The Power Rangers series has been around for over 30 years with many spinoffs that continue bringing teenagers with attitude into cosmic adventures. The original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series remains one of the most popular in the franchise, being the foundation that helped bring about many of the staple aspects the franchise continues to this day. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is a Netflix special that follows some of the original Rangers many years later after the ending of the original series. But while there are some fan service moments and decent action that Power Ranger fans will enjoy, a few unforgiving problems nearly ruin the fun. Some creative choices are borderline disrespectful and are glaring issues that stick out in the worst way possible.
The plot of this Power Rangers special mostly follows Billy and Zack, played once again by David Yost and Walter Emanuel Jones respectively. After a battle with a robotized Rita Repulsa that results in the death of Trini Kwan the Yellow Ranger, Zack takes in her daughter Minh and acts as her guardian. All of the original rangers move on with their lives until the Robo Rita resurfaces and attacks them. Jason, Kimberly, and Tommy are captured by Rita’s new monsters and used to power a mysterious device. Billy and Zack need to gather help from other Power Rangers to find and stop Rita before her plan can unfold and wreak havoc on Angel Groove and the rest of the world.
Anyone that has watched an episode of any Power Rangers show knows there is an element of camp and lightheartedness that is part of the franchise’s DNA. So there isn’t a lot of deep storytelling here, but Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is a bit darker than previous Power Ranger stories. The death of Trini, once played by Thuay Trang in the original show, is addressed in the series in a fashion that fits the story being told. Having Rita as the one who kills Trini makes sense since Rita was the nemesis of the original group. At the same time, having her daughter become linked to the Rangers seems very fitting, leading to a predictable outcome that still makes sense within this universe. But while the bulk of the story uses the death of Trini as a jumping-off point, there are other outside forces that hold this special back in a significant way.
With the original team comes the unavoidable issues about the actors who played them. Kimberly, Jason, and Tommy are present in this special, but none of their actors are part of the story. It’s very jarring to have their characters appear, but be captured for the entirety of the story and never once remove their helmets like Billy and Zack. It’s very difficult to make a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers story and not have these actors reprise their roles in a significant way. This is very apparent when you see Kimberly, Jason, and Tommy at the very end through archival footage with Kimberly playing the guitar and singing for the group. However, Amy Jo Johnson who played Kimberly in the show was not included in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always whatsoever. To include her character with voice sound clips and archive footage from the original series but not have her appear at the end of the story feels a tad bit disrespectful and lazy, especially when her character is present at the beginning.
The same can be said for Austin St. John, who played Jason the Red Ranger in the original show. Unfortunately, because of the legal issues Austin faced in his personal life, he couldn’t appear in the special. And worse yet, the passing of Jason David Frank also contributed to him not reprising his role as Tommy the Green Ranger. Since these issues are unavoidable, it would have been a better creative decision to not include these Power Rangers at all, and instead go with different characters from the Power Rangers franchise.
With sound clips of all three actors being used during the fight scenes at the start, as well as an off-camera morph beforehand, it once again feels lazy and borderline disrespectful to fans and the legacy of the show. There is a dedication screen (In Loving Memory) to Jason David Frank at the very end after showing the original team during Kimberly’s song, along with Thuay Trang, but it would’ve been a better overall choice not to include Tommy or the Green Ranger in the story at all.
But what about the Rangers we do have for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always, are they good in their roles? Besides Walter and David, we also get Catherine Sutherland and Steve Cardenas, who played the second Pink and Red Rangers in the later seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Both of them contribute greatly to the team when called upon by Billy to help out in the fight against Robo Rita, especially towards the end when the action revs up. Both actors bring a lot of camp with them as well, particularly Steve’s character Rocky, who plays off a lot of comedic moments.
In addition, we get cameos of Johnny Yong Bosch and Karan Ashley, who played the second Black and Yellow Rangers in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Their appearance doesn’t do much for the story, other than to give reasons for some of the other rangers being unable to help. They appear a second time at the very end once everything is resolved after having traveled from space when they received Billy’s call for help.
And then there’s Charlie Kersh, who plays Trini’s daughter Minh. A lot of her scenes feel over-acted and a bit hammed up more than her costars, but her action scenes are done very well. There are moments where her line delivery feels awkward, often appearing like another take could’ve been filmed to make things a little better. Her relationship with Billy and Zack has the most emotional moments in the special, giving reason for her wanting to fight Rita and become a Power Ranger. There’s a sense of whiplash in scenes that both she and Zack share, where one-second things get serious and emotional, only to immediately get back to the camp and one-liners. For most Power Rangers fans this will be nothing new, but for everyone else, this will be very jarring.
Like the rest of the franchise, the action is a big standout. The fights with the Rangers taking on Rita’s Putties are great and arguably a bit more brutal than what the original show ever had. The Rangers get to use their weapons more and land vicious attacks on their enemies, stabbing and slashing through putties and causing them to fall apart into the dirt. For mature fans of the show, this is a natural evolution from what they grew up with. When things kick into high gear towards the end with Rita growing monsters and the Rangers calling upon their zords, it can be fun.
Unfortunately, the CG visuals with the Megazord don’t look as good as they could. Some may find similarities in the effects to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie from 1995, but in 2023 things should look much better. The scenes when the original zords are called upon look better and emulate some aspects from when they appeared on the show, but what comes after doesn’t match up to that.
When all is said and done, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is an average special that could have, and should have, been great for long-time fans. Outside forces may have dampened a lot of things and made it more difficult to put the special together, but better planning and creative choices could have compensated for that. Not having some of the actors that played roles in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show really drags down the impact this special could have made to celebrate the legacy of the series. And the corners that were glaring cut because of that were very poor decisions that stand on the edge of being disrespectful and lackluster. It’s great to see Billy, Zack, and some of the other Power Rangers morph once again, but hopefully, this isn’t the last special celebrating Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that everyone can go out on. Such a thing can definitely be done a whole lot better.
Are you a fan of the Power Rangers? Who is your favorite ranger of the original group? And will you be watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always on Netflix? Share your thoughts in the comments down below!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always
There are some good moments with the action and deep fan service that long-time Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fans will appreciate. However, many creative choices made here end up being poor and really impact the quality of the story being told. The heavy camp might not be for everyone, and some special effects don’t look that great.
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