Wednesday 4 December 2013

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Megaforce

The Megaforce Rangers

Can you believe it's been 20 years since Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first aired and took over the world? Well time flies and it has indeed been that long, and with the franchise now back in Saban's hands this anniversary was certainly not going to go uncelebrated. Power Rangers Megaforce was teased as one of the most expensive and action-packed series' to date, combining two different Super Sentai series into one show for the first time since the original did back in 1994. But after the lackluster return that was Power Rangers Samurai, long-time fans were already approaching Megaforce with some skepticism. Is this the anniversary series Power Rangers deserves?

Usually I would wait until the full 40 episode run is completed to give my thoughts on the show (like I did with both Samurai and Super Samurai), but with Super Megaforce adapting a whole new show it seemed appropriate to separate them and review them on their own merits. Power Rangers Megaforce is an adaptation of Tensou Sentai Goseiger, reducing the 50 episode series into a mere 20-episode run.

Gia, Noah, Troy, Jake and Emma ready to morph
"It's Morphin' Time!"

When an evil race of insect-like aliens named the Warstar arrive on Earth with plans of conquest, Earth's ancient guardian Gosei and his robotic aide Tensou recruit five new teenagers with attitude to become the Megaforce rangers and battle the forces of evil. These are new kid in town Troy (Megaforce Red), tech nerd Noah (Blue), fun-loving Jake (Black), popular girl with attitude Gia (Yellow) and the nature-loving Emma (Pink). However the Warstar aren't the only threat the rangers face, as they also employ the help of toxic mutants and highly advanced robots. Luckily, help comes in the form of Robo Knight - an ancient zord that has gained advanced sentience and now protects the planet and its environment.

Throughout the series Troy also experiences visions of a great battle between a huge army of aliens and every Power Ranger there has ever been. But these may not just be dreams, as among the Warstar's fleet is Vrak, youngest Prince to a Royal Family that seems to have much bigger plans for the Earth than just the Warstar.

Gosei's command chamber
Not quite Zordon, but he's got the disembodied head thing down

One of the main criticisms of Power Rangers Samurai (well, other than the fact it was a straight adaptation with little-to-no thought behind it) was the employment of a pretty dire cast of rangers. Thankfully the Megaforce team is a vast improvement, but in some cases its still very much an uphill struggle. Jake and Noah are the best of the bunch, feeling like the most natural characters since the RPM days and working well both apart and as a double act (Noah is a tad stereotypical geek, but this is not new for the franchise). Troy starts out pretty awfully, seeming even more wooden than our previous Red Ranger. This does start to improve as time goes on though, and hopefully this will continue through into Super Megaforce next year. Emma is so-so, which in some ways probably makes her the most forgettable of the five. The only one I had problems with was Gia, who's "badass popular girl" act quickly seemed to degrade into "snarling is my only emotion". Still, Gia seems to have gone down as somewhat as a fan favourite, so your tolerance may vary for her.

Mentoring this season's rangers are the duo of giant head Gosei and the Wall-E rip off Tensou. Despite apparently being Zordon's protégé, Gosei has to be up there as one of the most useless/pointless mentors ever - not offering much advice and barely appearing in the show as a whole. Tensou isn't much better, being little more than a terrible CGI robot. 

With all this talk of wooden actors or actors that seem stiff/robotic, it's ironic that the best character by country miles just happens to be a robot. Blazing onto the scene like a horrific amalgamation of Robocop and Captain Planet, Robo Knight's initial appearance wasn't really anything worth raving about. However he very quickly improved, stealing every single scene he appeared in - whether it was simply being badass in battle or learning about humans in the most amusing of ways. Robo Knight rapping isn't something that should be awesome, but by god it really is.

Robo Knight

Handling three separate factions of villains is an area Megaforce could have easily gone very wrong in, much like the last series that tried it - Operation Overdrive. However the series cleverly works its way around it by making both the mutants and Metal Alice's robot army an extension of the Warstar, offering three different types of enemy under the same threat. Considering that in Goseiger each set of enemies follow the other, Megaforce does an excellent job at having them all around at similar points in time which just goes to show how some cleverly timed original base footage can go a long, long way. With only 20 episodes to spare no one gets a huge amount of character development (if I had to pick one I'd say Metal Alice got the most despite only appearing at the very end of the show), so it's squarely on Vrak to provide the main drive for the villains. And he does not disappoint.

Awesome in any language

Vrak is an excellent villain, and is constantly rivaling Robo Knight for the title of best character in the show. Even when working under Warstar leader Admiral Malkor he oozes authority, suggesting that he's really the one in charge of the whole thing. His multiple forms offer a nice little bit of variety to the great design, and with a bit of luck his return for Super Megaforce will be equally as glorious if not more so. Goseiger's Buredoran (or Brajira if you'd prefer) isn't the easiest villain to adapt because he's already excellent, but Megaforce successfully put their own unique spin on him without losing too much of the character's brilliance.

The main source of frustration this show creates is in it's central card gimmick, which while not bad in itself constantly illustrates the laziness Saban often show in adapting the Sentai footage. The show is littered with up-close shots of the various cards the Rangers use and the English text that adorn them, only the problem is this text is the Japanese name of things - which 9 times out of 10 has been changed for Megaforce. There are a couple of things that could be easily explained ("Gosei Red"? Well, its a red ranger card and Gosei made it...) but when you start getting stock footage of zords with completely different names to what's being said on screen it all starts getting a little ridiculous.

An example of Megaforce's lazy editing
This Megazord is the "Ultra Gosei Great Megazord" the problem?

That being said the zords themselves look great, along with the suits themselves. Both share striking similarities to the original Power Rangers (but naturally with less dinosaurs) so are very fitting of being part of the franchise's 20th Anniversary celebration. Of course a lot of this is going to get thrown out of the window when Super Megaforce rolls around, but it will be interesting to see what elements are retained.

While on the whole Power Rangers Megaforce doesn't seem to have met with that much better praise than its predecessor, I personally found it a step up from Samurai and something that evolved to have more enjoyment than the unrelenting nostalgia the first few episodes were going for. Make no mistakes there were plenty of aspects that could have been ironed out, but for a half season adapting a full 50 episodes it surprisingly manages to hold its own. If Super Megaforce is going to be the part that delivers all the expense and explosion, that fantastic cliffhanger ending sounds like its off to a good start.

1 comment:

Lucas said...

When the series your adapting is GOSEIGER of all series, your standarts can only go up from there.