Monday, November 6, 2017

Power Rangers Reflections Redux #02 - High Five

Fun historical repost history; this particular entry has been posted on this blog TWICE. First time on July 16, 2010 (formerly #142, which is now a Classic Bite Commentary) and the second time was on February 26, 2012. Third time's not only a charm, but it's the only version that's left standing.

For the most part, there's not a whole to this write-up that I would change or add to it, as it pretty much sums up my thoughts on the episode rather nicely. There's a couple edits and slight tweaks to clean the text up a bit or make some points slightly clearer, but nothing too drastic.

This text makes reference to the 2010 reversioning of Mighty Morphin, an experiment where Disney, no longer wanting to produce more Power Rangers but needed to output some sort of product, opted to take the first season of Mighty Morphin and "update" them with new visual effects to give it more of a comic book feel or something like that. The reversioned episodes are often looked down upon by the fandom and something that most folks would rather forget existed. Personally, I didn't mind the reversioning; there're some bits I'm not a fan of, but some of the stuff they did I actually liked and thought made sense, and there's a couple examples of that here.

Anyway, on with the show.

So we begin the episode with Jason (the Red Ranger) climbing a rope while Zack (the Black Ranger) and Kimberly (the Pink Ranger) cheer him on. However, Trini (the Yellow Ranger) advises Jason to be careful not to slip or he'll fall. Jason mockingly slips and grabs hold of the rope. When Zack says Trini should try, she backs away slowly, telling him she wouldn't get caught climbing that high. You know what? I can relate to that; I have a fear of heights and am often weary of climbing things to reach high places. If at all possible, I'll take the stairs or an elevator... or maybe just stick to the ground.

However, what I can't relate to is this; Trini has a fear of heights that is suddenly introduced in this second episode of Power Rangers. A second episode, mind you, that takes place after the first episode which featured Trini jumping into a GIANT FREAKIN' ROBOT several stories high with no signs of fear being played into it. I don't know; that seems like an awfully big stretch to find some sort of dilemma for our heroes to overcome. But anyway, back to the show.

So Billy (the Blue Ranger) shows up to show off his latest invention, but before he could get very far, Jason (the Red Ranger, don't forget) lands on top of him, scaring the crap out of Billy, and so the two swing around the room a bit before falling flat on their collective asses, much to the laughter of everyone in the room. That was so high-larious... sarcasm, of course.

Speaking of high-larious, here comes Bulk and Skull to make some cracks about geek clowns. Jason goads Bulk into climbing the rope (so that he can land on Skull and swing around like a jackass). Bulk, not one to turn down a challenge, gladly accepts. So he leaps on the rope and falls, prompting Skull to quip, "I thought you were going up."

Could have fooled me.

You know, you can always get a good chuckle or two from Bulk and Skull, but the first season was just not their year. They try to be bullies but fail miserably and end up on the receiving of some slapstick conclusion. There are seldom few Bulk and Skull moments that I found funny or humorous during the early first season; they're just there to fill the comedy roles that involve more slapstick than anything else. It's only when these characters got some focus that their antics started to feel like genuine comedy for than comedy for the sake of comedy... but I digress.

Meanwhile, on the moon, Rita Repulsa devises a most ingenious plan that involves trapping the Power Rangers in a time warp the same way she did to Zordon many moons ago. The story behind the last conflict between the two (the one where Zordon ended up in said timewarp and Rita ended up in a space dumpster) varies depending on the source, but I doubt any of them involve the plot device being used for this episode. This is the last scene we see before going to commercial.

With the Bulk & Skull hijinx out of the way, Billy reveals to his four friends that he had devised communicator devices that will allow them to stay in touch with the Command Center... well, he technobabbles it and Trini translate, introducing that particular gimmick that lasts throughout the first season. It's also here where we first see the wristwatch communicators that the Rangers would wear everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE) and it's here where Kim coins the "Morphinominal" catchphrase.

A legend is born... and doesn't last all that long.

