Tuesday 3 October 2023

Series REVIEW: Power Rangers Cosmic Fury

Power Rangers Cosmic Fury

The Power Rangers franchise has been in an odd state of fluctuation a while now, what with its purchase by Hasbro in 2018 and more recently the move to Netflix and streaming-exclusive status. A reboot has been teased for years, but in the meantime the show as we know it has continue chugging along steadily – with both Beast Morphers and Dino Fury airing under Hasbro's leadership. Now the franchise marks its 30th anniversary with Power Rangers Cosmic Fury – a ten-episode miniseries and direct sequel to Dino Fury. Though it adapts Zord footage from Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, it features newly created suits and thus almost entirely comprised of originally filmed footage. It's also however possibly the end of Power Rangers as we know it, not only bringing the Dino Fury story to a close but potentially three decades of continuity as well.

(Due to this nature, please note that this Cosmic Fury review may contain more spoilers than usual!)

Lord Zedd returnsThe Cosmic Fury Megazord

After being contacted by Zayto and the Morphin Masters that Lord Zedd has returned once more, the Rangers find themselves transported to the planet Zordnia – meeting up with Billy Cranston and Mick Kanic. After one of their own is turned to the side of evil, the Rangers are only able to turn the tide after unlocking ancient Zords hidden on Zordnia. In retaliation, Zedd returns to Earth and destroys Dino Henge – severing the rangers' powers once and for all.

Retreating into space, the rangers must now call upon new powers to defend the universe from Zedd's conquest. With new suits, new weapons and new teammates, the Cosmic Fury Rangers begin their journey back to Earth to defeat the self-proclaimed Emperor of Evil.

The Cosmic Fury teamNew cosmic powers!

As a continuous story spread over the course of ten 25-minute episodes, Cosmic Fury is quite a departure from the familiar Power Rangers format. While the style and intent hasn't changed at all, this is a series that can't afford to dangle plot points for too long. The opening episode is the perfect example of this, jumping straight into the action on planet Zordnia before moving from key plot point to key plot point in quick succession. What would have usually been established in a two/three-part episode is done in a fraction of the time. Not only does this tighter pace prevent Cosmic Fury from being drowned in preamble like so many Power Rangers series are, but it also gives it a sense of urgency that's in synch with the story itself. The audience has to digest all these big changes and new revelations just as quickly as the Rangers themselves. There's no distinction between main storyline and filler episodes here, or even really that of A and B plots – everything is heading towards the same end goal, from the story beats to the individual character development. Cosmic Fury is short enough that you want to take it slow and savour every moment, but every episode ends with you immediately wanting to see what happens next. 

Though the Dino Fury cast remain at the forefront of the series, bringing back Lord Zedd suggests a certain interest in the past. So as both the 30th anniversary and potentially the last series in the current continuity, Cosmic Fury features more than a few callbacks to the last three decades of stories. The most significant of these being the appearance of Billy, who not only develops the team's new powers but also acts as something of a mentor to the younger team. It's a logical step for the character given his prominence and knowledge of the Morphin Grid, continuing on from the progression we saw in Once & Always. Cosmic Fury even presents itself as an opportunity to cover things that previous shows might not have had the chance to – such as the appearance of Dino Charge's Heckyl and his onscreen debut as the Dark Ranger. While this has been an established in the comics for some time, it's wonderful to see the character return so it can make the leap to proper canon. Between all that you also have the reappearance of Mick and Grid Battleforce, as well as other surprise cameos and lines to help marry up some of the more questionable continuity between series. Power Rangers might be a kids show first, but there's no denying that Cosmic Fury was made with long-time fans just as much in mind - if not more so.

Billy CranstonThe Dark Ranger

Though a tighter storyline doesn't allow for focus-episodes in the same way a full-length series would, Cosmic Fury still manages to have a pretty good handle on its main cast. With Amelia becoming the red ranger for the series Power Rangers has found its female red that's at the front and centre of a series, something long overdue for the franchise. Though there is quite a leap between this version of her and the one we met in Dino Fury,  the change feels in-line with the way she seems thrust into a leadership role, trying to keep the team together even when things look their worst. Over the course of the show, Amelia develops into a fierce and confident leader worthy of the role.

Meanwhile Izzy is just as great as ever (when it comes to Power Rangers-brand quips and banter, she's among the best there is), and the promotion of Fern to a regular cast member brings with it new story potential. While Izzy struggles with the notion that Fern doesn't necessarily need her protection from everything, Fern herself is able to establish herself as a valued member of the team – neatly filling in the gap that was left by Amelia. Their relationship isn't quite as pushed to the forefront in the same way it was in Dino Fury but this is by no means a bad thing – whereas there it was breaking new ground for the franchise, here it's able to settle and a natural part of the dynamic. Javi also has a big change to get used to with the loss of his arm in the first episode, an impactful plot point which arguably could have done with more time to breathe but at Cosmic Fury's breakneck pace still gets the degree of focus and respect that it deserves. When it comes to the franchise conveying that anyone can be chosen to be a Power Ranger and displaying that notion on screen, these previous two series have really set the standard going forward.

