One of the biggest disappointments of my adult life was revisiting some of the television shows of my youth and realizing that they just didn't hold up to the test of time. After sitting through only a single episode of Thundercats, I swore that if I were ever forced to hear that song again, I'd make the person at fault very, very sorry. The Transformers cartoon seemingly has one story that is repeated every episode, Jem and her band of Holograms are all kind of, well, stupid and no one, I mean no one, ever got shot on G.I. Joe. We know Cobra Commander had the best voice on television, but somehow, the younger version of myself never recognized that he was the world's worst shot with a laser gun.
Being that there hasn't been an original idea in the entertainment industry since sometime in the 40's, rehashing old ideas and characters has become the order of the day. Even as recently as this past summer, the biggest box office receipts belonged to not just sequels like Spider Man 3, but re-imagined old properties like the Transformers. So it is no surprise that two brand new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers spin-off DVDs hit the market last week. How do they stack up against the original? Are they as insulting to the viewer's intelligence as other spin-offs like the recent Loonatics Unleashed (Warner Brothers mainstays like Bug Bunny, but dressed up for an Akira cosplay event)? Should you even bother checking them out?
To understand the new Power Rangers, you must go back and look at the original show's beginnings. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit the American airwaves in 1993 and became an overnight sensation. My last big childhood obsession, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, had lost it's luster by 1993 and puberty ensured that I was more interested in Amy Jo Johnson, the Pink Ranger, than I was in the ridiculous fighting and barely believable acting.
To make a long and stupid story short, the Power Rangers was a live action show with American teenagers who could "morph" into spandex-clad superheroes. The five Rangers not only fought hand to hand, but commanded some very Voltron-like robots that, when combined, formed into a giant sword wielding beast of a machine. The whole production felt cheap and campy, mostly because the fight scenes were lifted from older Japanese television programs and combined with the live action American teenager sequences.
After a few seasons the Power Rangers splintered into a number of spin-off programs, all just as ridiculous as the original. The most recent of these spin-offs, Operation Overdrive, has found a home on Toon Disney, which is one of those channels that sits so high up on the basic cable dial, you'll only run across it when desperately searching for something to watch at 2 a.m. on a Sunday night. This latest itineration keeps the basic formula of the original intact, but also tries to bring so fresh life to the tired Power Ranger franchise.
Operation Overdrive is best described as the All-Star game of the Power Rangers universe. The series has nearly 30 episodes to its credit so far, and it draws from nearly every other Power Rangers series. Old Rangers make guest appearances, as do old enemies and vehicles. The other notable difference between this series and all the others is that Operation Overdrive has the Power Rangers fighting at landmarks across the world, rather than just in Los Angeles. It doesn't make a huge difference, though; these new Rangers follow the same basic blueprint of every other series. The show is so predictable that if you've seen one episode, you have literally seen them all.
The recent DVD releases, Volume One and Volume Two, cover the first few episodes of the series. DVD releases like this usually serve as a cheap way to acclimate new viewers, but with Operation Overdrive, and Power Rangers in general, the episodes are so similar that even the newest viewer won't have any trouble getting into the show. There aren't any episode-to-episode storylines that would be tough to explain to a newcomer, and the self-contained nature of each episode makes things even simpler to understand.
Bandai, the company behind Operation Overdrive, does deserve a little credit. The actual show is terrible, but the DVD releases are top-notch in the extras department. You'll get some interesting online connectivity in the form of a code that can be entered at the Bandai website for some neat bonuses. Both volumes have a single level of an upcoming Power Rangers game. A lot of DVDs have features like this, but Volume One has the first level of the game and Volume Two has the second. It is a pretty cool idea, but you'd probably be better off just buying the upcoming game and skipping these DVDs altogether.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was never really a quality program. In fact, it was just a mash-up of a Saved By The Bell or Kids Incorporated-type show and an Ultraman or Godzilla ripoff. They aren't two great tastes that go great together. If you do want to give the show a chance, check out Toon Disney before dropping the cash for these releases. Nearly everyone will find multiple sources of disappointment here. The real tragedy will fall on the generation that grew up with the Power Rangers. I can only imagine their heartbreak when, on a particularly boring evening, they decide to go retro and watch the show they used to love. As off-putting as old G.I. Joes and Transformers cartoons are now, I'm quite positive that the Power Rangers will eclipse their influence in the realm of disappointment.
Just because the DVDs have a few games.