What is the effect of nostalgia on a movie? Does it lend credibility to form and function? Or does it provide a nice impetus for enjoyment, but loses its luster soon after? Such a question begs consideration when sitting down to watch this feature-length adaption of the famous media franchise, whether it is your first or umpteenth time.
Director: Bryan Spicer
Written by: Arne Olson
Runtime: 96 minutes
US Release: June 30, 1995; 20th Century Fox
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie opens with a group of teenage friends (Karen Ashley, Johnny Young Bosch, Steve Cardenas, Jason David Frank, Amy Jo Johnson, David Yost) preparing to jump from an airplane; they are prepped for a sky diving competition. As each one jumps out of the plane, they have fun performing aerial stunts. Eventually they land in their hometown of Angel Grove to a cheering crowd. One of their biggest fans is Fred (Jamie Kroft), a 12 year old boy who is attending the competition with his dad. After some laughs, the teenage friends hit the streets in their rollerblades.
Meanwhile, construction workers accidently unearth an ancient purple time capsule shaped like an egg. The evil sorceress Rita Repulsa (Julia Cortez), Lord Zedd (Mark Ginther) and their minions Goldar (Kerry Casey) and Mordant (Jean Paul Bell) catch wind of this – it is what they have been looking for. The egg contains an evil villain named Ivan Ooze who was locked away 6,000 years ago after being defeated by Zordon (Nicholas Bell).
Zordon, the preeminent force for good in the teenagers’ lives, calls them to his lair. He warns them that Ooze has been discovered and that they will need to access their power ranger abilities to defeat him. It is not long, however, until Rita Repulsa succeeds in releasing Ivan Ooze (Paul Freeman) from his prison. Comprised of shapeshifting purple goo, Ivan presents an over-the-top devilish persona; he has a flair for the theatrical but proves a worthy adversary. He imprisons Rita and Lord Zed in a snow globe of Angel Grove, proceeding with his plans to conquer the world.
While the Power Rangers defeat a gang of Ooze’s henchman, the villain has made it to Zordon’s lair. There, Zordon is attacked. With his defeat, the Rangers lose their power. They visit Zordon, who explains that their powers can be regained on the distant primitive plant of Phaedos. It is the only way Zordon can be save and Ivan Ooze defeated once and for all. During all this, Ivan Ooze begins his domination in Angel Grove. He peddles a gooey brand of “ooze” to the kids of the city. As the kids bring this seemingly harmless gunk home, the parents are adversely affected. The ooze is made to hypnotize adults, bringing them under Ivan’s control. He commands them to begin digging up the scattered pieces of his two giant robot monsters. Once this has been achieved, Ooze commands all the parents to jump to their deaths off a cliff.
Now on Phaedos, the powerless rangers do their best to overcome a number of obstacles including humanoid crows, living dinosaur bone monsters, and fierce warriors made of stone. They are aided in this quest by Dulcea (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), a warrior princess who protects the “Great Power” the rangers need. This power turns the rangers into the “Ninjeti”. With their powers restored, the rangers return to Earth for a final showdown with Ivan Ooze.
This culminates with each ranger summoning their respective “zords” – dinosaur inspired robots which the Power Rangers drive. Eventually the individual zords combines into the giant Megazord. To match them, Ivan Ooze injects himself into his own fighting robot. After a rumble in the city, the Rangers are able to fly the mecha-Ooze into space where they kick him into an oncoming asteroid. He is destroyed , Zordon restored, the parents saved, and the five teenage friends celebrate in Angel Grove with pizza and fireworks.
Despite this detailed synopsis, the movie is generally light on complexion. Fully committed to pleasing the kids in the crowd, director Bryan Spicer channels all the good aspects of the TV show: exaggerated (yet expert) martial arts, cheesy (yet memorable) one-liners, and goofy (yet technically impressive) monster costumes and effects. The transplant from small to silver screen largely works; where it falters is the climax, when abhorrent CGI is utilized rather than an attempt at suit-mation. This choice saps the campy charm from the b-movie aesthetic, leaving you scratching your head 27 years later.
One aspect that has aged remarkably well is Paul Freeman as Ivan Ooze. The actor best known for roles in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Falcon Crest, and Hot Fuzz delivers an instantly iconic performance; his Joker-like scene-chewing antics legitimizes the other campy aspects of the movie. As a classically trained Shakespearean, Freeman understood his assignment and 110% relishes in clownish villainy.
After nearly thirty years, how has Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie aged? Not as poorly as you may think; the acting ensemble is tight, the direction smart, and overall cartoon-tone pitch perfect. Admittedly, it could be the nostalgia talking, but I was pleasantly surprised. With that said, there are dated aspects that are ripe for criticism such as the CG and female representation. Check it for yourself and let us know what you think!
by Vincent S. Hannam