Monday, November 21, 2016

Power Rangers Dino Super Charge Review

Power Rangers has finally been caught back in the public eye. Some people took a nostalgia trip three years ago as the show entered its 20th anniversary, some revisited the series when that Power/ Rangers short film came out, since it attempted to show what life would be like for the original team after the events of...Zeo? I don't know, it was weird. Point is, with Power Rangers coming to screens and a big trailer having dropped about a month or so ago, Power Rangers has been poised to make it's biggest splash yet. Not to mention it'd just come off one of the show's best individual seasons so far, Dino Charge! What could go wrong?
I liked Dino Super Charge, at least, for what it was. There are circumstances that simply could not work for the show, so I think they did their best in many places. In others...not so much.

I've already seen people claiming that this was a drastic change from what Dino Charge was, and to an extent, I can agree. I think the overall quality of this season compared to the last is lacking, but there are still several familiar elements that neutralize both ends. I'll get to my thoughts on this series as a collective whole at the end, though.

Dino Super Charge had the enormous task of bringing together 10 Power Rangers into one series, and giving each character enough time for fans to like them. Considering how it took four episodes in Dino Charge to introduce the Gold Ranger and basically the entire back-half of the show to introduce the Purple Ranger...yeah it wouldn't be too easy.

Not that we really saw all ten Rangers on screen all that much. There were some action sequences near the end, obviously, but the way that the show presented itself it made it nearly impossible for there to be gravitas about bringing all ten Rangers together.

While some people may not like Jungle Fury all that much, one of the reasons it's probably one of the best of the series so far is because it had a small cast of true Rangers. The Spirit Rangers were there but didn't have any character, so, instead we have our main five; even then, Dom was only introduced in the final third of the show, but his actor brought enough charisma from the get-go to get us into his character and believe that he could be a part of the team.

The reason that so many shows have made a big deal out of the sixth Ranger appearing is because it develops the status quo. It's no longer just five people; now, there's a wildcard on the team. Someone that may go against the grain (Tommy, Eric, Zane), or someone that fits right in with the group (RJ, Antonio, Jason). So to have ten Rangers on a team is insane, especially when you've only got a season to establish this team.

It's tough to really blame the writers, like so many other people are. Sure, writing with restrictions does make you focus, but you've also gotta consider how many restrictions these writers and developers are working with. There have to be two separate seasons (i.e. Dino Charge and the addition of "Super"), you're limited by the footage of the Sentai, you can't keep putting so many Rangers on screen because of the budget, the actors are working long enough days as it is in the suits to perform the original fight sequences, and you have to create a beginning-middle-end for this story arc.

And, overall, it does. From Episode 1 of Dino Charge to Episode 20 of Dino Super Charge there is a clear beginning-middle-end. However, there are bumps along the way, and I think most of those bumps can be found in this season.

Once again, there isn't really a clear antagonist here. The same problems from Super Megaforce with the villains are evident here once again. While the introductions of Singe and Lord Arcanon are fearsome and pretty cool, they eventually become lame and make it unclear if they'll be the final villains.

A more interesting villain, and the one who does end up being the main antagonist, is Heckyl/ Snide, a character playing off of Jeckyl/ Hyde. Heckyl is a blast and Snide was menacing, even resembling Zeltrax in a way from Dino Thunder (I'll get into that later). He appeared in an episode from the prior season but came back in full this season, and was just a ton of fun with every second he was on screen. His character arc, like so many other elements of the show, was rushed but it was fun to see develop and fun to see how strong he was compared to the Rangers at times, even if he didn't come into full contact with them all the time.

The Rangers themselves suffered from little development, though, save for Tyler and Chase. Tyler continued his quest for finding his father and Chase got a new girlfriend. Both journeys highlighted the weaknesses of the characters (stubbornness, basically) and had them overcome these weaknesses through their trials. Plus it seemed that the episodes focused on them were the better ones, like how the episode where Singe appears is also where Chase meets his girlfriend.

Riley, Ivan, Koda, and Kendall sadly remain the same. Shelby, it seems, tries to get some development but only has one real episode dedicated to her learning anything and growing into her own. Most of her development, little as it is, come through Tyler as he matures as a person and a leader.

Now, one of the reasons that I'm not sure why people are saying this is so bad compared to Dino Charge is because of the story. In the first season, there wasn't really much story outside of finding the gold and purple Energems. Most episodes were typical villain-of-the-day type deals with a weak lesson at the end. It was very episode, much like how the original series was so episodic. The same carried over to Dino Super Charge. In both cases, the finales were incredibly weak. There was no real climax. There was resolution, sure, but it all felt so flat.

For a series that always stuck to smaller-scale matters, both climaxes felt very impersonal. Simply put: the show tried to go large when it could've been small. "Countdown to Destruction" works because it was going to be the end of Power Rangers. That series had to end with the Rangers pinned against the wall and being forced to summon all their might and show why they were definitively Power Rangers. Most finales have tried to emulate this. Samurai/ Super Samurai's finale is more in-line with what this should have been.

