Power Rangers Plus Terminator Equals RPM!
It should come as very little surprise to any AZM readers that I was a big Power Rangers fan when the first season aired in 1993. I was still in high school and although I recognized how horribly cheesey and borderline racist it was (Black Ranger does Hip Hopkido? Yellow Ranger is Asian? hmm…), I still enjoyed the hell out of the show. I also had a wicked crush on Amy Jo Johnson, the Pink Ranger. I’ve long since learned that Power Rangers were American translations of Japan’s Super Sentai shows and that some of the original Japanese shows were much more violent and gritty than their American counterparts. There were also Sentai shows that were much more cheesey and stupid than their American counterparts which brings me to Engine Sentai Go-Onger and Power Rangers RPM.
Each year, I try to watch the first few episodes of the new Sentai show. Mike Dent has a Five Episode rule. I have rarely held up to his standard. I tried my best to get into last year’s Engine Sentai Go-Onger. But the first episode hurt my head so much I had to stop. It was just too warm and cuddly. Okay, so it’s a show aimed at Japanese elementary school kids, but there’s only so much cuteness I can take. The talking vehicles really annoyed the shit out of me. Needless to say, I did not hold to the Mike Dent Five Episode rule.
Power Rangers follow a year behind their Super Sentai counterparts. Power Rangers RPM is this year’s show which is based on last year’s Go-Onger. Disney just released volume 1 of Power Rangers RPM on DVD last week and when the opportunity came up to review the new show, I jumped at it. I wanted to see if our version of Go-Onger was going to be just as annoying or if the Power Rangers have gotten less cheesy since I last watched. I’m happy to say that RPM exceeded my expectations.
RPM is set in a future world where a malevolent computer virus called Venjix has taken control of Earth’s computer systems and created an army of robots to destroy the human race. Alright, so we’re not exactly breaking new ground here. But come on, who doesn’t like a little post apocalyptic robot war in their Power Rangers? Humanity’s last stronghold is the domed city Corinth. It’s up to the Power Rangers to defend the city from Venjix and its army of killbots.
One big thing sets this series apart from other Sentai and Power Ranger shows. The Red Ranger is always the leader of the team so inevitably, the person who plays the Red Ranger is our focal character. In RPM, our main character is Dillon, the Black Ranger. He has no memory of his past and has no idea why there’s Venjix technology throughout his body (echoes of Marcus from Terminator Salvation). The Red Ranger is still the leader of the RPM team, but Dillon is our hero.
There’s a decent amount of non-suit action and we get to see the martial arts chops of the actors. That’s always a nice touch and they’ve gotten much better since the early days of Power Rangers. The transitions between original Japanese footage and newly shot footage are less apparent than they used to which makes RPM feel like a complete show rather than a rough translation. Also, no talking vehicles. Thank you!
There’s one technical glitch that bothers me and I don’t know if that’s because I have the fullscreen DVD or if that’s the way it airs on television. There are a few cut scenes that are squished. Go-Onger was filmed in HD. The DVD is standard def so there are some transformation sequences that are squished. If RPM is standard def, I think it’s a bad choice to squeeze the widescreen frames so that they fit. It looks really bad. Not bad enough to make me stop watching, but it’s an odd choice.
There are four episodes in volume 1. I’m glad I got to watch these first four all at once. The Rangers show up in the last few minutes of the first episode and it would be annoying as hell to wait a week for the fight to finish. It’s pretty enjoyable. The nods to the Terminator franchise work well in this context. And they’ve managed to turn a cheesy, cutesy show into something somewhat serious and watchable. RPM is still airing so it looks like I’ve got to start waking up early on the weekends to catch it. Volume 1 is in stores now!
Here are some fun clips from Volume 1.
Red, Blue, and Yellow face off against the big bad.
Power Rangers are Fast and Furious.