Saturday, August 23, 2014
"Power Rangers: Jungle Fury" Review
So I've kind of found there to be two main kinds of "Power Rangers" fans, excluding the target demographic of children. There are those who are die-hard Mighty Morphin' fans and count everything afterward to be dumb, rubbish, and crap, or that it doesn't even exist. Then there are those who have seen pretty much every season of Power Rangers, usually adults actually, and can judge every season fairly. Every season with the exception of "Jungle Fury" that is, which I find to be the least talked about season of the series. I think that the main reason for this is that the true fans had just gotten through watching the horribleness that was "Operation Overdrive." Plus, the premise of the show is vaguely reminiscent of "Wild Force," so some people may not have wanted to watch the same premise twice. Or perhaps it was the fact that it was so short people kind of skipped over it like it wasn't even there.
This is a shame, too, that "Jungle Fury" is hardly ever discussed. It far surpasses it's predecessor and is actually one of the better seasons of "Power Rangers." I mean, it's by no means perfect or anything, but no one season is. Some of its main flaws are the very quick pacing and that it is such a short series, plus one or two super ridiculous episodes, but other than that, it's got very fun characters, great action, a pretty good story, and a myriad of interesting villains. The team itself is well-balanced, considering how there are only three to start off with.
There are some overt things that the season lacks compared to others, but in many respects it helps the show. This season does not have a command center, but rather a loft, where they can all just hang out like normal people. Sure there are a few monitors set up to scope out evil activity, but other than that it's nothing more than a really cool place to be...above a pizza parlor, you know? They also don't have a mentor that stays in the command center at all times, as their mentor eventually becomes part of the team (something I've always liked when it happens). There is no Alpha/ Circuit, technically, but we do have Fran and Flit, who serve as comic relief for the Rangers and Dai Shi, respectively.
The biggest issue I have with this season in particular is the pacing. The season contains many very interesting elements about it that are very close and personal to the Rangers, such as RJ losing control of his animal spirit, the introduction of Dominic, and the arrival of the Spirit Rangers. Sadly, each of these moments is glazed over in the matter of about a single episode, there only being one true two-parter that is good, but, I don't think necessarily had enough substance as some of the other sub-plots could have.
Another big problem that the show has is within the action. The action itself is phenomenal, but, there are certain things that go on that make me go, "Huh?" For example: whenever one of the Rangers lands a kick to blow back their opponent, there is a laser sound effect. In fact, there are lots of laser sound effects scattered throughout the fight sequences. Of course there is the now standard "Power Rangers" back explosions but these are pretty silly. They take away from the fighting. You'll go from the Rangers fighting on the ground when suddenly there's an explosion behind them that sends them flying, despite nothing hitting them. Though, I will say this: the wire-work this season is greatly intertwined with the fighting styles of the Rangers, almost as if it were written in.
To get into the nitty-gritty of the "Power Rangers" pieces of the show, I have to give props to many of the typical elements, as they are some of my favorites. I love the costumes this season, but more-so the Jungle Master Mode ones. RJ's Ranger outfit is my favorite of all the series, perfectly balancing the black and purple on the suit as well as having the silver linings on the helmet of the Jungle Master Mode. The morphers are...sunglasses? For Casey, Lily, and Theo, yeah, it's kinda weird. RJ's is another one on the wrist and Dom's is a bracelet. Regarding the morphing sequence, though, I like how they morph because it's a mix between the morphing grid as well as their own animal spirit energy. You have to have access to both, as we find out when Casey struggles with his animal spirit.
Speaking animal spirit energy, that's how they summon their Zords. They manage to summon "the beast inside" of them all, which takes shape in the form of their animal spirit (Tiger, Jaguar, Cheetah, Wolf, Rhino, or the addition of Elephant, Bat, Shark, as well as for Jungle Master Mode there's Gorilla, Antelope, and Penguin...yeah I know). The MegaZords are great as well, since they are controlled by the synchronized moevements of the Rangers, and it seems to be the most light-footed of all the Zords, able to swing it's arms and legs more freely than previous incarnations that seemed pretty stuck in its pose.
The opening of the show isn't the best, like it's not "In Space" or "Time Force" or anything, but, I mean it's good for what the show is going for. This is a very upbeat season of PR, so, the theme song matches it. It's a rock song and is very upbeat, though the lyrics are actually good and don't repeat themselves. They say that these Rangers won't even lose a fight, that they are fast, strong, and unstoppable. Other themes like, again, "In Space" and "Time Force" give the Rangers limitless abilities, such as them "soaring higher than ever before" and that they'll explore "timeless wonders" to save the world. The opening sequences falls prey to the anime-style opening where if a spoiler happens in the episode the opening is going to give it away. Like the episode where the Spirit Rangers join with the Power Rangers, they're shown in the opening posing with the Power Rangers. Kinda gave it away, despite it obvious going to happen eventually.
To speak on the villains of the show, I'll say that the fast-pacing of the show helps here. First we have the Five Fingers of Poison, them the Overlords, then the Phantom Beasts. To have to get through all of them, and their footsoldiers, would normally take a lot of time. Luckily, the show devotes a good amount of its time on the villains, allowing us to learn the intentions of such villains as Grezaka and Scorch before they get the eventual axe. Dai Shi can learn Zokado and Renzin power in a manner than makes sense, since he gains more power with every episode. In fact, some of the things about the villains this season make more sense than what happens with the Rangers. Huh.