Anyway, while testing out their new communicator thingies, they are suddenly transported over to the Command Center. Zordon is impressed by Billy's ability to access the Grid and with some fine-tuning from Alpha, the watches can be used as both communication devices and personal transporters to hop from one place or another.

Alpha tries to fix one of the communicator but ends up bouncing around the Command Center while funny music plays in the background. This is one of the other gimmicks that was largely dominant during the first season; cheesy Alpha skits that are more annoying than funny. The 2010 reversion would add to the cheesiness by inserting sound effects akin to pinball bumpers. That actually makes a bit of sense, actually.

Back on the moon, we see Squatt and Baboo fiddling around with a miniature space shuttle model (presumably the one that was left over before?) and we learn that it's a device that will be used to create a portal to the time warp. Gee, I didn't know Rita had access to shuttles. Meanwhile, Finster creates Bones... no, not McCoy, but rather a skeleton monster with an oversized hat and cape. His powers involve warping the space time continuum. At which point, Rita launches the shuttle probe weapon thing to Earth, where it speeds down several city streets before stopping on a bump to create its time warp at a random cityscape.

Now watching this as a younger teen, I was confused by the whole time hole thing. Why did the time device look like a space shuttle? Why are people cowering over the space shuttle? Why doesn't anyone try to stop the space shuttle with a box or their foot or something? It's just a toy, kids. Nothing to be afraid of.

This is where having a knowledge of the source material helps bring some clarity to the scene, but not necessarily make sense. In the original Zyuranger episode, the space shuttle was an actual space shuttle that was left behind by our two astronauts and procured by Bandora and her crew. What isn't included in the MMPR part was that the shuttle was occupied by a couple kids who stayed behind and were subsequently captured by Bandora. So the Rangers were trying to save the kids and... yeah, I lost you, haven't I?

So this is one of those instances where a visual change in the 2010 reversioning actually makes a bit of sense here. Case in point: the probe weapon that is speeding through the city streets to open up a portal. In the original version, people were fleeing from a runaway space shuttle model, which is just about the most harmless thing you could be scared since you could probably stop it by kicking the damn thing or something.

But in the 2010 reversioning, that space shuttle model is now emitting a green energy field that could pose a potential threat to anyone who dares stand in its way. In addition, the POV shots are now graced with a fairly basic but explanatory heads-up display that actually enhances the scene quite a bit. Of course, it would have been nice if a number of older effect shots were improved upon as opposed to just more gimmicky comic book things that have plagued the series to a certain extent.

Alarms blaze in the Command Center as Zordon informs the Rangers about the time device. Rather than send them there, he sends them to deal with a random group of Putties outside of town while he investigates the time device... here's a hint, Zordon; it's a miniature space shuttle that just shot a portal into the sky. Maybe you should concentrate your efforts on that.

So the Rangers materialize behind the Putty group. They try to sneak up on them, but the Putties are smarter than that and they get ambushed. Jason reminds his friends that they shouldn't use their powers unless they really need it and so they attempt to fight the Putties... "attempt" being the key word here.

Jason and Zack manage to hold their own against the Putties, Kim does a couple pushes and lucky backflips, and Billy runs away with Trini behind him... Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

Rather than focusing on the more competent Ranger teens that are holding their own, we focus on Trini and Billy who are continuing to run away from a couple Putties like chickenshit cowards. In an attempt to "confuse" them, they split up. Trini takes the low road and manages to hide away behind some rocks and out of the Putties' apparent peripheral vision, while Billy climbs a hill and ends up on top of a cliff, trapped by Putties.

Trini sighs relief when the Putties jump over the rock and don't bother to look back, but gets nervous when she sees Billy on the high hill. Of course, she cries out to Billy (you're too high, Billy) thereby alerting the Putties of his presence on the cliff. Smart move, Trini. Really smart move. Now you've made Billy nervous as he ponders his fate between falling off and getting blasted by clay monsters... poor guy's so nervous that his morpher slips out of his fingers and falls down the cliff.

