DVD Review: Saban’s “Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge” Evokes Nostalgia For The Giddy Imbecility Of The Original Series

“Some of the robo-costumes are kinda cool, including a Harley Quinn-esque female bot - but the Power Rangers’ suits could’ve used a little more stitchin’.”


 

Join the Power Rangers as they face extreme dangers and impossible odds to protect the ten Energems. They must summon all their Dino Super Charge powers to become stronger than ever and battle the evil alien Heckyl and his alter ego Snide, but a force even greater than Heckyl stands in their way: the Dark Energem!

Let’s get this out of the way: the target audience for “Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge” are pre-teens, ADD-addled kids craving colorful action, simple characters and a straightforward premise that could repeat itself, episode after episode. Hence, applying legitimate criticism to this show is akin to reviewing the Teletubbies or Flintstones based on their artistic merit (ironically, all three of these simplest-of-shows have had dimwitted feature-length adaptations). More of a tool for parents to distract annoying offspring than a fully-fleshed out, intricately-plotted series, “The Power Rangers”’ predictability has always been reassuring. As a child, watching the original series while getting ready for school, I knew for a fact that the Rangers were ultimately going to save the day from the Big Bad (Most Likely Robotic) Enemy – and that’s all I needed to know.

Saban claims the reason for its recent big-screen “Power Rangers” flop was the PG-13 rating, but the franchise was doomed from the start: perhaps certain things are best left in the nostalgic drawer. Kids these days have been raised on “Transformers,” and let’s face it, if you’re looking for robots battling it out, “Power Rangers” resembles “Transformers-Light,” with a bunch of teens replacing Mark Wahlberg and Elizabeth Banks standing in for the Decepticons. The cheap-o TV series embraces some of the campy aspects that made the original sorta endearing, but updates everything with a shiny, Lego-like polish. It’s morphing time, indeed.

Within the first minute of the first episode, titled “When Evil Stirs,” I was overwhelmed with so much mega-confusing exposition, I had to pause and write this down:

Tyler Navarro (a.k.a. the Red Dino Charge Ranger a.k.a. Adrian Grenier-lookalike Brennan Mejia), bonded with Shelby Watkins (a.k.a. the Pink Dino Charge Ranger a.k.a. Meagan Good-lookalike Camille Hyde) over some glowing magical stones called Energems, consequently becoming the Dino Power Rangers.

They met Keeper (a creepy-looking 6-foot Yoda in a monk outfit) and gave away their remaining Energems to fellow Rangers.

A villain called Sledge “sent monster after monster” to steal the Energems, until he finally managed to do it himself – but the Rangers weren’t going down without a fight. They defeated Sledge and went back to their normal lives.

But, as Tyler writes in his diary (aww!), though he knows “it’s good that the world is safe” and is “glad to be looking for [his] dad again,” he misses having his Energem and being a Power Ranger. Of course, now that Sledge is gone, an even more powerful enemy surfaces.

Did you get all that? Good, ‘cos, like I said, that’s just the first 60 seconds of a four-and-a-half-hour season. The new villain turns out to be an angsty teenager with a Dr. Jekyll syndrome – he even goes by the name Heckyl (Ryan Carter, turning the “ham” dial to 1,000), morphing into his “rather uncouth” alter ego Snide when ready for battle. And man, he’s ready, hunting down the Rangers one by one: the aforementioned Pink and Red leaders, but also the Blue one (Yoshi Sudarso, whose pseudo-Asian (supposedly prehistoric?) accent/speech impediment is terribly distracting), the Green one (Michael Taber), the Black one (James Davies), the Gold one (Davi Santos) and the Purple one (Claire Blackwelder). Their Dino equipment includes Dino-Steel armor, Power Blades, and they utilize a variety of techniques, such as the Rapid Blast, which involves swiveling around while laser-shooting enemies, and the titular Dino Charge – an… explosion, I guess. Each episode ends with the obligatory giant robotic fusion of all seven Power Rangers going face-to-face with equally gargantuan foes.

The special effects range from godawful to surprisingly decent for a low-budget kiddie TV production. I can’t decide whether I prefer the former (which at least reminds me of the camp of the original series) or the latter – the series is stuck in the “neither-here-nor-there” zone. Some of the robo-costumes are kinda cool, including a Harley Quinn-esque female bot – but the Power Rangers’ suits could’ve used a little more stitchin’. The dialogue is predictably childish (“My heart is empty but my tummy doesn’t have to be!” a Ranger exclaims, while a villain freezes a Ranger into an ice-cube and proclaims: “Easy peasy Ranger freezy!”).

Look, I have clearly way outgrown this kind of stuff, and Saban’s series threw me off-guard. Do I treasure the fond memories of watching “Power Rangers?” Do I hope that the current generation of kids have a similar opportunity to put their brains on hold, while simultaneously giving their folks a much-needed break? Or do I stick to my convictions that entertainment, no matter its target audience or level of silliness, should still stimulate on some cerebral level? Like the show itself, I’m neither here not there, so I’ll give it a rating as ambiguous as its intentions.

Available on DVD & Digital HD Tuesday, June 27th


 

Alex graduated from Emerson College in Boston with a BA in Film & Media Arts and studied journalism at the Northwestern University in Chicago. While there, he got acquainted with the late Roger Ebert, who supported and inspired Alex in his career as a screenwriter and film critic. Alex has produced, written and directed a short zombie film, “Parched,” which is being distributed internationally and he is developing a series for a TV network, and is in pre-production on a major motion picture.
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