Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Legendary Farce

Originally written for the DTM-Cast posted this past Monday, but because there's a lot to digest, I've opted to post the written word as its own blog post. A word of warning; there is considerable venom to be found here and I make no apologies.

So... Super Megaforce has concluded... and I think it's safe to say that, for the most part, the entire run has been a complete and utter disappointment. As a season of Power Rangers that was paying tribute to the original Mighty Morphin because why not... I don't want to shit on the cast because they did what they could with what they were given, but the show as a whole felt like one shallow knock-off of the original MMPR seasons. And you know the old saying, "If I wanted to watch MMPR, I'll watch MMPR." With Megaforce, the actually anniversary season, it felt like a holdover for the Gokaiger-based Super Megaforce. It's just going through the motions until you get to that latter half of the story... the part that's going to be more "epic." And yet, in the grand scheme of things, if they just stuck with Megaforce and didn't bother with the Super part... Or rather, just to put it another way, if they did two seasons based on the Goseiger series and skipped Gokaiger entirely, I would've been fine with it because then you'd have a second-rate MMPR knock-off and it would've been fine. Not great, but fine. Because then the chances of the series getting FUBAR'd would be less severe.

I've only seen a couple episodes of Super Megaforce and the rest... was mostly online recaps, but it seems like for all the hype and ballyhoo that went into the promotion of this series, it's been underwhelming. There's been hoopla over whether the pre-Zyuranger Sentai teams would be featured and when they announced that the Legendary War had been re-filmed, we assumed, "Okay, so they're going to forgo implementing these older teams because they're not part of Power Rangers lore. Fine." But then, the actual episodes air and all of a sudden, we got new Ranger teams that nobody's familiar with, other than they're "legendary powers." And you eventually get to the point where they just stopped caring - assuming that they even cared to begin with - and decided to toss in whatever footage they could, regardless of what's actually on it. It got to a point of perplexity when there was a segment in a later episode that was reshot with the original Red Ranger suit and four suits from the pre-Zyu Sentais. Suits, mind you, that they never made toys out of, so they could profit from it... but it just felt like they're using the 20th anniversary as an excuse to feature all these different Rangers and nobody actually gave a shit about the history of Power Rangers and the lore that it bore all its own. Now, Dino Charge, on the other hand, seems very generic, very unassuming, and very unspectacular, which means it can focus on developing its own take rather than be shoehorned into something that the producers are incapable of doing any semblance of justice.

So, about that Legendary Battle... I've touched on this in the past and, well, I don't want to say that I told you so, but... I told you so. For those wondering, last Monday, I posted a couple blurbs that I made in the past, both from last year, but very relevant now. The first blurb is from Episode 5 of the DTM-Cast, which was posted June 16, 2013 - I'll do a quick reading of what I wrote.

"Should I bring up my thoughts on the Legends War thing that they're prepping with next year's Power Rangers Super Megaforce thing? Because they got ten old faces coming back... none of them are the originals. Only one is from the Disney era. And... quite honestly, to tell you the truth, I'm nowhere near as disappointed nor am I expecting to be disappointed if this thing turns out to be a dud because... I knew that there was no way that they were going to make this as big as a deal as most fans thought... My surprise is that they even bothered with the Legends War because they could have skipped it entirely and I'm of the opinion that they probably should have. Because there was no way Saban could have done in Super Megaforce what Gokaiger did any semblance of justice."

There's more to the blurb, not much more, but I just read the more relevant part of that bit. Even back in June 2013 and maybe even before that, I had the feeling that when they said they were going to do the Legendary War, I knew there was no way Saban Brands would live up to the hype nor would they do in Super Megaforce what Gokaiger did any semblance of justice. And I was right. Legendary Battle, even within the much ballyhooed and overrated extended edition, felt like a huge colossal letdown. When it came to the main meat of the episode, where the current Rangers are having the final battle and all that, that was fine. And if the episode and series had ended there, I would've be fine with it. But then you had the Legendary battle, which was all of two minutes, felt completely underwhelming, and even had a couple instances of bad dubbing. Yes, the spectacle of watching all these Rangers was something to behold the first time around, but by the time the moment comes, you've already seen chunks of it in past episodes.

We don't know why these Rangers are here, we don't how they got their powers back when they were being harnessed in these Ranger keys, we don't know where they went afterwards, and ultimately, we don't know what happens to our heroes... because the episode ends with no satisfactory conclusion, no wrapping up affairs, no tying up loose ends, nothing that can be considered an appropriate epilogue to the Power Rangers Megaforce story. It's just, "Well, we won. Time to call it a season. hey, let's get to the juice bar and order a shake." The End... And that generally sums up the past two years of Power Rangers. A shitload of thoughtless fanwankery and absolutely no substance. And that was evident in the lack of closure. Now some people will argue that Zeo had no closure... and I could partially believe that, but in retrospect, Zeo was a permanent end, but rather it was another season. The same cast was returning for the following year's Turbo incarnation. This cast of Megaforce Rangers are not coming back for Dino Charge; that's a new team of cats assuming those powers. Megaforce is never going to be featured in any large scale capacity beyond this point... and yet there's no closure. It's just one huge colossal fanwank after another... and nothing to show for it.