The next minute cuts between the three competent teenagers getting mugged (with attitude), the scared smart teenager on the cliff screaming for help (with attitude), and the teenager climbing rocks while slowly overcoming her height fear (with attitude... ENOUGH). Finally, after what seems like forever, Trini makes it to the cliffside and, rather than kicking the Putty or something, goads the Putty to rush at them. The Putty, whose brain has apparently expired, does so but completely misses and falls off the cliff. With restored confidence, they get back to the other group of Rangers and finish off the band of putties, who all conveniently land on cacti. This prompts Rita to send her new Bones monster to some random fair and wreck havoc there.

Meanwhile, Zordon is congratulating Trini on her overcome her fear of heights. With that, she can cease pretending not to be afraid of jumping into giant freaking robots. But before Zordon could get that far, he alerts the Ranger about the monster's presence at the random fair. Take note; the first utterance of "It's Morphin Time!" comes from Zordon... meaning he can activate the Rangers' morphers at any time he wishes. Strangely enough, Jason would exhibit a similar ability when he initiates Billy's morpher in a much later episode. Think Tommy has such ability? Think again.

Random note: Isn't Alpha supposed to be fixing the communicators at this point? How is Zordon able to speak to them? Also, did Billy happen to get back his morpher that he let slip from his fingers and fall down the cliff?

And so the Power Rangers arrive at the fair and do a quick pose. Bones respond by tossing his head into the air, which triggers the time warp (Isn't that what the time device was for?) and sends the Rangers to an alternate dimension comprised entirely of shiny Sentai footage. In the dimension of strange mushrooms and colors, Bones appears with his entourage of stuntmen in cheap skeleton costumes to engage the Power Rangers. While this is happening, Baboo emerges from some set pieces to plant a bomb (yes, the classic black ball variants with ridiculously long strings that the late Adam West's Batman famously carried around a harbor looking to toss it overboard, only to discover that there are some days you just can't get rid of a bomb), revealing that if the bomb goes off, the Rangers will be trapped.

The Rangers spot the bomb and attempt to get at it, but Bones splits the floor. That doesn't stop Jason from delivering the "killing blow" that takes Bones apart, but he quickly reassembles. Deducing that the head is the source of the monster's power, Billy grabs the head and tosses it to Trini. In a complete 180 from her earlier performance, Trini mows through some stuntmen and tosses the head into the crevice, destroying the monster for good. Now they can get the bomb, right?

Not content with just trapping them in the time warp (and partly because she's upset at the loss of her skeleton monster), Rita sends her Giant monster (a giant knight, more or less) to burst through some wall (WHAT?) and grab Jason. While the rest of the Rangers look at the perty monster, the bomb goes off and propels them out the newly formed hole... so are they stuck in the time warp or not? I'm guessing not, but they didn't make that initially clear. Just... I don't know.

So Jason's stuck in the grip of the Giant and subsequently uses his blaster to shoot him in the eye, which prompts the monster to release the Red Ranger from his grip. Jason soon summons his Dinozord and uses it to fight the monster. After a brief scuffle, TyranoZord does its finishing move - a shockwave type attack - and that does the Giant monster in and gives Rita another headache. I'm glad they didn't pull out the Megazord for this one. Let's vary it up a bit so that we don't need the giant robot to kill everything... I say that just as a robotic Dinosaur killed a monster.

Oh yeah, Trini overcomes her fear of climbing slippery ropes by giving in to her fear of Black Rangers wearing rubber monster masks. The End.

I don't get the sudden fear of heights that Trini suddenly acquired in the second episode, because this was never a factor in the first episode where she jumped into her Zord for the first time and sat in the cockpit of the giant Megazord, both of which were far higher than a simple gym rope and cliff. Even back when I first saw this episode, I never understood the logic behind that. Logic, as I would discover along the way, has no place in Power Rangers, a show in which a group of teenagers who normally have trouble with clay monsters morph into superheroes and act like Japanese stuntmen with all the courage in the universe and can apparently breathe in space. As it is, it's a fairly cookie cutter episode that introduces a couple standards to the MMPR formula, but not much more than that.

Next week's entry will be a bit different... how different? Just wait and see, I suppose.

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