It's Morphin TimeAiyon & Zayto

Sadly not all the characters are developed equally though, and for the aforementioned members of the team to take such a leap forward Zayto is left on the chopping block. While it's heart may be in the right place, the handling of the team's former leader is at the very least troublesome. After dying at the end of Dino Fury Zayto is quickly brought back only to quickly be made absent once again, with his direction in the story becoming more of a plot device than that of an actual character. His overall importance in Cosmic Fury's story may be one thing, but his trajectory and overall screen time may fall short for anyone who was invested in or even saw themselves in the character. As almost a byproduct of Zayto's handling Aiyon also falters somewhat – perhaps not quite to the same extent but beyond his relationship with his fellow Rafkonian the show doesn't really know what to do with him.

The villains are another point of curiosity for the show, though less in the sense that they're bad but more in that they don't really leave much of an impact. As arguably Power Rangers' greatest villain the return of Lord Zedd would be more than enough to carry a ten episode miniseries, but for whatever reason Cosmic Fury felt the need to add some unnecessary complications around that as well. Following his defeat in Dino Fury Zedd is unearthed by intergalactic arms dealers Squid Ink Inc. - lead by CEO Bajillia Naire and her social media influencer daughter Squillia. Bajillia then goes on to basically bankroll Zedd, providing him with the means and forces to start a war which Squid Ink Inc. will then profit from. It's an easy explanation for how a time-displaced Zedd has the means to conquer, but other than a little bit of sly social commentary neither character offers much more than comic relief. Which wouldn't be so bad alongside a Zedd more in line with his original self, but even he seems to have upped his comedy game for the series. Lots of quips and comments that are admittedly pretty funny (and very reminiscent of season three era Zedd), but after that first episode the threat just doesn't feel there. This is particularly true of the final two episodes, where the show promises great things with Zedd only to snatch them away and present something far less interesting. 

Squillia and Bajillia NaireZedd and Ollie

However one shining light in this darkness is Ollie, who is undoubtedly the standout member of the main cast during his stint as Zedd's right hand man. Even in Dino Fury Ollie had a hint of arrogance about him, making him the perfect choice for Zedd's corruption. Back then we only got a taste of it, but here it's evil Ollie in full force – and actor Kai Moya is clearly having the best time with it. This version of Ollie is just as calculating, but his coldness oozes a charisma that just wasn't there previously. He's the one that keeps the villain side of things interesting, and although him eventually being saved is a forgone conclusion the show is able to keep the momentum for it throughout. While the endgame has been established well enough that those final few episodes are able to hold up with him back in the hero role, that loss is still felt.

Such is the emphasis on story and character that some of the more staple elements of Power Rangers feel a lot more reserved this time around. New Zords should always be a major selling point, but as the only Super Sentai footage present in Cosmic Fury their presence here feels more like an obligation. Kyuranger's pantheon of constellation-themed mecha look just as impressive here as they did in their source show, but there's a disconnect between them and the Rangers themselves. The Zords have no real introduction, and with so many of them immediately at the team's disposal there's less colour coordination with what is being piloted. Zord fights will always make for some impressive eye-candy, but it's strange that such eye-catching robots can feel like the most forgettable element of the show. But then again, the newly filmed cockpit footage looks great.

The Cosmic Dragon MegazordPiloting Zords

But the biggest elephant in the room for so many people is going to be the first thing they set their eyes on – the suits themselves. Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the Cosmic Fury suits – though somewhat plain they do a good job of blending the Dino Fury helmets with a more space-like design that feels like something of a power upgrade. The show's internal logic of the suits holding onto that dinosaur motif despite the new Zords is also well done – a quick throwaway line that makes both perfect sense and works as a call-back to the franchise's roots. Promotional art shows the potential they have, but onscreen the execution is mixed at best. The helmets and shoulder shields look great – the problem lies in the material used for the suits themselves. Rather than spandex, the production inexplicably went for a foam-like material complete without moulded abs and breasts – immediately giving the finished product an air of cheapness. It's even worse in action sequences, where you see these moulded sections bunch up with the actors' movements. Other baffling decisions include choosing to make the Zenith Ranger champagne coloured – a unique colour entry for the franchise that just doesn't have the same impact as the other brightly coloured costumes.

The disappointing thing about it all is that Cosmic Fury wasn't beyond making some fantastic-looking original suits. Even if you put the main suits looking great conceptually aside, Ollie's dark blue ranger form looks fantastic – its giant shoulder piece and leathery coattails working far better to create a suit that’s visually appealing onscreen. The quality of the Cosmic Fury suits is especially noticeable when put alongside MMPR Blue or Dino Charge's Dark Ranger, two suits that embody some of the best design Power Rangers (or more specifically, Super Sentai) have to offer.

The evil blue rangerThe Zenith Ranger

If this truly is it, then Power Rangers Cosmic Fury is a respectable end to the Power Rangers universe as we know it. While it certainly doesn't get everything right, the scope and ambition of the series shines throughout – even when both budget and running time are against it. But perhaps most significantly of all it highlights the potential Power Rangers has a franchise that isn't bound by Super Sentai footage. Though the continuity it built up over the years won't be there in the same way, it's still an important lesson that the franchise needs to take away into its future – should this reboot ever truly come to light.


ben wise said...

my review for comic fury I was reading the story plot look good butt something is missing a purple ranger and a new shade of red crimson red and aqua blue ranger and a new color jade green ranger and teal ranger and lavender ranger I think it might be good for the show to have and Dino thunder team and rpm Dino Charge team after all they are DINO RANGERS TO MAKE A BIGGER BATTLE

ben wise said...


D-Man said...

So Zayto was originally going to be a white ranger instead of champagne, but they were afraid people would draw racial connections and so settled on his current color.

I got this from Rangerwiki.