Reviews: Power Rangers RPM
Get In Gear!
As a longtime Power Rangers fan who tuned in and out, and as someone who watched the series long after it ended, I was drawn into it after reading the entry on TV Tropes, especially after reading the quite apt description of Dr. K. Holy. Cow. Like many others who watched RPM, my first thoughts were, "THIS is Power Rangers?!" Unlike almost every season, the villain has actually conquered the whole world, save for one city: Corinth, whose defenses are constantly under threat from Venjix's forces. Led by Colonel Mason Truman and Dr. K, the Ranger Series Operators are always on call, having few opportunities to relax as they must defend their domed city from the virus which has wiped out nearly all of civilization. I loved the writing, the story arcs, and the characters' stories—my favorite being Dr. K's. I fell in love with the story of RPM after watching her spotlight episode, the eleventh in the season. The entire cast did an amazing job in their performances, but a few stood out in my mind. Milo Cawthorne, who seems like a naturally funny person in real life, provided the most laughs as Ziggy Grover. James Gaylyn seemed like a natural fit for the practical and tough-as-nails Colonel Truman. And finally, Olivia Tennet, the youngest of the core cast, brought the best performance as the hilariously socially inept genius Dr. K, whose story was the darkest of them all. Her emotionally gripping portrayal of the character made me love her, in spite of her mistakes. I also loved the humor the series provided. Spandex jokes aside, fans and non-fans of the Rangers series would enjoy the lampshading of things taken for granted in the series, even if they've only watched the first installment. How Saban failed to see the humor in RPM is beyond me. The only flaw that I could see was that the series was too short. The ending can also be quite confusing for some. And I could see how certain characters, especially Gem and Gemma, can be grating. (For the record, I loved those two. Boom time? Oh, yes.) Even so, RPM was a decent attempt at making Power Rangers epic again. Now that Haim Saban has the rights to his cash cow franchise back, only time will tell if Samurai lives up to the hype.
What Power Rangers Turbo should have been
Why the title? Well when Turbo was released, one of it's problems is that the writers couldn't agree on whether the season should be a dark, epic, serious story, or be light and comedic, following its Sentai more closely. The end result was a season that attempted to balance both and came off poorer for it. RPM on the other hand, nails it down. I don't know if it's the writing, directing, acting or whatever else, but the truly fascinating thing about this season is that on one hand, it clearly has the darkest premise any Power Rangers season could ever have and yet, it has some truly off the wall humour that had tears of laughter running down my face to the point where I had to pause the opening of the episode "Ranger Blue", in order to catch my breath (and this is a guy who would sit through Bulk and Skull's antics with a stony face even as a kid). The dark premise is also well handled. My favourite episode of the season (and the show over all) is "Dr K". An episode whose drama had me moved almost to tears one moment, and standing up and cheering for the rangers the next. The interesting juxtaposition is that the show takes itself seriously, something that not every Power Rangers season seemed to do, and yet it somehow manages to poke fun at itself at the same time. The self awareness in particular is very nice, something that also worked well in Ninja Storm. But while they only pointed out old clichés in Ninja Storm, RPM goes a step further. Not only does it make fun of certain things we've come to take for granted in Power Rangers, but it also comes up with some surprisingly interesting and plausible (in a pseudo science sort of way) explanations for them. After many seasons of excessive, entirely unneccesary explosions, not only do the RPM rangers point out how silly it is, we actually get the explanation that the explosions are a way for the suits to discharge built up energy. The reason why the rangers have to shout out a morphing call is because the morphers have a voice lock (similar to the Quantum morpher) to prevent anyone else from using them. Ultimately, this season had it all. Good actors, well written characters, great direction, well plotted story, gripping drama and yet some truly hilarious comedy. While Power Rangers may be going back to Saban, this is a perfect swan song for Disney's ownership of the title.
THIS is Power Rangers??
That's what I said to myself many times over when watching the show. That's what my brother said when we watched it together. That's what others said when I described it to them. The story is very dark. Most of humanity has been wiped out in a war started by a computer virus that spread and took over the military, creating robots galore. People are being taken prisoner and transformed into hybrids - people with robotic implants that can, in due time, allow them to be possessed and controlled. Many of the Power Rangers themselves have tragic backstories, with family members and friends who were killed, and one of them is a refugee who escaped a factory where he was implanted with robotics that are attempting to spread through his body. We see much of this in flashbacks, some of which are surprisingly gothic and creepy. If not for the brightly colored costumes, goofy looking monsters, cheesy fighting, and giant robot battles that look kind of like toys moving around a model city, this wouldn't be Power Rangers at all. It would be a sci-fi adventure/drama that happens to have a lot of light humor in it. At times, it almost feels like two different shows. You have the serious story of humanity's last stand against the robot invasion, then once the Rangers have changed into their costumes, it becomes goofy fighting. Once the monster is destroyed, back to the drama. The humor that lightens this post-apocalyptic setting still verges on the corny (Gem and Gemma being The Scrappy when first introduced), but it's definitely not "Bulk and Skull" level. There's some genuinely clever humor at times, and in the early episodes, a good amount of Lampshade Hanging that pokes fun at elements of the Power Rangers mythos that we've always taken for granted. The mix of humor, lampshading, serious storytelling, and corny action gradually turns towards the more serious side of the scale as the series goes on. Dillon, the Ranger who was infected with the robotic implants, has flashbacks of his life in the factory and desires to find his missing sister. The true origin of the virus is revealed... and it isn't a pretty one. And the virus that can possess people starts doing so. The story starts heating up, and the last few episodes are not to be missed. Even if you don't like Power Rangers (and believe me, I don't!), I still recommend checking RPM out.