Saturday 19 March 2011

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers RPM

The second instalment to the TV series section is another from Power Rangers - this time Power Rangers RPM, the 17th season in the franchise and adapted from the 32nd Super Sentai series Engine Sentai Go-Onger. While I have never watched Go-Onger myself, I know that it is a relatively light-hearted series, with a fair amount of slapstick and sentient anime-style mecha. Power Rangers RPM on the other hand does a complete u-turn and takes a very different approach to things.

In the near off future, a sentient computer virus known as Ventrix has taken over the Earth, controlling all computer systems and creating an army of robots to destroy humanity. The last remnants of the human race have been forced back into the domed city of Corinth, their last safe haven. While the force field protects them, Ventrix's forces are still able to break into the dome and cause havok. Led by their mentor Doctor K, Corinth's only hope is the Power Rangers. Making up the team are Scott Truman - the red ranger and son to the leader of Corinth's defence forces, Flynn McAllister - blue ranger, mechanic and ,uh, the Scottish one. Finally there's Summer Landsdown - yellow ranger and former wealthy heiress. While these are initially the only 3 rangers they are soon joined by green ranger Ziggy Grover and black ranger Dillon - a man with cybernetic implants and completely unaware of his past. Mid-series gold and silver rangers are also added to the roster, their identities Gem and Gemma - raised to be test pilots of the ranger technology.

On paper it sounds a lot like Terminator-lite, and in execution that description fits it perfectly too. The series opens with barren wastelands where all has been destroyed, fitting the overall tone of the series, which is much darker than any Power Rangers series that has preceded it. If it wasn't for the colourful spandex (or NOT SPANDEX as Dr K would tell you), zords and silly monster costumes it wouldn't be hard to believe this was some sort of post apocalyptic science fiction show. The characters are both interesting and engaging - having never met before becoming rangers and therefore each getting their own backstory episode(s) (except Dillon's, whose true origins run throughout the series). Scientific jargon is aplenty (such as the biofield, the source of power that the rangers tap into) and RPM tackles issues such as human experimentation and cybernetics in a way that could rival even the most adult science fiction.

Despite the obvious difference in tone between RPM and Go-Onger, RPM manages to explain some of the more comedic elements present in both (such as the anime-styled zords) with scientific eccentricities. The humour present is also very much a parody of itself, with Ziggy at one point even questioning why 'five foot fireball explosions' occur every time they morph. The zords themselves are very interesting, with a larger array of smaller zords (12 in total) able to make multiple megazords (each consisting of 3 zords). The zords are also capable of forming larger megazords and ultimately the RPM Ultrazord - made up of all 12. While the end result comes off as a bit cluttered, the idea is excellent and the size advantage it proves to have over giant monsters is both staggering and amusing.

There are a few flaws with the series though. The first of these being Gem and Gemma's initial hyperactive moments, which can be both annoying and frustrating at times. This is rectified however by the two receiving a decent amount of growth and development both individually and later together. Secondly, and I admit this is much more of a personal gripe, is the decision to put Ventrix into bodies as the series progressed. I understand the need for it, giving him far more flexibility as a character and making him actually be able to face the rangers, but the bodies he possess only serve to make the character far less imposing. He looks much better in his computer tower, with his red eye gleaming as if he were the bastard child of Skynet and HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Overall these are complaints are very minor when compared to the series as a whole, which doesn't stop being addictive from start to finish (and at only 32 episodes, its also one of the shortest Power Rangers series).

It might have been a gamble to make Power Rangers this dark, but I feel it was one that certainly paid off. Power Rangers RPM is without a doubt one of, if not the best Power Rangers series ever made and has quickly become one of my firm favourites. The stark difference in tone helps this stand out from the rest of the franchise and makes Power Ranger RPM not only a fantastic series, but also could be considered a stepping stone for children between lighter children's shows and more adult/teenage science fiction drama. The Disney years might have been hit and miss for Power Rangers, but it undoubtedly went out with a bang.

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