"Let's Ranger up!"
Hoping to give a double-dose of morphin' Ranger fun to the fans this Tuesday, Buena Vista Home Entertainment releases, in conjunction with Volume 1 of Power Rangers: Jungle Fury, Power Rangers: Jungle Fury - Way of the Master, Volume 2 which gathers together the next six episodes (7 through 12) of the latest Power Rangers installment (which I believe just finished airing its last episode sometime in November on Toon Disney, and ABC Kids). Although by no means at all an authority on the Power Rangers (so cut me some slack with the minutiae-parsing emails, Ranger experts), having grown up on U.S. syndicated episodes of tokusatsu classics like Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and Ultraman (and of course, all the endless viewings of the kaiju Godzillas and the like), these kind of shows are ingrained in my early TV DNA, so it's not exactly difficult to work up some enthusiasm for this latest round of high-flying, high-kicking, morphing Power Ranger action.
Adapted from the Japanese Super Sentai series, Juken Sentai Gekiranger (which aired in 2006, and from which most of the action scenes are taken for Jungle Fury), Power Rangers: Jungle Fury tells the story of three teenaged students who are entrusted with saving the world from the ancient evil of Dai Shi. Living and training at the secret temple of the Pai Zhua, the Order of the Claw, experienced students Theo Martin (Aljin Abella) and Lily Chilman (Anna Hutchison) have been chosen by Master Mao (Nathaniel Lees), along with arrogant, powerful Jarrod (Bede Skinner), to enter The Forbidden Room to learn the ultimate purpose of their intensive training (training that has revealed that the students possess incredible animal spirit powers). However, before this happens, Jarrod, by way of his ill-treatment of a younger cadet, proves he's ill-suited for Master Mao's plans, and he's replaced by inexperienced cadet Casey Rhodes (Jason Smith), who unwittingly releases a powerful tiger spirit when defending the young student abused by Jarrod.
Master Mao summons the three students to The Forbidden Room, and explains their destiny. Ten thousand years ago, an evil spirit named Dai Shi believed that humans should be erased off the world, with animals ruling in their stead. Fortunately, forces, including the Pai Zhua, were able to defeat Dai Shi, imprisoning the evil spirit in a casket - the casket that Master Mao now holds in front of Theo, Lily and Casey. Master Mao explains that the Order of the Claw's mission has thus been to learn, practice, and master kung fu in order to protect the world, should Dai Shi ever escape - and that Theo, Lily and Casey are now the sole guardians of that casket. Naturally, Dai Shi has to escape somehow, and his release is facilitated by the arrival of an enraged Jarrod, who demands to know why he was released from the Pai Zhua. Battling Master Mao, the casket falls and Dai Shi is released, killing Mao's physical form before the ancient spirit leaves to unleash a new "Beast War" against humanity.
Before he dies, Mao tells the students that they will have a new master, and to go to a certain address in Ocean Bluff (the site where Dai Shi was originally defeated and where Mao now believes he will go), where they will meet their new master. Finding themselves at the Jungle Karma Pizza restaurant, the kids are taken aback when they finally meet their new teacher: surfer dude R.J. James (David de Lautour), the most unlikeliest Pai Zhua master one could imagine. Laid back to the point of horizontal, R.J.'s slightly askew viewpoint is a constant challenge to his students - particularly when he insists that they work at his pizza place part time. But once he hooks the Order of the Claw recruits into the Morphin grid, downloading all of the past Power Ranger information and training into their DNA, the newly christened Power Rangers are "go!"
I also enjoyed the new masters that are introduced to the Power Rangers in these next six episodes. Master Phant, who lives like a hermit in a woodsy cottage, has an agreeably low-key manner that clashes nicely with his thundering Elephant Spirit force (his huge Jungle Mace is pretty sweet, too, when combined with the Jungle Megazord). Blind bat Master Swoop is another cool addition to the group (Power Rangers: Jungle Fury seems to have a lot of laid back, hip characters), with a funky, smart-alecky disposition to match his long black coat and wraparound shades. I'm not sure the casting or the design of Master Finn is as successful; something about the character's pirate-esque feel doesn't fit as the father of faux-slacker R.J.. I can't say I was too impressed with the CGIing for Elephant and Shark Spirits, either (the Shark in particular, was surprisingly weak). Now that it looks like the villains have been bumped up a notch with the overlords Jellica and Carnisoar, and now that the Power Rangers have worked out the kinks in their training, we'll have to see how far the writers will go in taking this good background and building an exciting, action-filled series.
Here are the next six episodes (7 through 12) of Power Rangers: Jungle Fury - Way of the Master, Volume 2:
Pizza Slice of Life
Way of the Master
Good Karma, Bad Karma
Blind Leading the Blind
Pushed to the Edge
One Master Too Many
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.