I have to say it's getting fairly involving, this Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive. Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Star of Isis, Volume 4, six more episodes in the popular Toon Disney's Jetix/ABC Kids series. Now, I'm not saying it's Shakespeare, but the storyline, such as it is, is reasonably compelling. And of course, the chop-socky is tops.
I've written before about this fun tokusatus series (you can click on Brownbeard's Pearl, Volume 1 , Toru Diamond, Volume 2 , and Blue Sapphire, Volume 3 to read those reviews), so I was looking forward to this next-to-last collection of episodes. If you're unfamiliar with the storyline, the basic background concerns the adventures of explorer and adventurer Andrew Hartford (Rod Lousich), Hartford has inadvertently released brothers Flurious (Gerald Urquhart) and Moltor (Mark Ferguson), who crave the Corona Aurora (the "Crown of the Gods"), a jewel-encrusted crown that will give them unlimited power. Hartford's recovery of the crown - sans the jewels - has awakened the brothers (Flurious was encased in ice; Moltor in lava), and now it's up to Hartford to pick five young novices to become the new Power Rangers, to fight the two villains.
Hartford selects Will Aston (Samuell Benta), a safecracker who will become the Black Power Ranger; Dax Lo (Gareth Yuen), a stunt man who will morph into the Blue Ranger; Ronny Robinson (Caitlin Murhpy), a race car driver soon to be the Yellow Ranger, and Rose Ortiz (Rhoda Montemayor), an archeologist who will be the Pink Ranger. After rearranging their DNA to boost their powers (Will=super hearing and sight; Dax=giant leaping; Ronny=super speed; Rose=invisibility), Hartford plans on joining the gang as the Red Ranger. But his son, Mack Hartford (James MacLurcan) wants to help, too; he feels neglected by his father who spends all his time on his adventures and who is overprotective of his son's well-being. Can Mack convince his dad to let him become the Red Power Ranger, and attain super strength? And will the Power Ranger Team be able to stop Moltor and Flurious before they gain the scattered jewels to put back into the Corona Aurora, and gain total domination over the world?
This fourth collection finds the Power Rangers searching for the fourth stone, the Star of Isis, needed to activate the Corona Aurora. Highlights for these six episodes include new villain Thrax, the son of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd; the return of former Rangers Adam, Bridge, Xander, Tori, and Kira, necessitated by the Universal Morphin Grid being cut, and of course, the shocker of the season, the revelation that Mack (James MacLurcan) is in reality an android, and not the biological son of Andrew Hartford (Rod Lousich). I'm not sure what the exact target audience is for Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - I would assume pre-teen - but this storyline, I would imagine, will have appeal to them. In the upcoming final volume, Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Pink Emerald, Vol 5, Mack suffers a severe identity crisis, with devastating consequences for his relationship with his father/creator Andrew. Now, this stuff isn't Tennessee Williams, but I was surprised to see a relatively emotional subplot like this in what I thought was just a fast-paced, chop-socky tokusatus knock-off for kids. And the actors pull it off quite well. MacLurcan and Lousich have a natural chemistry, and make their scenes together feel believable (despite the fact that those scenes are precluded and followed by giant monsters trying to kill them). In fact, almost all of the young actors recruited for this series are fairly engaging and attractive performers, with bright, fresh energy. Caitlin Murphy as Ronny and Rhoda Montemayor as Rose are cute as the kick-ass girls on the team (with Ria Vandervis as minxy Miratrix not given enough to do), and Gareth Yuen hits the right notes as the comedy relief Blue Overdrive Ranger. Only Samuell Benta as Will seems a little stiff, while old pro David Weatherley has kindly major domo Spencer down pat.
All tech credits in Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Star of Isis, Volume 4 are more than satisfactory, particularly when the numerous battle royales commence (you really have to hand it to the ingenuity of the production team who come up with the fabulous morphin zords). I know true connoisseurs of the latest CGI-enhanced special effects may laugh at the sequences pulled off here, but I find them marvelously nostalgic, particularly when it's time for guys in big plastic costumes to battle each other on mocked-up sets, like the old days of Godzilla and Mothra. The camera work is exciting, and the editing lightening fast, with the staging of the fight scenes always fun. I have a four-year-old boy who won't sit still for anything but SpongeBob, but when I put on Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive, I have to cut him off after two shows; he'd watch the entire set in one sitting if I let him - and so would I. I can't think of a better recommendation than that.
Here are the six episodes of Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Star of Isis, Volume 4:
Once a Ranger (Part 1)
Evil villain Thrax gathers together Flurious, Moltor, the Fearcats, Kamdor and Miratrix together in an alliance to crush the Rangers once and for all. With the Universal Morphin Grid down, the Power Rangers lose their powers, and it's up to the Retro Rangers to help get them back.
Once a Ranger (Part 2)
Mack searches for the Excelsior sword, with the aid of Alpha and the Warrior Goddess. With the Rangers assisting in the DriveMax UltraZord, along with the Sentinel Knight, how can they lose?
One Fine Day
Tyzonn, who appears to have a crush on Rose, is suddenly stuck with her on the other side of an invisible force field, with the Fearcats close behind. Can the other Rangers, with the help of Sentinel Knight and...Norg (???) help them out?
Ronny on Empty (Part 1)
Moltor's Gyro Generator fails to power up his robot. But Ronny might do the trick, and is captured. And can the Rangers save Sentinel Knight, who has been turned by the Fearcats?
Ronny on Empty (Part 2)
Can a secret buried deep within an Egyptian pyramid help release kidnapped Ronny? And check out the new BattleFleet Megazord that defeats Moltor's Robot!
Things Not Said
Mack discovers his true origin, and the Red Sentinel Ranger must battle Team Kamdor.
The full frame, 1.33: video image for Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Blue Sapphire, Volume 3 is super-sharp and brightly hued, with a sparkling, clean picture.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo audio mix is fine for these adventures, but can you imagine them in 5.1 Surround? Come on, Disney - step up to the plate! There are English subtitles available, as well.
Ranger Genetic Enhancements has the cast discussing their various genetically-derived super-powers. There's also a DVD game: Ranger Reserve Training Course Level 4 - Pink Jewel, that's mild fun.
Surprisingly, Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Star of Isis, Volume 4 takes a bit of turn towards the mildly serious, mildly emotional subtext of android identity crisis when Mack learns he's not human. Of course, none of this minor drama gets in the way of expert chop-socky, monstrous mutant villains, and the coolest morphin zords you'll ever see. I recommend Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive - Star of Isis, Volume 4.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.