In the mid 1990s, America was attacked by a foreign enemy known as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a Japanese TV show about costumed heroes who spend their free time beating the suck out of evildoers. The American version, which incorporated footage from the Japanese one, was a hit with children, who appreciated that for once a TV show was telling them the truth: Most of life's problems can be solved with kicking.
At the height of Power Rangers Fever came a theatrical film, Power Rangers: The Movie which took the TV show's characters, and maybe some of its actors (who can tell?), and put them in a situation that was more or less like the situations they faced week to week on TV, except now you had to pay to see it. And pay you did! Even if you got in free, believe me, you paid.
The Power Rangers are six teenagers, four boys and two girls. It could be an even three and three, but why would you need three girls? Come on, be serious. When evil threatens, the six of them do battle with their karate skills. When things really get hairy, they stand next to each other like A Chorus Line auditioners and, one by one, shout the names of their signature animals: pterodactyl, triceratops, tyrannosaurus rex, mastodon, saber-tooth tiger, and white tiger. (No explanation is given for one-third of the crew being tiger-oriented, though one assumes it is the result of lobbying by the powerful tiger industry.) Then they instantly morph into those animals!
No, I'm kidding. That would make sense. What they morph into is stuntmen who are wearing different color jumpsuits and helmets (to hide their faces) and who have little patches on their chests indicating what animal they supposedly represent. Then they do some more leaping and kicking. At no point do any of the Power Rangers exhibit any of the characteristics associated with their animals, except insofar as those animals are known to leap and kick. Maybe I'm missing something here, but WHAT THE HELL, POWER RANGERS??
The movie begins with a five-minute sequence of the Power Rangers, in their everyday teenager incarnations, skydiving. Literally, five minutes. Then there's two minutes of roller-blading. Then the courier finally arrives with the script and the movie is able to quit stalling and get moving. It's the usual story line: construction crew accidentally unearths ancient evil being, said evil being attempts to take over the world, is thwarted by superheroes (or, in this case, Power Rangers). This plot is as old as drama itself, having been explored in the ancient Greek tragedy Mighty Morphin Oedipus Rex.
The villain is Ivan Ooze (Paul Freeman), your garden-variety demonic-looking fellow who wants to destroy the human race. You can tell the movie is for kids because even though Ivan is described as "evil beyond all imagination," he's actually a fey, campy buffoon whom no one could possibly take seriously. He's also, as is typical with these things, the only character with even a spark of wit or personality.
Goodness knows the Power Rangers are useless. I'm not even sure they have names. One of the guys flirts with one of the girls, so I guess they're a couple, and I think one of the six is non-caucasian. Other than that, they are interchangeable. Their boss is Zordon, a floating hologram head who "helps" them fight evil by hanging back in his hologram and not doing anything. Zordon is assisted by Alpha, a robot who speaks in an exaggerated robot voice and says things like "A massive surge of evil energy is overloading our sensors! Ay yi yi!" Everything Alpha says ends with "ay yi yi!" This is annoying beyond all imagination, and probably every bit as evil as whatever it is that's overloading Alpha's sensors.
Ivan Ooze distracts the Power Rangers by conjuring a squad of purple goons to fight them. The battle rages for what feels like an hour, whereupon the Power Rangers discover that the goons splatter -- literally turn to liquid -- if you push them somewhat forcefully into a hard surface. They are essentially water balloons. Meanwhile, Ivan Ooze is sneaking into Power Rangers headquarters and almost killing Zordon. ("Ay yi yi!" says Alpha.)
The Power Rangers must save their leader. "You've been like a father to us!" one of them says, raising the question of where their actual fathers and mothers are while they're out till all hours of the night leaping and kicking things. To restore Zordon's health, they have to go to another planet and retrieve the Great Power, a not-very-creatively named thing that apparently has great power. Alpha sends them through space by "downloading the very last plasmatic morphing gem into the transport core" (IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN), and they land on a rocky planet where they see the skeleton of a giant creature, leading to this conversation:
POWER RANGER: Whoa! Looks like somebody had a bad day!
ANOTHER POWER RANGER: What is it?
POSSIBLY A DIFFERENT POWER RANGER: I think the question is what WAS it?
THE SAME POWER RANGER AS THE FIRST ONE (MAYBE): Definitely not the welcoming committee, that's for sure!
It is at this point that you locate the railroad spike you brought with you, hold it up to your forehead, and drive it into your skull with a ball-peen hammer. When the film was first released, theaters provided hammers and spikes for patrons who had forgotten theirs, and a set is included with the DVD.
Soon the Power Rangers meet Dulcea (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), a beautiful, scantily clad sorceress who's old friends with Zordon and is more than happy to help the Power Rangers locate the Great Power. She bestows on them new animals: falcon, ape, crane, wolf, bear, and frog. (Yes, frog.) As before, these animal associations are chosen randomly and have no impact whatsoever on the Power Rangers' abilities, which is probably a relief to the guy who got stuck with "frog." Dulcea, on the other hand, actually does turn into an owl (funny, I'd have guessed cougar) before sending them off to find the Great Power. Along the way, they must battle creatures made of rock, who prove to be very formidable opponents because they do not splatter when you punch them. The Power Rangers are caught off guard by this.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Ivan Ooze needs to dig up his "ectomorphicons," which are buried near where he was entombed. To do this, he must enslave some human adults and give them shovels. You would think he could summon another army of splattery henchmen out of thin air to do the work, but evidently there is a limit on that. Instead, he produces hundreds of bottles of "Ivan's Ooze" -- fun, slimy green stuff -- and hands it out to kids, free of charge. They take it home, their parents touch it, and whammo! The parents become mindless zombies. Ivan conjures these bottles of ooze out of thin air, in much the same fashion as a more sensible demon might have conjured diggers. He then takes some of his enslaved humans off ectomorphicon-excavation duty and puts them to work in an ooze-producing factory, which doesn't make any sense at all.
The Power Rangers return to Earth and save Zordon with the Great Power, but that part is boring so I'm not going to mention it. After that, the only logical way for the film to end is for Ivan Ooze to unleash giant insectoid robots on the city (apparently that's what "ectomorphicons" are), and for the Power Rangers to pilot huge vehicles shaped vaguely like the animals they supposedly represent, and for all the machines to fight each other. It's a lot like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, except that one of the movies is crass, mindless garbage aimed at young children, and the other one has Power Rangers.
Editor's Note: Enjoy this rare behind the scenes look!
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Eric's Bad Movies appears Thursdays at Film.com. You can visit Eric at his website, which has all the powers of a website.