Thursday 2 February 2012

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Mystic Force

Power Rangers Mystic Force is the 14th season in the Power Rangers franchise, adapted from the series Mahou Sentai Magiranger and following on from Power Rangers S.P.D. The season ran for 32 episodes during 2006.

Twenty years ago, a parallel dimension where magic flourishes was attacked by the forces of darkness. An army of the monsters, led by the powerful Morticon, swarmed the land with the intention of taking over the magical dimension and our own. The Mystics battled valiantly against overwhelming odds until they drove the evil back from the edge of the human world. The strongest wizard of all, Leanbow, cast a spell and sent the evil warriors into the Underworld, having the Gatekeeper seal the gates for all eternity. Or so they thought...

In present day, the city of Briarwood is struck by an earthquake which cracks the seal holding the darkness underground. The sorceress Udonna, seeks out the warriors of legend - five teens living in Briarwood, to become Power Rangers alongside her. When she loses her Mystic Force ranger powers the evil but honourable Koragg the Knight Wolf, it is up to Nick, Chip, Madison, Vida, and Xander to save the Earth on their own.

Eventually they are joined by legendary knight Daggeron (the Solaris Knight) and his genie cat Jenji. But who is the mysterious Koragg? And when connects him with both Udonna and Nick?

There is an excellent team dynamic in Mystic Force but I felt when viewed separately none of the characters have anything particularly outstanding to offer Nick takes a while to come into his own but is an archetype red ranger through and through. Xander initially started out as my favourite member of the team but his focus episodes only served to quash any like for him, and Chip got a few laughs from me but is very much the average member of the team. Sisters Vida (or V) and Madison (Maddie) are more or less the opposites of each other. V is rather tomboyish and makes for a slightly different take on the pink ranger (she hates the colour, but accepts it more as the show goes on) and Maddie, while more compassionate, is rather dull. As the series progresses the focus becomes heavier and heavier on Nick, and individual characterisation and the team element do suffer a little from it.

Mystic Force also has a huge range of side characters on offer, and that is both a good and bad thing. Along with Udonna there is also record store owner Toby, sorceress-in-training Clare, the comedic but wise troblin Phineas, and finally Necrolai's daughter Leelee. While all the characters do eventually play an important part in the story and come together nicely at the very end of the series, for the most part their main use is for comic relief. Toby's inclusion adds a nice bit of real-world element to the series but his scenes are completely unnecessary, and I spent the first few episodes of Leelee's introduction wondering who on Earth she was (not that she was Necrolai's daughter as that was a plot twist, more the fact she came out of nowhere). Clare starts off as the worst 'comic' character as them all but gradually builds something far better and Phineas feels like the Piggy-esque character of the show, but wholly good. Speaking of Piggy from S.P.D, he makes a nice little cameo in one of the episodes to make up for the lack of a team-up in the season.

There are a lot of villains on show in Mystic Force, and while the quality of them is far from lacking sadly there isn't really enough episodes to do them justice. Morticon doesn't really do anything at all and is swiftly replaced by Imperious, who is probably the best villain in the season and a great "hero turned true evil" character. Finally there are the Ten Terrors, who are the main antagonists for the final portion of the show. But with only 9 episodes left when they are introduced some of them do fall a little short in the characterisation department. Thankfully, Koragg the Knight Wolf proves to be an excellent villain all the way through. His code of honour and later revelation and redemption make him possibly the most notable character of the show, and his story culminates nicely in a battle between him and his good self, the Wolf Warrior.

Like its Sentai counterpart, the zords in Mystic Force are not robots, but transformed versions of the rangers themselves. The Mystic titans display in interesting variety in zord size, and come complete with two interesting and unique combinations (the Mystic Dragon and Titan Megazord). Solaris Knight's Solar Streak Megazord is more the usual fare for Power Rangers, but is still impressive. The second mecha (the Manticore megazord) is made up from the Mystic Firebird (formed by the red ranger) and the Mystic Lion (formed by the other four). Its transformation sequence is impressive, but it isn't really a patch on the Titan Megazord. Finally Koragg has his own megazord formation, which is also replicated by Nick on a few instances. Nick also does it with a unicorn zord, but that comes completely out of nowhere and is only used once.

Finally we come to the aesthetics of Mystic Force. The series is notable for being the only Power Rangers series (thus far) where the rangers have had capes, and the suits look good in both regular and the powered-up legend modes. Mystic Force also boasts one of the best battlizers in Power Rangers, created by combining the red ranger with Fire Heart the dragon. Not only is the battlizer very fitting with the Mystic Force aesthetic, but it's importance is something that's carried through the majority of the show rather than appearing as a power-up in a one-shot episode.

To begin with the series does lay the magic clich├ęs on a little heavy. Places have names like Briarwood and Rootcore (the rangers base of operations inside a tree) and there's everything from magic wands and brooms to goblins and medieval villages. It does seem like Disney tried a little too hard to say "THIS IS A MAGIC DIMENSION" but it does help display the stark difference between the two dimensions. It's a very difference aesthetic for Power Rangers (a LOT of woodland battles), but one I feel it ultimately benefits from.

As a huge fan of Magiranger I went into Mystic Force expecting the worst given its reputation, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes the series has some obvious flaws, is a bit short and tries too hard in some areas, but it's still particularly enjoyable and makes some very nice additions to the established Sentai plotline. While it may not be the best of the Disney seasons, it's far from the worst. From what I've seen, I'd consider Mystic Force the most underrated PR season and definitely deserves some love once in a while.


Tom Badguy said...

Just some feedback: You should add more screen shots in your reviews. Keep it up!

Alex said...

Thank you, I shall take note and be sure to include more next review!

Iara Yoshida said...

I remember that I liked Mystic Force and found the costumes and the concept of magic very interesting, but I also felt that the characters lacked development and the pacing was pretty tiring to watch.