Sunday, March 5, 2017

Power Rangers Premier Countdown: 19th place goes to...

Power Rangers Mystic Force Episodes 18-20: Dark Wish

Why is this episode(s) one of the best?

To be fair, we're cheating a little bit with this one, as it's a multi-parter. That is going to be the case with a lot of these as Power Rangers really excels when it gets to have a miniseries/TV movie. Dark Wish was one such event.

The episode portrays the young adults who are the Power Rangers as real people. They've been fighting for 4 months, and they've grown tired of it. They have magic, and they abuse that magic not for personal gain, but to do their jobs. They have access to a genie, but they aren't allowed to use it to wish their enemies away. This grates on them, until the enemies trick them into using that genie, get a wish of their own, and never become the Power Rangers in the first place.

Teaming up with their enemy Koragg to set the world back to the way it was (Koragg having been betrayed by the current enemy general in charge, and along the way forming an amazing truce with friendy troll, Phineas) the rangers head to another dimension atop a dragon, fight a horde of zombie knights, and parlay with a tribunal of magical deities to reverse their wish. When their request is denied, they get sent back to their new, colorless world, and instead of falling into despair without their magic, take a stand against the bad guys.

The tribunal awards their courage by returning their old world to them, and eventually granting them new powers and zords to boot.

Dark Wish exceeds because it is essentially a cinematic story told in three parts for television.

Why is this episode not higher on the list?

For all the good Dark Wish does in one sitting, taking it as separate parts really doesn't do it any favors. While Part 2 is a really engaging episode on its own, and I could have just picked that for 19th place, the plot of the episode doesn't work with just the middle piece.

Part 1 of Dark Wish is unnecessarily slow. The monsters for this episode, the Barbarian Beasts, are extremely forgettable villains. Two of them are subjected to footage burning (i.e. they had dedicated episodes in Super Sentai, but were relegated to cannon fodder for Power Rangers) and two of them, while still effective, are just not fun characters. 50 Below speaks about as fast as Cleveland playing an auctioneer on Family Guy, and Fightoe only becomes useful after being killed and stuffed into a mechanical puppet by Imperious.

Part 3 goes the other way; it's too rushed. The wish is resolved, new form, new megazord, a whole bunch of things happen. Whereas we got some really well choreographed out-of-suit fight scenes in part 2, part 3 falls back into the Disney-era "Lasers!" combat. Essentially, it falls apart a bit because things are wrapped up to fast- more the fault of needing to burn footage than anything else. (Mystic Force is the first season of Power Rangers to have 32 episodes. While the previous seasons came in under 40, having only 32 was a big hit to the series' usage of Sentai footage, and it kind of brought everything down a peg.)

No one is really a wooden character in these episodes, and that's great, but the effects used for some of the original footage are cringe-worthy. (Fireheart animation, you kill me every time.) Power Rangers is by no means expected to have great cgi, but it has certainly had better than that.

How does this episode possibly influence the movie?

Ask a fan of Power Rangers what his favorite thing to see on screen is and you may be surprised at the answer. Sure, we love the suits. We love the weapons. We love the zords. But, the thing we most enjoy is seeing the rangers fighting, without their suits. Civilian fights are something that made Mighty Morphin' a power house; it showed that even without their powers, these kids could save the world.

As the seasons went on, civilian fights were swapped out for the rangers having various super powers. Now that's not a bad thing in and of  itself, but it can seriously hurt an action show when you can't actually land a punch or a kick. (Disney was very against Power Rangers having true martial arts.)

Mystic Force, for these episodes anyway, brought a balance. They had powers, sure, but they needed to rely on their ordinary fighting prowess to get themselves through the battle. That balance is something I'm personally hoping for in the new film, and if the trailers are any indication, they're right on the money.


Head to Fandango and check your local listings!

Tickets are available for regular sale as of tomorrow, March 6th!

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