Now, Gokaiger was a bit of a fanwank in itself, but it was fanwank done well. They brought back old Sentai warriors in meaningful cameos over the course of the series, there was a rhyme or reason for things, and it felt like a celebration of Super Sentai in that there were touches and nuances and callbacks to the history of that franchise that meant something. And if you were a longtime fan or even remotely familiar with the Sentai series, you'd got something out of it. Super Megaforce, on the other hand... felt lazy. There was so much potential to celebrate the franchise since that's what you were hyping this as; a celebration of 21 years of Power Rangers. And I felt we didn't get that. I felt that this was shallow. This had no heart. And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but the 2-part Once A Ranger travesty did a better job of celebrating the franchise's fifteenth anniversary than this entire series did in celebrating the twentieth. And Once A Ranger, for all intents and purposes, was a truly horrible episode, smack dab in the middle of perhaps the absolute worst incarnation of Power Rangers in Operation Overdrive. But it did more with the veteran Rangers than Super Megaforce.

They brought back 10 past Rangers to make meaningless cameos in the finale, only a couple had lines, there was an unhealthy dose of a JDF wankfest, and none of it mattered. All those other actors who turned the offer down or all those other actors who did accept the offer but were uninvited due to "budgetary reasons?" All those guys dodged a bullet. It was just them in suits for about a minute or two. And they meant nothing because the rest of this war was just the same Sentai footage they've been showing for the past two years, with maybe a couple shots in. They were just some old faces to give the fans something to jerk off to. And whatever negative thoughts that I levy towards the concept, you cannot blame the actors, whether it'd be the returning veterans or the Megaforce cast especially, because you could only do some much with shitty writing that it becomes a futile effort. And the actors did what they could, for better or worse. Not a bad looking group of kids, but they had fuck all to work with.

Super Megaforce had the potential to be something worthy of the 20 year history and it was squandered by producers and writers who gave no fucks about the history of the show. Super Megaforce had the potential to dwell into the mythology and the lore of the series whole and it was never realized. And before anyone brings it up; no, the Astronema headshot doesn't count. Jesus Christ, the reaction that this completely superfluous, tact-on gimmick has been getting confounds me. So it's referencing a bit line in a past episode where Astronema and Ashley switch bodies - Power Rangers In Space Episode 19: Invasion Of The Body Switcher - and there's a completely tacked-on headshot for no reason whatsoever than for purely fanwanking purposes. If you wanted to make the Karone/Astronema callback, there were so many better ways to do it during the actual episode than just "Ooh, giddy. I lovez being da Powah rangah. Headshot" And everybody goes CONTINUITY!

Where was this supposed attention to continuity when they had that episode taking place in the RPM dimension of Corinth and instead of a desolate wasteland, it's a futuristic city? Where was this attention to continuity when they decided to toss in random pre-Zyuranger Sentai teams and pass them off as legendary, when there is no in-continuity context to consider them as such? Where was this attention to continuity when you had a Red Ranger with constant dreams and visions to this eventual legendary gathering of Japanese stuntpeople and there was no attempt to explain how or why he got these dreams? Hell, there's no explanation as to how these Ranger keys that enable these Megaforce rangers to change into other forms work... are they the old powers? Are they copies? There are so many snafus, inconsistencies, and omissions in regards to the grander continuity of things that it comes off as half-assed and lazy. There was no consideration, no due diligence, no respect towards the Power Rangers franchise's rich 20 year history... but tack on a random headshot on a former villain without actually referencing her past villainy in order for there to be context for those who might wonder what the fuck that was and give her a completely generic line that says NOTHING and could've been spoken by ANYONE and all is forgiven... because nobody in their right mind is going to have a past Ranger say "I HATE being a Power Ranger."

This season, this finale, this MOMENT, was apparently made for the fans, the longtime fans who stuck with the series, the longtime fans who were there from the very beginning. And if you enjoyed the series, then good for you. More power to you. But, as someone who has been there from the beginning, who has stuck with the series every step of the way, who has followed the series even when it was impossible for me to watch the show through direct means, who has dabbled in telling a few stories, in buying the VHS tapes, the DVD collections, the video games... I may not interact in the Rangerboards or any of those forums, but I follow the series through the good times and the bad. So, I'd like to think of myself as one of those fans that this series tried to satisfy... and as such, speaking as someone who is a fan, this was disappointing. This felt like someone producing a series with some haphazard references and callbacks tossed in without rhyme or reason and saying it's done for the fans, using an anniversary as an excuse to produce pure mediocrity.

If nothing else, this season had made me weary of approaching anything that is claimed to be "made for fans" and expect it to be anything worthwhile... because if something is advertised to be "made for the fans", it probably means it's going to suck. And... yep, that's what it was...

Looking back, everyone has their own ideas and their own visions as to how an ideal celebration of an anniversary should play out. To some, what we got was good enough. To others, what we got was an insult. From my vantage point, this was a letdown. And there were some things that I thought would've done justice to the anniversary deal; maybe more meaningful cameos or guest appearances in every episode like they sorta did in Gokaiger, maybe try to theme episodes around specific seasons because, why not... or, you know, since the whole thing was aping Mighty Morphin to begin with, see about trying to get the original cast together to sort of fill the role the veterans got, but in a different context... pipe dream, but it could've happened... there's a bunch of good ideas you could go for to make a worthy while anniversary season.

But at the end of the day, the best way to produce an anniversary season worth its salt? Just produce good TV. Have a group of people gain powers to morph into spandex-garbed superheroes fighting against rubber monsters with their giant Megazords and battlizer things and tell good stories. Give us a cast of characters that are relateable, commendable, and possess enough depth and characterization that we'd care about their struggles. A good group of heroes, a good group of villains, a solid supporting cast of characters, some great storytelling, some good action, some good cheese... just something that I can sit back, enjoy, and buy into.

That's all I could ever want from a typical season of Power Rangers, that's all I could ever hope for from a typical season of Power Rangers, and ultimate, that's exactly what I DIDN'T get with Power Rangers Megaforce, SUPER or otherwise.

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