrated into here eventually (the newer episodes especially). We'll see how I feel when the time comes.

Anyway, back to more interesting things.....


With Saban regaining the helm of the Power Rangers franchise with Power Rangers Samurai and Super Sentai celebrating its 35th anniversary with Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger this year, it would be an understatement to say that I've been bitten by the Rangers/Sentai bug once again. Having given up on Power Rangers following Power Rangers in Space and being completely new to the world of Super Sentai, I still have a lot to learn. Thus I decided it was time to take a trek through history and have a look at the things I've missed over the last few years. And Power Rangers Dino Thunder seemed the best way to ease myself back in, with a whole new story featuring a few familiar faces.

Adapted from the 27th Super Sentai series "Bakuryƫ Sentai Abaranger", the 12th season of Power Rangers sees the return of Tommy Oliver (played by Jason David Frank), the green and white rangers from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the red ranger from Zeo and half of Turbo. Now a Doctor, he has retired to the life of a school teacher at Reefside High following the destruction of his lab and the disappearance of his partner Anton Mercer. But when Mesagog, the creature that destroyed his lab returns and threatens to bring the world back to the age of the dinosaurs it is up to him to form a new team of rangers - soccer player/jock Connor McKnight (Red), computer geek Ethan James (Blue) and musician Kira Ford (Yellow). Along the way Tommy resumes his role as a ranger, gaining the power of the black ranger and the team face off against an evil white ranger, in the form of Anton Mercer's adopted son Trent Mercer.

With several parallels already being drawn between this and the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, this is the perfect series to bring older fans of the series back in. As the team discover the identity of their high school teacher, there is also an episode dedicated to the history of the Power Rangers (uncoincidently, this is actually the 500th episode of Power Rangers) which brings the viewer up to speed with the many iterations of Power Rangers. Other similarities include the presence of an evil Power Ranger (a role Tommy is all too familiar with) and Dino Thunder's own Bulk and Skull-esque characters in the form of wannabe journalists Cassidy and Devin.

The series is in the usual format of a Power Rangers episode - plot is layed out, monster appears, rangers beat it, monster grows, ranger(s) learn a valuable life lesson through battling the monster etc. but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Mesagog proves to be a relatively competent villain (with some great make-up might I add) and even the henchmen get some good character development as the series progresses. The rangers are made up of a very likable cast, and co-mentor to the rangers Hayley Ziktor has an excellent dynamic with them. The evil white ranger story arc is of excellent quality, and remains gripping even after several viewings. The personal highlight for me however was the episode "Fighting Spirit", in which a comatose Tommy has to battle his former ranger selves in order to stay alive. Pure nostalgia at its very best.

That being said, Dino Thunder certainly isn't without its flaws. My biggest problem definitely being the overuse of CGI. From the raptor riders to the zords, CGI is abundant in this series, and its not the good kind. While I understand that suits couldn't mimic the kind of agility the dinozords have, horrible CGI superimposed on top the the scene really detracts from the viewing experience. The worst case however is undoubtedly the Triassic Red Ranger battlizer suit which appears at the tail end of the series. The costume looks tacky and cheap on its own, but coupled with a far too long CGI transformation sequence and stretchy limbs (yes, really) of all things it really doesn't do it any favours. Speaking of the zords, Tommy's brachio zord is nothing more than a carrier for the rest of the dinozords, and plays almost no role in ANY of the series fight sequences. Very disappointing, given Tommy's status as a ranger. I understand that he's not the main star of the series, but still. The Power Rangers Ninja Storm crossover also felt a bit flat (and perhaps could have done with 3 parts rather than 2), but that might have more to do with the poor cast of Power Rangers Ninja Storm (especially the villain) rather than Dino Thunder itself. Finally, after excellent character development with Mesagog's henchmen Zeltrax and the revelation of his true identity, his sudden disappearance and reappearance followed by his fate is a little underwhelming.

Despite being one of Disney-era Power Rangers series (something some fans scorn upon) Dino Thunder is an excellent series that could easily hold its own against some of Saban's greats. I highly recommend this series to both newcomers and older fans alike. Newcomers will enjoy the fantastic and cast and may even be inspired to check out some of the older Power Rangers series, while older fans will feel right at home watching Tommy lead a new generation of rangers in the fight against evil.


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