Nostalgia is a powerful tool. It is what drives the remake of this and the sequel of that. More often than not, that desire to relive those cherished moments of our childhood leads to disappointing installments in the franchise we love so much. Sometimes though, a project comes around that recaptures that magic of years past and opens the door for a new generation of fans. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is a great example of the latter. What better time than on the cusp of the franchise’s 30-year anniversary?
Directed by Charlie Haskell, director of various Power Rangers projects, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always takes place 30 years after Zordon first formed the quip-delivering, marital arts-fighting, teen heroes, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Haskell is joined by writers Becca Barnes and Alywn Dale who are both no strangers to the franchise with their work on Power Ranger projects over the years. Reprising their roles are most of the original series’s cast including David Yost (Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger), Catherine Sutherland (Katherine Hillard/Pink Ranger), Walter Jones (Zack Taylor/Black Ranger), Steve Cardenas (Rocky DeSantos/Red Ranger), and Richard Steven Horvitz (Alpha 5). Despite their age, these original Rangers are the only ones who can stop the return of Rita Repulsa played by Barbara Goodson.
Like much of the Power Rangers franchise, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always isn’t going to bring viewers in for its intricate story. If you are a diehard Power Rangers fan, you may be asking yourself, how in the world did Rita Repulsa return as a villain when she was purified by the good energy of the Z-Wave in Zordon’s sacrifice? Isn’t she supposed to be the Empress of Good Magic and leader of the Mystic Ones by this point? Well, don’t put too much thought into it. After Billy Cranston, now a major tech genius on Earth, attempted to revive Zordon, Rita’s evil energy particles were summoned instead, giving her a new robotic body to seek her revenge on the Rangers.
In its brief sub-hour runtime, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always plays out just as you would expect an episode of Power Rangers to. There is a threat that only the Rangers can overcome. They lose some fights. They win some fights. When victory for the Rangers seems assured, one of the villains gets big, and it’s Megazord time. Despite its simplicity, the method has been tried and true for the franchise for 30 years and it serves Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always just as well. It gets in and gets out before you have time to think too deeply about how you are watching actors pushing into their 50s reprising their roles as Power Rangers.
While the setup to the plot is rather forced and calls a plethora of questions for the Rangersverse, it doesn’t stop Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always from being a love letter to fans. Taking place in Angel Grove, all of the usual sites and sounds abound, taking viewers all the way back to the 90s. The action sequences are very reminiscent of all those years ago with Putty Patrollers being defeated in dramatic fashion and with more HI-YAHs than you can shake a Morpher at. While the explosions benefit from updates in CGI, much of the stunts and costuming remain practical with the Rangers flipping around and Mighty Minotaur and Snizzard getting new practical robot designs like Rita. Even the writing remains true to the era with plenty of quips during combat, afterschool special type dialogue, and new-aged lingo sprinkled in reflect the passage of time.
The movie serves as much of a love letter to the fans as it does to the cast. The Power Rangers franchise is not without its controversies and the film does its best to rectify those issues. Billy Cranston and Zack Taylor shine as the leaders of the team when Jason, Kimberly, and Tommy are captured. Having David Yost and Walter Jones serve as the leads given the issues that both had on the set of the original series is not enough to make up for their mistreatment, but the intention of giving them their time to shine is certainly welcome. Even the inclusion of a gay couple in the film is a small thing now but speaks volumes about where the franchise has come in 30 years.
Additionally, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always pays homage to those who are no longer with us, namely Thuy Trang who played Trini Kwan the original Yellow Ranger. As the plot of the film progresses, viewers are introduced to Minh Kwan, Trini’s teenage daughter. Minh is desperate to live up to her mother’s legacy and memorials using Thuy Trang’s actual pictures are shown throughout the film. Through Charlie Kersh’s performance of Minh, she embodies the spirit that Thuy Trang brought to her role as the Yellow Ranger as Minh must learn the dangers of seeking revenge and what it means to be a Ranger. By the time a flashback sequence commences featuring Trang’s time as a Ranger, I doubt there will be a dry eye for the Ranger faithful.
In the end, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always hits the mark for a stroll down memory lane for this historic franchise. While the plot is thin and the writing and action fully lean into the things that make the Power Rangers installments what they are, the love that the cast and crew have for this franchise is evident. Those who grew up with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be able to relive some of those moments of reenacting the fight scenes and pretending to go through the morphing sequences. A younger audience who has never seen the original may be lost in the plot given the background needed for the characters but it also opens the door for parents to share their version of the Rangers with their children. When it comes to an anniversary-inspired project, you could do much worse than Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always premieres on Netflix on April 19, 2023.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always hits the mark for a stroll down memory lane for this historic franchise.
I am just a guy who spends way to much time playing videos games, enjoys popcorn movies more than he should, owns too much nerdy memorabilia and has lots of opinions about all things pop culture. People often underestimate the effects a movie, an actor, or even a video game can have on someone. I wouldn’t be where I am today without pop culture.