Anyone who has seen my act knows I have a special place in my heart for the Power Rangers. I wrote my first Power Ranger joke ever when I found out Jason David Frank (Tommy, the original Green Ranger) started doing MMA fighting. Over the years I’ve written more jokes, and also watched plenty of Power Rangers. I called it research. I’ve never thought Power Rangers was good, but I’ve always enjoyed it. It has been 22 years since the first episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that is crazy. And so this week I’ve decided to write about the ten year anniversary episode, “Forever Red.”
I needed this week for so many reasons. First of all, I’m still trying to wash off the stink of the new Power Rangers movie. I keep seeing people I know and like talking about how great a movie it is, and all I can think is that they must have seen a different movie than me. I don’t see how people can keep talking about how fun and clever a movie that boils down to “Batman Vs Superman but with the Breakfast Club with Powers.” It was a depressing movie almost entirely devoid of fun. So as a movie, I wasn’t wild about it. As a Power Rangers adaptation, it was really, really bad. It’s like someone watched the original Power Rangers and said “let’s do this again, but without all the bright colors or fun.”
I also needed this week because the last few weeks have been pretty rough for the blog. I didn’t expect NSync to be as bad as it was, Titanic was just ROUGH, and I had forgotten just how bad Hercules was. So I really needed this week to take on something that was bad, but delightfully bad. Something fun, and kind of bad on purpose. So I chose the 10th anniversary episode of the Power Rangers, “Forever Red.” I used to get drunk with friends and watch this on a regular basis. We’d set drinking rules like “drink when there’s an unnecessary explosion!” Or “drink when one of us goes OHHHHHH!” We tried “drink every time someone over-acts,” but we got drunk too fast and I’m pretty sure one of us almost died.
On a personal note, this week is also relevant because it’s Indiana Comic Con, and as I write this I am no more than 24 hours away from meeting Austin St. John, who played Jason, the original Red Ranger Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. I am so pumped for that, especially after rewatching Forever Red. There’s a moment where he meets Cole, the Red Wild Force Ranger. Cole overacts his way through a greeting, and Jason just sort of smirks and slaps his shoulder instead of shaking the offered hand. I want to know if that was scripted or if Austin just knew how Jason would react to that kind of enthusiasm.
I think the easiest way to dive into all the myriad problems with this episode is to go in chronological order. There are several clear chapters in this episode, and I can address them in order. Actually, before I bring up the problems with the episode, the episode itself is a problem. This deserved to be a movie, or at the very least a 2 parter. The fact that it was pushed into a 22 minute single episode means it missed out on a lot of opportunities. I read over some of the original outlines of the episode (because of course I did), and there was some great stuff in there. A moment where a guy tries to sell Tommy a green shirt and he says no, so the guy says “I have it in white too!” Little bits of fan service that would have been great fun got passed over because they didn’t have enough time. That’s disappointing, and if it was a budget concern then I think someone could have argued a little harder. This is an episode that multiple generations would watch, with potential merchandising and lots of great ad space. So really it was just a lost opportunity.
In the beginning of the episode we see people in costumes taken from another Saban property, the Big Bad Beetle Borgs. They represent the villains of this encounter, remnants of the Machine Empire, the primary antagonists from Power Rangers Zeo. They’re on the moon digging up a giant machine we later find out is Lord Zedd’s old Zord Serpentera. This is a continuity error, since the last time we saw Serpentera was when Lord Zedd and Rita flew away in it. But ignoring that, there are still some problems with this scene. First off, how convenient is it that Andros knocks over a pile of rocks immediately after he finds out everything he needs to know about his enemy? And how absurd is it that he takes his helmet off to reveal his face? He doesn’t know there’s a camera on him. Strategically, he just removed his camouflage for no reason while conducting recon in enemy territory.
The next part, I’m going to write out the same way I wrote it when I was taking notes during the episode.
“Horses?!?!? On the moon?!?!? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!”
Yeah, the bad guys are riding horses on the moon. I can suspend disbelief about Andros being on the moon with no protective gear, he’s an alien and I don’t know the full scope of his abilities. But those are normal Earth horses the robots are riding, and that is hilarious. Was another CGI motorcycle of some kind completely out of budget? I love it.
The recruitment phase is another area with plenty to mock. First we see Bulk and Skull at a bar they either own or work at. Bulk is bragging about meeting Rita and Lord Zedd. First of all, Skull was there (a point he immediately brings up). Bragging to your friends about cool stuff you’ve done that they were also there for is just stupid. I don’t brag to Tirumari about the cool Berkeley show I did with Dat Phan a few years ago, Tirumari was there for it. Second, it’s been 9 years since that happened, and you’ve done way cooler stuff since then. Remember when you helped the Power Rangers fight off an alien invasion? That was pretty cool, and was also only about four years earlier.
