Power Rangers Once and Always Review: Our Beloved Rangers Will Always be in our Hearts

So this is a little outside of what I normally review but the fact is when I was a kid I was a huge Power Rangers fan. I still hold the series in high regard even to this day as we get a special that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the series. The story is that after decades of being Power Rangers our original heroes find themselves face to face with a newly revived robot version of their old foe Rita. In an attempt to stop her Trini the yellow ranger is killed in action leaving behind a daughter who seeks revenge and a ranger team dealing with loss and a need to remain strong to continue the fight.

The story was actually far deeper than I ever expected. Power Rangers has a history of avoiding talking about death but this time made it a very big motivator for the story. As many of us know the actress who played Trini passed away prior to the filming of the special and so it’s clear her character’s death was not only used to show her absence in the special but as a catalyst to pay tribute to the beloved actress Thuy Trang. The story really centers around how Zach and Billy took on the role of protectors for Trini’s daughter Minh and we get a lot of amazing moments with this trio. It was amazing to see these two veteran rangers show up after not seeing them in any kind of ranger role for decades and these two really managed to deliver heartfelt scenes that further fleshed out the emotional depth of these characters. A year after Trini’s passing Robo Rita strikes again forcing Zach and Billy to call on the help of other Mighty Morphin rangers Steve and Kat the second red and pink rangers. This is the first time we’ve seen Zach work with either of these characters and it was a really cool sight to behold as they bounced off of each other really well. I will say I was surprised at how little Steve and Kat were involved with the story. While they were a part of every pivotal moment the scenes made it very clear that Zach and Billy were the leading rangers and Steve and Kat played more supporting roles. I actually think this worked out well because we have seen both of these characters return as veteran rangers once before so for them to take a more backup role to rangers who haven’t returned worked very well to give us the fans plenty of time to reunite with these characters.

I do want to point out that the characters Adam and Aisha, the second black and yellow rangers, do appear but I’m left a little baffled by their inclusion. I’m more than happy to see them but it felt less to do with explaning things for the Once and Always story and more to do with setting up something more. They don’t show up for very long at all, maybe a couple of minutes; however, in that time they establish some continuity with the Power Rangers lore that leads up to Rangers from a later point in the Power Rangers timeline like Power Rangers: SPD. However, these details only served to explain why these two characters were unable to directly help with the current conflict and to me this seems like a lot of effort to explain why two rangers were abscent from the battle and leads me to believe we haven’t seen everything the 30th celebration of Power Rangers has to offer.

The story also references a lot of well-known facts to long-time fans of the series such as Zach’s unique fighting style, popular locations from the original series, and well-established lore. In fact, this special fit perfectly into the lore and explained every little detail, something that Power Rangers has a pretty shaky history with. For example, Steve and Kat never had the dino powers used by the Mighty Morphin team but instead started when they evolved to their Thunder powers and even that detail was explained as to how these two characters could use these powers for the first time. The attention to detail was really great here, but it also leads to the one and only flaw in the story and that’s it’s pacing. You would think an hour would be enough time to tell a Power Rangers story that typically can be done in 20 to 30 minutes but there’s a lot going on here, far more than what we are typically given and so the pacing is really fast. The moments do just enough to explain what is going on and provide the emotional gravity of the scene, but as soon as that’s done we are immediately on the next thing. Now this is by no means something that ruins the special but I do think another half hour would have really allowed time to flesh out these big moments better and reduce the whiplash levels of transitioning from scene to scene.

The combat is great and we actually get a lot of it. I think there are about five or six different fights which is a lot even for Power Rangers which usually gives us about two per episode. We also get to see the rangers morph several times and the special effects used to show the morphing process were really well done. This leads me to talk about the next important thing which is attention to detail. I’ve already explained how the story covers any and all loose ends without really leaving lingering questions but there’s also a level of detail in the production too. A new command center, updated morphing scenes, and even new effects to go from normal to ranger form. A lot was done to really make these characters shine on a visual level and since they were using all original scenes rather than using fight footage from any Super Sentai counterpart all the transitions from the characters in their civilian garb to their ranger form were really smooth.

We also do get to see a return of the dino zords which was a welcomed sight as the last time we saw them was a brief fight scene in Power Rangers: Beast Morphers. Because this was not an adaptation of a Super Sentai story the developers had to make an original zord fight scene and so CGI was used to recreate the zords. Now the end product worked really well as it looked amazing but also jarring because as a long-time fan, I’m so used to the final product zord fights of the super sentai counterparts which are made very differently. Now I’m not saying it’s bad but it’s clearly different and as someone who was used to the same thing over and over again, there was a bit of a transition for me to adjust to the new style. The final fight though turned out great.

So this next part I really struggled to figure out how to word it as it concerns the passing of Jason David Frank who played Tommy the original green ranger. Because his passing happened after Once and Always was filmed it left fans to speculate as to whether or not he is in the special, he is not. The green ranger does appear for a couple of scenes but in his morphed form only which as we all know is Power Rangers code for the actor didn’t appear but his character was still involved. Also because his passing happened after the filming the special is clearly geared as a passing of the torch for solely the yellow ranger which is understandable; however, the end credits really pay homage to both of them and I’ll admit I got a bit teary-eyed. I grew up with these characters so the way they payed tribute to them really hit the fact hard that they are gone but payed respects to the legacy they left behind.

Overall, this was probably the deepest most emotionally involved Mighty Morphin Power Rangers story I’ve ever seen. Rather than shy away from dark topics like death and loss this story dives head first into it to tell a captivating story of passing the torch from a ranger who is no longer with us to her daughter learning just what it means to take up the mantle. The story is really amazing and covers any relevant detail from the major plot points to explaning how things are consistant with the current lore, but because it’s a massive tale the run time did not give enough time to really make everything paced well. Everything is super fast one minute you’re at the command center the next minute the moon. There is no time between transitions from scene to scene and while that doesn’t take anything away from the story it’s a noticable flaw. There is a beatiful in memory of moment after the story for the late and great Truy Trang and Jason David Frank and this is truely a show meant to appeal to those who have had a long history being a part of the Power Rangers family and maybe even set up more to come.

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