Dai Shi/ Jarrod and Camille served as great villains. Normally the spot Camille commanded would have been served by comic relief, or a villain that would eventually be destroyed as part of the plan for the main villain, but instead we get good development with both them so by the end their actions make sense. The way that they were able to tap into their animal spirits almost made them seem like anti-Power Rangers because they technically "morphed" into a new form from their human form. Their motivations are a little weak or aren't explained in time, but, again, they had to get through a lot in a little amount of time.
This season also gets major points for bringing on evil Power Rangers in the form of the Spirit Rangers for an episode. I always love evil Power Rangers, so, getting to see the Spirit Rangers toss around our heroes was a charm. Their reason for existing made sense, though the villains were a little dumb about it. Their place in the season also made lots of sense. If they'd brought them on too close to the end then the final few episodes would have been very rushed, but if it were too early then the Rangers would be over-powered.
Speaking of the ending of the show, that brings up another pretty big negative in my mind about the show. The filler in the show is really only filler for the Rangers, as it will turn around and add development for the villains. However, the filler episode of "Don't Blow that Dough" is stupid. Why? Because it's a clip show.
Now, clip shows aren't entirely bad, or pointless, under one condition: the show has to have been running long enough for me to need to remember what's happened. "Jungle Fury" contains a mere 32 episodes, and the clip-show marked the twenty-sixth. Not necessary! What truly frustrates me is this: we wasted a whole episode recapping the show, needlessly as I just mentioned, when we already have a fast-paced show full of great potential storylines barely being explained. This episode could easily have been replaced by another. We could have had an extra episode of RJ as a wolf to give us an episode where the Rangers have to contemplate taking down their master, maybe with the help of RJ's father and Fran to give development to those characters. We could have had an extra episode focusing on Dominic, instead of making him the Rhino Ranger the same episode he was introduced! GAH I just hate wasted episodes on a good show.
There are other episodes that are kind of dumb. The sixth episode is centered around the team getting more in sync with each other by learning how to dance, and then they apply it to their fighting against the Renshi. I could barely stand to watch it. I know the show is silly, but, it was below the silly standard it was at. There's another episode centered around dancing that really amounted to nothing until the end where the Spirit Rangers were introduced.
To be frank, most of the episodes that were a little dumb were the Lily based ones. The two dancing episodes and the one where she becomes a "bad girl" are lame. At least in the second dancing episode she has a good moment about overcoming fear. Casey's episodes were usually pretty good, as it showed his conflict as a warrior and a new leader to the team. The episode where he had to choose whether or not to save the scientist showed the risks he was willing to take to save humanity. The final episodes are great Casey episodes, actually.
Casey, as a Red Ranger, is one of the best we've gotten since Cole back in "Wild Force." He's not a natural leader but learns to become one and excels at it, able to take on Dai Shi all by himself by the penultimate episode and make tough, personal calls others would have stopped to think about. He's all about doing the right thing for everyone. He uses his power always toward a good cause. The two episodes where he lacks sufficient animal spirit energy thanks to Whigor are great, especially when he saves Whigor, claiming he'll save anyone that he can given the chance. When Whigor gives him back the power, there is a real sense of brotherhood between them thanks to what Casey was able to do for Whigor. It was actually a fairly emotional scene when Whigor faded away, calling Casey a friend and ally before leaving for the Spirit World.
RJ as a leader was pretty good. His methods were often weird, almost as if trying to mimic the Karate Kid style of learning, but for Power Rangers. He was a funny and quirky guy, but was serious on the battle-field, probably the best actual fighter out there, and was able to command a Mega Zord that all three Rangers once had to command at the same time. His insight grew better as the season progressed, going from fortune-cookie status to applicable status. Again, I would like to have seen more of him as a wolf, and more of the turmoil he faced as such, but, I'm glad they did give him more of an edge by making him go crazy for a couple of episodes.
There are little things within the season between characters that you kind of forget about that are lost in the big pool of plots, like the relationship between Theo and Lily, the potential relationship between Dom and Fran, and the question of if Master Mao is really dead or not. I still have no real idea. But like I said, little things. It's the things that make you go, "Oh, yeah, that thing" but not too big that you're upset it wasn't panned out more in the show, as it wasn't really necessary. The fact that those things are brought up by the end show that the season was able to end with all things tied up.
The final battle was a bit anti-climactic, but, at least the Rangers got to keep their powers, one of the few teams to be able to do that in recent history. I wish they'd combined all of the animal spirits to beat Dai Shi, sort of like how the Dino Rangers defeated Mesogog. At least the way they did it, again, made sense. Using their animal spirits as the guardians they were meant to be made sense, since they were only supposed to use that technique against Dai Shi.
Overall, I'd say that "Jungle Fury" is definitely one of the better chapters of the "Power Rangers" franchise. Are there things about it that are rushed? Yes. There is still good character development and moments for almost every main character, including the villains. It's refreshing to see a lighthearted series of Power Rangers, too, after everyone is always so serious nowadays on TV. It's everything you'd expect to get out of a good "Power Rangers" season mixed with superb action to put it even higher. Seriously, man, that kung-fu style fighting was always so great to see, and that wire work!
If you're a fan of "Power Rangers," new or old, I'd definitely say it's worth checking out. Don't hate because of the goofiness, it's "Power Rangers" after all, it's supposed to be cheesy. Just go in with an open-mind, and you'll have a great time!