I don't want to spoil much about the finale, because I do think that a fan of Power Rangers is going to overall have a good time with this series...but don't go in expecting too much.

Still, the build-up to the finale was always weak, and it seems that the thing crippling Chip Lynn, who has worked on so many Power Rangers series, is the restriction of episodes. He's used to working with longer seasons to create long arcs and build up to finales. You can see it here. The reason that this finale, and why these seasons as a whole, are so muddled is because things are glossed over only due to time. Tommy's introduction was epic and ran the gauntlet of necessary Power Rangers tropes. Eric's transformation into the Quantum Ranger was expertly done, shown over the course of several episodes in the background.

In this series, though, we're never given things in the background. Subplots are exclusive to their episodes in Dino Super Charge and are resolved all too quickly. The only recurring plots are that of the searching for the Energems, but the show doesn't take any risks. It stays the course and just introduces characters only to have them vanish and be gone for a few episodes rather than have them staying around. Many of the Rangers don't get development because there simply isn't enough time to balance between the heroes and the multitude of villains.

In reality, they should have just wiped the slate clean of villains and just restarted with Heckyl. Their headquarters were just as ludicrous as the Rangers at one point, with so many moving pieces that were, in reality, not moving anywhere at all.

Which makes me wonder if they just decided to stick with what works rather than take any real risks with the show. After all, people loved Dino Charge so why not do the same thing again? Only this time, they made it goofier, and added more ludicrous concepts, even by Power Rangers standards. It was, again, a case of the show going too big. We already had a great slew of villains at our disposal to use, why not continue to focus on, and develop, them? Fury's arc ended in Dino Charge so why bring him back? Why not have Ivan defeat him then and let his character put that behind him and move forward. Ivan never develops into modern day times. Neither does Koda.

As much as it "looks" like Dino Super Charge has changed things...not much has really changed.

What really sucks, as a longtime fan, is that we don't get a crossover this season. Nor are any other Ranger teams even mentioned. Kendall and Keeper don't bring up the fact that their powers are just like the ones that Ninjor and Tommy created for their Ranger teams. They don't bring up the fact that the Earth was brought to it's knees, basically, by an Empire's alien invasion just a year ago, and they don't bring up how there are indeed popular dinosaur research facilities that have turned good men into hybrid dinosaurs.

I mean, how cool would it have been for Kendall to mention that Anton Mercer is her mentor? Or for him to show up and warn the team against prolonged exposure to the Energems? Or for Jason David Frank to maybe do a voice-call as an instructor for how to research dinosaurs.

And these are all things on the smaller scale. Like I said earlier, Snide resembles Zeltrax. They had a perfect opportunity to say that Zeltrax, while he was a man, maybe saw an image of Snide while he was researching and mutated himself based on that design. Maybe Snide finds out about it and decides to resurrect Zeltrax. With powers similar to the Dino Gems, the Rangers use the Energems to bring back the original three Dino Thunder Rangers and have to square off. Sure, those Rangers are old, but that's what stunt-doubles are for.

Or just do a crossover with Megaforce. They still have their powers! That could be a way for the Rangers to whittle down the forces of evil they're up against. At one point, there are six enemies capable of fending off the Rangers that the bad guys have: Wrench, Fury, Snide, Arcanon, Singe, and Doomwing. Perhaps the Rangers are pushed in a corner and are forced to call in back-up.

Having just defeated an entire alien invasion, and now fighting off some bounty-hunters, the Megaforce Rangers strut in and think they can handle it but get their butts whooped. Now, they can go through a small arc with our team about being careful with your power and coming to understand and trust in it, as well as work with our team to take out villains that, honestly, have little impact on the story. Then they can even offer some support from their base and inform the Dino Charge Rangers about the other Power Rangers out there.

But nope. Never happens, never mentioned. Lame.

So yeah, while Dino Charge was a pretty fun ride and set up some cool elements to be explored in Dino Super Charge, the latter series simply couldn't hold up to those promises. A short amount of slotted episodes, weak characterization for both heroes and villains, and an unfocused plot lead to what this series ultimately is: muddled. The acting is, for the most part, the best it's been since RPM and I do really like this core team of Rangers. Given that Yoshi Sundaro's (Koda) brother is on the Ninja Steel cast, there's a good chance that something can be worked out there, so we'll see.

Overall, the Dino (Super) Charge era of Power Rangers was an enjoyable experience. It got me really excited for Power Rangers again and shows that, in many cases, the creators can churn out something cool with this property, still. There are unique ideas tossed around, and it seems like they're still sort of experimenting with the franchise as they get their footing back. Dino (Super) Charge is indeed a noteworthy entry into the echelon of Power Rangers. It's probably not one of the greatest up there given how weak the back halves of both seasons were, but it's a fun ride if you're already a fan of the series.

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