Thursday, 8 December 2011

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Ninja Storm


Power Rangers Ninja Storm is the 11th season of the Power Rangers franchise, the second to be made under Disney copyright and the first to be filmed in New Zealand. While Ninja Storm is considered by many to be a parody of sorts, lovingly poking fun at both Power Rangers and ninja tropes alike, its also a series that meets mixed response.

Shane, Tori and Dustin are students at the Wind Ninja Academy. One day, the academy was attacked by Lothor, a banished ninja master who has returned to take over. Shane, Tori and Dustin are the only three remaining students, and along with Sensei and his son Cam, retreat into the underground Ninja Ops. There, the three are given morphers, which allow them to transform into Wind Rangers to protect the city of Blue Bay Harbor from Lothor's forces. Lothor soon raises the stakes by sending his new allies to battle the Wind Rangers - the Thunder Rangers Blake and Hunter, who are on a mission to destroy the Wind Rangers' Sensei, who they believed to be responsible for their parent's death, when in reality it was Lothor responsible for the deed. The Thunder Rangers soon realise and join Wind Rangers in the battle against evil.

They are later joined in the field by Cam, who travels in the past to retrieve the Samurai Amulet, which he uses to become the Green Samurai Ranger.

The initial three rangers are fairly bland - none of them are awful (although some of the acting did make me think otherwise at certain points) but at the same time none of them stand out in any shape or form. Blake and Hunter's introduction as "evil" power rangers was promising, but the story arc concluded far too soon to have any lasting impact. Once they join the team, they join the other three in their blandness, all five of them walking stereotypes of extreme sports fans. Cam, who is by far and large the best character in the show, initially plays a very integral role as the rangers' tech expert yet somewhat bitter at the fact that he's not a ranger himself. This development goes somewhat out the window when he eventually becomes a ranger himself, falling into the background moreso than before and becoming as forgettable as the rest of them. Sensei Watanabe isn't a bad character from a mentor standpoint in a vocal sense, but visually he's a CGI guinea pig, and a bad one at that. The idea became more bearable as the series went on I'll admit, but sights like a CGI guinea pig fighting or riding a miniature halfpipe (yes, seriously) are a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

While I had no qualms with the overall suit aesthetic, the open visor looked did bug me a little. It seemed heavily overused (they were opening the helmets to talk mid-battle at points) and reminded me far too much of those awful concept helmets for the Power Rangers movie. The thunder ranger suits were probably my favourites of the six, but with PR's tendency to always name rangers after colours, I didn't think crimson and (even moreso) navy ranger were the most exciting of names.

The villains are just as bad, if not worse. Lothor does little to live up to his reputation of an all-powerful space ninja, instead lazily sitting around his spaceship making bad jokes and blaming his failures on his equally inept subordinates. Zergane's badassery is extremely shortlived (and by that I mean the last two episodes he's in) and if anything I thought Choobo was the sympathetic character of the series, being the one to bare the brunt of most of Lothor's wrath at the beginning of the show when he achieved more than anyone else did. The other generals who are introduced later in the series (Vexacus, Motodrone and Shimazu) have their own focus episodes initially, but then they sort of slink off into the background until the build up to the final two episodes. And the less said about Marah and Kapri the better - I thought the series was going to be going somewhere when they were revealed as being somewhat competent (which happened right at the end ANYWAY), but that turned out to be false hope.

The story itself feels more generic than other Power Rangers shows, as the plot doesn't really advance whatsoever until the final few episodes. The rangers seem to completely forget about trying to save the captured ninja students, not even mentioning them until a dues ex machina from an early episode is brought up once again. Lothor's attacks don't seem threatening whatsoever (at one point he attacks an environmental conference just because he wasn't invited) and his 36 episode span of bumbling is basically explained by showing that he was following a scroll that accurately depicted events up to that point.

The zords were one of the few positives of the show, but even they weren't free of some flaws. The Storm Megazord was a good combination of animals and was well designed, I even liked the way the zords would appear once they were summoned (although a roller coaster becoming a lion was pretty bizarre). The Thunder Megazord was even better, being made up of two vehicles that felt HIGHLY reminiscent of the assault vehicles from Juuko B-Fighter/Big Bad Beetleborgs (a lot about the Thunder Rangers reminded me of Beetleborgs) and the megazord being a completely different aesthetic from the Storm Megazord, yet still working in the series. The combined Thunderstorm Megazord mixed the two well, but I have to criticise whoever came up with the lackluster name of 'minizord', and also whoever thought that voice was a good idea. Cam's Samurai Star Chopper/Samurai Star Megazord reminded me of an earlier mecha too, only this time it was the Super Zeo zords from Power Rangers Zeo. Its combination with the Storm Megazord was awful, being nothing more than a ridiculously oversized arm, but the shoulder-gun combo with the Thunder looked great. Put the the three together and the end result was the best of all, the Hurricane Megazord took all the best aspects of the three megazords and slammed them together into one great looking robot.

Finally there was the 'Mighty Mammoth' zord, which I'm not really sure how I reacted too. Its purpose was simply a zord carrier that could also fire ninja spheres like a crazy reverse hungry hungry hippo. It was also controlled via a guitar, which put an 'interesting' spin on zords controlled via music I guess. It didn't look bad, but felt more like a novelty than anything else.

The thing about parodies is that they need to be funny to work properly, and Ninja Storm simply isn't. Even ignoring the humour issue, aside from Cam the protagonists aren't likeable, and the antagonists worse. The dialogue feels forced, the soundtrack is often unfitting and there's never any real feel of struggle of good vs. evil until the last episode - and even that is pretty anticlimactic. I usually try to find atleast SOME good in a show, but Ninja Storm made it pretty difficult for me since everything I liked about the show had already been handed to them from Hurricaneger. Your mileage may vary when it comes to parodies, but in my opinion this is one Power Rangers adaptation that's best left alone.



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