Review: POWER RANGERS: ONCE & ALWAYS is a Morphinominally Fun Special
Netflix and Hasbro are releasing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always tomorrow, April 19. This is a 30th anniversary special that sees the return of previous Rangers and a new but familiar evil in Robo Rita Repulsa. I’ve been hyped for this special and I know all the other Power Rangers fans have been as well. Netflix and Hasbro were kind enough to provide me with an early screener of the special and you can find all my own thoughts below. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers in the first section, but eventually we will get into spoilers, so keep an eye out for the spoiler alert.
Overall, I had a ton of fun watching Once & Always. The writing team did a great job of feeling like old Power Rangers, but then adding a bit more gravitas to show some growth and maturity. This is very fitting because the fans and the actors have grown up quite a bit. Of course, you can watch Once & Always with your kids as long as you’re comfortable with them hearing about death and killing. As was shown in the trailer, “death” and “kill” are words not being shied away from in this special.
In Once & Always, we have a lot of fun things for fans to geek out about with varying degrees of importance. There are the returning actors including David Yost, Walter Emanuel Jones, Catherine Sutherland, Steve Cardenas, Barbara Goodson, Karan Ashley, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Richard Horvitz which is enough to get anyone excited. Then you have newcomer Charlie Kersh playing Trini’s daughter Minh, you have the Bandora Protocol reference which fans have been picking apart since the trailer showed that, and more.
Some of my concerns with Once & Always had to do with explaining continuity problems. I will say that the problems I saw as bigger were well explained and the smaller problems weren’t really addressed. Since they’re smaller though, I can live without them having answers.
One problem that I will address that some may consider more spoiler-y is that there is a Megazord battle and they went full CG for the Megazord which in my opinion is bad. It just looks weird and bad. I’m not sure if it’s how smooth the motions were, if the proportions were off, or what, but the Megazord looked really bad to me.
If you’re a fan of Power Rangers, you’re going to enjoy Once & Always. I also really appreciate the dedication at the end for Thuy Trang and Jason David Frank. It was touching. If you don’t want spoilers, this is the point where you have to stop reading and know that I give the special a 9/10.
Okay, it’s spoiler time. First things first, there were no surprise actor returns. Frank wasn’t secretly in it, Amy Jo Johnson does not make an appearance, etc. I know many were speculating some surprise actor returns and I can confirm that none happened. We do see a banner that has the faces of Jason Narvy as Skull and Paul Schrier as Bulk, but that’s the extent of that cameo.
The story is a really touching one to be honest. There’s a lot about overcoming grief. Minh gets frustrated with everything and tries to morph using Trini’s morpher, but is unable to do so until she realizes what it really means to be a Power Ranger. Meanwhile, Billy is struggling with the grief of losing his friend and feeling guilty for causing it. Not only did Trini sacrifice herself to save Billy from Robo Rita, but we eventually learn that Billy facilitated Robo Rita’s coming. He was trying to find Zordon after the great Z-Wave, and he thought he had done so. However, he ended up basically gathering a bunch of the evil that the Z-Wave had purged and that is what became Robo Rita. I liked this explanation for how we have an evil Rita Repulsa again because of the Z-Wave.
Some fun little things that I appreciated follow. First, Zack ends up becoming Minh’s guardian after Trini’s death and we learn that he was a congress person. I imagine that this is a little nod to the teen peace conference that he attended with Trini and Jason back in the day. He went to the peace conference, got interested in politics, and then pursued that career. It makes sense. I also like the continuity being kept where Kat and Tommy are married. When Kat shows up at the Command Center, we learn that she had to sneak away during her son’s soccer game and mentions that her son doesn’t have to know what happened to his dad and then it’s later brought up again that Kat and Tommy are indeed a couple. Also, apparently being a firefighter in the Power Rangers universe teaches you to shoot first and talk later. At one point, Rocky and the others show up to fend off a bunch of Putty Patrollers and before yelling at the Putties to leave the people alone, he just blasts one. It felt like something Carter from Lightspeed Rescue would have done and I liked it.
Another item that I feel deserves attention is a lovely tribute to Trang during the special. At the very end there’s a title card that flashes up for her and Frank which is nice, but during Once & Always, there’s a little tribute to her. The Rangers are fighting Robo Rita in Bandora’s Palace on the moon and Robo Rita launches an attack to kill Billy once again. This time, Minh selflessly takes the blow for Billy, but it hits the Yellow Morpher in her jacket pocket which somehow triggers a stream of Trini’s memories to flow into Minh’s mind. It’s a bunch of clips featuring Trini from the original season and a half that she was on. It was just lovely to watch.
As much as I enjoyed watching Once & Always, there were some things that I didn’t like. I’ve already mentioned the Megazord, but there’s more. First, we knew that Adam and Aisha were going to be in the special. I was really pumped for this since Adam is one of my personal favorite characters. Unfortunately, these two characters do nothing. We see them when the Bandora Protocol is first sent out and they send a message to Billy saying they’re on their way but it will take several hours to arrive. They do name drop the Troobian Empire from S.P.D., but they don’t even name drop Space Patrol Alpha or whatever the S.P.A. on their uniforms is supposed to be. They eventually do make it to Earth after all the action is over, but it’s just to say hello and that they’re going to help get all the shrunken Rangers back to normal. We don’t even get to see that happen. It just felt like a waste. Maybe they’ll do a follow-up and somehow we’ll get some kind of payoff then?
Another problem I had was that when the four Rangers trap Snizzard and Minotaur on a giant magnet, they then just leave the monsters there. Why didn’t they destroy them? It makes no sense except as a plot device and it bothers me.
My final complaint is that we didn’t have more Rangers come back. Bandora Protocol was supposed to alert all Rangers of the threat that is Robo Rita. However, we only ever follow Billy, Zack, Rocky, and Kat with the tiny roles of Aisha and Adam. It would’ve been really cool to see just a couple of other Rangers return to action with the stakes so high.
All that being said, it was a blast to watch Once & Always. I had a lot of fun with it and it felt very Power Rangers. I’m a little surprised it didn’t end in a way that launched a spin-off, but I’m also glad that it didn’t.If you’re a fan of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, you’re probably going to enjoy this 30th anniversary celebration.