Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once and Always (2023)
Film review #557
Director: Charlie Haskell
SYNOPSIS: Rita Repulsa has returned in a robot body, and is out to get the original power rangers. The yellow ranger, Trini is killed when she sacrifices herself to save the blue ranger Billy. One year later, Robot Rita returns with her plan to absorb the power rangers into her new machine to take their power for herself. The rangers must reunite to take down Rita and save their friends…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Once and Always is a 2023 special released as part of the thirtieth anniversary of the Mighty Morphin ‘ Power Rangers TV series, and the beginning of the franchise as a whole. In the opening scene, we see the power rangers in battle against Robot Rita Repulsa, and the yellow ranger, Trini, sacrificing herself to save the blue ranger Billy, which is quite a serious twist. Fast forward a year later and we see Trini’s daughter Minh being raised by Zack, the black power ranger who is now her guardian. Unfortunately, Robot Rita has returned, and has a new plan to kidnap the power rangers to fuel a new machine and absorb their power. She starts kidnapping rangers from all over the world, including the original Red, Green and Pink ranger. Zack and Billy, the black and blue rangers, enlist the help of one-time rangers Rocky and Kat to help them stop Rita’s scheme before it’s too late. The story feels very much like a typical Power Rangers plot line, and could have easily been lifted from an episode of the series. On top of that though, they add in a more mature storyline around the death of Trini, and her daughter, who is set on revenge, and exploring what it means to be a power ranger, which provides enough emotional scenes alongside the typical martial arts action. There’s a decent balance between what you expect from the franchise, and the more in-depth mature story that a now-older Power Rangers fan can enjoy too, which is nice. It’s definitely not a high-budget reboot or remake, and perhaps offers no surprises in terms of story, but it captures that silly, low budget quality of the original that still had the charm to capture children’s imaginations thirty years ago, and in some ways it’s nice that it didn’t try to be anything else.
With regards to the characters, only Zack and Billy, the original black and blue rangers return. This leads to bringing in Rocky, who succeeded as the red ranger, and Kat, who became the pink ranger. The death of Trini, the yellow ranger follows from the death of her original actress. The green ranger Tommy, Jason David Frank declined to appear, but also died shortly after the filming was done, and Austin St. John and Amy Jo Johnson, the original red and pink ranger) also declined to appear. All in all, the cast is very much half complete, and that’s before you include that the original Rita Repulsa and Zordon actors also passed away, and while Zordon did not return, the voice for Rita’s robotic replacement is quite a solid performance. The cast of Power Rangers has always been a revolving door of actors as they leave and a new one takes on the suit, and this special tries to both reference them all, while still focusing on the original team. As such, even if you’re a Power Rangers fan, you might not recognise all the references and characters if you didn’t watch past a certain point in the series. Despite this, Rocky and Kat play their characters well, and while the acting is sometimes a bit flat and cheesy, again it’s what you expect from the series. The special does feel like it has to navigate around the missing cast a bit to try and fit everything together, but at it’s heart it’s still a typical Power Rangers story that’s simple enough to follow.
All the typical beats and action are here in this special: from the hand-to-hand combat with Rita’s goons, the Rangers fighting with the weapons, and the Megazord fight, everything is here that you would expect, along with the cheesy one-liners to go with them. It’s really a love letter to the franchise that captures the feel of the Power Rangers, while also reflecting on some more mature and emotional story elements that the now-older fanbase can appreciate. If you want a reboot, you can watch the 2017 Power Rangers movie, but Once and Always is one for those who watched the original series on Saturday mornings and had their imaginations captured. I was never a huge Power Rangers fan as a kid (I always preferred cartoons over live-action shows), but even as a sometimes fan, I found plenty in here that was entertaining enough, and allowed me to remember the series fondly. It’s full of references and everything Power Rangers, and while you’re probably not missing out on much by not watching it, it’s still entertaining enough, and a fitting tribute to those actors who are no longer with us. As the special concludes with: Once a ranger, always a ranger…