Cole says so much dumb shit during his recruitment that it makes me think he wrote some of his own lines. For those of you not completely in the know, Cole is played by Ricardo Medina Jr, who is currently in prison for voluntary manslaughter. He killed his roommate with a sword. Ponder a few things about that sentence. The guy who was lead on a tv series with massive merchandising had a roommate. And he killed that roommate with a sword. I don’t mean to make light of a serious crime, but watching Medina overact his way through this episode, I’m not surprised he killed someone, especially in such a ridiculous and bizarre way.
When Cole is recruited by the Red Light Speed Rescue Ranger, he is told “the fate of the entire Earth is at stake,” but then only the Red Wild Force Ranger is recruited. You don’t get to cite a world ending threat and then not bring every resource available. That is an ongoing issue with this episode. Bringing 10 years of only Red Rangers is a huge mistake, especially considering the rangers got stronger with each successive team. Why bring the red Mighty Morphin Ranger when you could bring the Black Space Ranger? Obviously, I understand why you wouldn’t bring the Blue Turbo Ranger, Justin was a pain in the ass. But seriously, if you’re running a military operation of this scope it only makes sense to bring your strongest assets and apply explosive overwhelming force.
When Cole gets the recruitment pitch, he responds with “I don’t know about this ‘Machine Empire.’” The Machine Empire invaded Earth less than a decade ago. I get that there have been multiple alien attacks in the last decade, but you’re not likely to forget them. And then when they’re prepping to head out on the mission, Cole says “the Moon? How are we supposed to get there and stop them?” Dude, you’re in a space station right now, standing in front of a giant space ship, next to a bunch of Power Rangers including one who is literally a Space Ranger. I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume there’s a way to get to the moon.
As they’re getting ready to leave, the gang hears a motorcycle from outside. On approach is Jason, played by Austin St John, who I assume will be my new best friend by the time this week’s post publishes. Jason walks up and says “you weren’t gonna do this without me, were you?” Well, you’re late for a time sensitive mission with literal world ending implications. So yeah, we were going to go without you. Also, you’re objectively the weakest in the group in terms of raw power. You’ve got plenty of experience and could bring a strategic mind to the fight, but this quickly turns into a street fight instead of a chess game.
Before the battle begins, we see the Beetle Borgs . . . I mean, the Machine Empire, giving a speech about how the Empire will finally get revenge. At first that seemed urealistic to me. They’re generals who lost a military conflict 7 years ago in which they were the aggressor. That doesn’t exactly seem like great motivation for a revenge plot. But then I remembered (and watched) the final episode of Power Rangers in Space. The Power Rangers use a weapon of mass destruction to commit genocide on multiple species. Sure, they call it “Zordon sacrificed himself to stop the enemy.” But what happens is Andros breaches Zordon’s containment pod to set off an energy wave that kill thousands (if not millions) of living beings across the universe as well as forcibly psychologically reconditioning the several leaders of the enemy force. So of course the “remnants of the Machine Empire” want revenge on the Power Rangers. They’re going after war criminals, Munich style.
I’ve repeatedly joked onstage about the Power Rangers going into battle without using their Megaord right away, but I get it to a certain extent. In episode one of Mighty Morphin, Zordon tells the Rangers that they are never allowed to escalate a fight. But in this episode, there is no reason not to enter the fight already in uniform. You’re fighting an enemy with the ability to destroy the entire planet, they’ve already escalated the fight.
From the start, the outcome of this fight is never really in doubt. We know the Rangers are going to win, and not just because they’re the good guys. The Rangers are in charge of this fight pretty much right from the start. There is never a moment where the Rangers are actually in danger of losing. And this is all because the Rangers are trying to stop the eney from unleashing Serpentera, which they call “the greatest Zord ever built.” This is demonstrably false, since at the end of the fight Cole is able to defeat Serpentera using nothing but his flying motorcycle. Its anticlimactic and retroactively destroys any drama to this episode.
The last point I thought it was important to bring up is the various plot holes pertaining to the former Rangers being brought back. I stopped watching after Power Rangers in Space, but I can tell you that several Red Rangers either gave up or lost their powers. Jason gave up his powers to Rocky, Tommy gave up his Red Zeo powers when he became the Red Turbo Ranger (and he later gave the Turbo powers up to TJ). The Turbo Ranger powers were destroyed prior to the beginning of Power Rangers in Space. In Rangers in Space there were two examples of past Rangers accessing their old powers. Justin, the Blue Turbo Ranger, accessed his Turbo powers in an episode where the writers thought that for some reason we wanted to see Justin, and Adam, the Black Mighty Morphin Ranger who took over for Zack. Both of these Rangers access their old powers, although Adam nearly dies because his powers are broken. So there’s precedent for Rangers coming back, but it’s still a plot hole.
I had a lot of fun with this week’s post. I really needed something whimsical and fun, and until the new movie rolled around, Power Rangers could always be counted on to be whimsical and fun. That’s all for now gang, love and kisses!
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