Before the Power Rangers morphed into a full-fledged franchise in 1996, the show was known as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Surprisingly, the Mighty Morphin brand only lasted for three seasons, running from 1993 to 1995. The show wasn't a flop, obviously, since it ended up spawning a major motion picture and launched one of the most successful toy lines in history. No, there were 145 episodes in those few short years, so why did it end? Well, to say the series ended is a bit misleading.
Although the Mighty Morphin' brand came to a close, it was only to make way for new Power Rangers that sported different costumes, while whoopin' butt in brand new zords. The reason? Money. Since the Rangers achieved pop culture status within mere months of its premiere in the US, it was clear to American execs that adapting the Japanese Super Sentai series was one of the best things that could have happened to their Saturday morning lineup. So, in utilizing footage from each subsequent season of the Japanese program, Saban was able to keep this show going for a long, long time. Not only were they able to remain kings in the Saturday morning market (with a live action show no less, when Saturday morning cartoons were all the rage), they also seized the opportunity to release new lines of Power Ranger toys as often as the show changed things up... which was all the time. In this respect, one could argue that the Power Rangers may have paved the way for Pokemon in the States, since that animated program was blatantly about selling toys. Hell, it literally told children, 'Gotta catch 'em all!' As a kid though, I didn't care about the marketing ploy, at least at first. The show was fun, the toys were amongst the coolest I ever owned (the zords especially), and I even spent countless hours playing the video games. That being said, I lost interest in the series after Mighty Morphin was rebranded into something else, which is why I was especially excited to relive the original series with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - Season 1, Volume 1. This set contains the first 30 episodes, including the infamous 5 episode Green Ranger arc. But, I wasn't sure if the series would hold up as well after all this time. After all, I was 11 when it started, and I'm nearly 30 now. Sometimes revisiting shows due to nostalgia is highly rewarding, but sometimes it disenchants you, leaving you to wonder why you ever liked a show in the first place.
If you're unfamiliar with the program, it wastes no time getting into the action. With the exception of the first episode, which takes a bit more time to introduce us to the five teens who would eventually be chosen by Zordon, a sorcerer trapped in an interdimensional time warp, and Alpha 5, his spastic yet helpful droid, each episode plays out exactly the same - The five chosen teens spend some time hanging out at the local community center when all of a sudden, alien witch Rita Repulsa sends some 'putties' down to Earth from her base on the moon to wreak some havoc. The putties are really just brainless henchmen that don't last long in a fight despite their advantage in numbers, so the teens put them down quickly. If there's too many of them, the teens will morph into their Ranger uniforms and proceed to kick butt. Rita gets peeved and sends down a monster to take care of the Rangers, but when the colorful superheroes appear to have the upper hand (which they always do), Rita uses her powers to make her monster grow to Godzilla-like proportions. Not to be outdone, the Rangers call on their dinosaur inspired zords to join together and form the Megazord, an equally sized mecha-man that can put the evil beastie down and ruin Rita's day. Bingo-bango, the world is saved for yet another day.
Now that I'm not longer a kid, there are definitely some things that stuck out like a sore thumb. First and foremost, the acting is absolutely dreadful. I think the last time I saw acting this bad, was probably on those ancient, super corny after school specials. Yeah, it's baaaad. Also, as you can tell by my typical episode breakdown, the show can get pretty repetitive if you marathon a bunch of these episodes just as I did. Not only that, but the footage of the zords coming together to form the Megazord is recycled just as much as the episodic plot structure. Although I've never seen the Japanese series, I'm sure this is something that was done on their end as a cost effective measure, but still. Regardless of the reason, it creates some minor continuity issues and it would have been nice to see it changed up on occasion.
Despite the show's shortfalls though, let's keep one thing in mind - This was meant to entertain children on Saturday mornings. Although the acting is awful and the formula gets to be a bit tiresome for my current standards, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is still, without question, an absolute blast. Those awful acting bits really only serve to bookend all the action with a setup and conclusion, so the majority of each episode is all about kicking putties around, ganging up on a monster in Ranger form, and ultimately calling on their zords to duke it out with a gigantic beast while the poor town of Angel Grove gets demolished each... and every... time. And personally, I don't care how the town keeps springing back to life as if nothing happened episode after episode. It's delectable destruction, and who's honestly going to complain about that? It's like watching an old 'man in a rubber suit' Godzilla flick - The costumes and miniature city are cheap, yet satisfying, and when the no-holds barred battle is taking place above the city, explosions are sparks are flying everywhere in glorious excess. It was satisfying as a kid - almost like watching an action-infused display of fireworks - and it's just as satisfying today. And by the way, the theme song is just as awesome and catchy as it ever was. Yes, I said awesome, and I'm not afraid to admit it either. I dare you to watch an episode and not have GO, GO, POWER RANGEEEERS stuck in your head for the rest of the day, and in a good way. It's a great tune to open the show with, and it's the perfect accompaniment for when the zords all magically come together as one, big ass fighting machine.
But, is it something I can watch over and over again as an adult? Is it worth a purchase? Personally, I think it just might be. Now, most of you probably already know that a box set containing the first seven seasons of the show is also available to order from Time Life, which contains everything from Mighty Morphin to Lost Galaxy (338 episodes on 40 DVD's, according to Time Life's website), but these 30 episodes alone don't really entice me to upgrade to the full shebang. I do however fully recommend purchasing, at the very least, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Season 1, Volume 1, as it contains what I consider to be the best zords, the best cast, and the episodes that many fans consider to be the best of the best - The 5 episode Green Ranger arc. I think it will be fun to revisit the series on DVD every once in a while, but I'm perfectly content only having Mighty Morphin in my DVD collection. Even as a kid, I was disappointed when the show switched the zords from dinosaurs to other various things that just weren't as cool, and when the Rangers began to take to the water and even to space, I felt even for such a nonsensical show such as this, it was clearly jumping the shark. It was all merely for the sake of money and advertising. Although I appreciate these variations for introducing new generations to the Power Rangers, they just didn't live up to the original. So, unless Rita Repulsa throws her magical staff down to my house and demands, "MAKE MIKE'S DVD SET GROWWWWWWW!" I doubt I'll be purchasing anything beyond the second or third season.
Preserved in their natural aspect ratio of 4:3, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers looks a bit better than I expected it to. When Time Life began to sell the complete series set of The Real Ghostbusters, the video presentation was acceptable but the colors looked a little washed on an HDTV. Not so with the Power Rangers however. Colors are actually quite bold for a series that was meant for children on Saturday mornings in the early 90's. The original Japanese footage is in rough shape of course, but that's the way it's always been. I highly doubt the film that Saban received was first generation, so it's understandable that they look a bit grainier and flatter than the rest of the show.
Everything that was shot for the US version of the show is where the video presentation shines. Also, the animation that's sometimes used during battle sequences holds up fairly well. Contrast levels are mostly good, although there are times where blacks look a tad murky but, again, I believe this to be due to the source, if not the principal photography itself. As expected for different sources being used, sharpness varies between US and Japanese footage. There's also some noticeable macroblocking in the background at times, such as when there are dark solid walls without any variation or design, but this is pretty normal on the DVD format (and I'm extremely used to seeing HD content at this stage of the game). All in all, the show doesn't look perfect, but it looks pretty damn good, all things considering.
The stereo audio isn't exactly anything to write home about, but again, it's perfectly suitable considering it probably sounds about as good as the source allows it too. The action never really provided any 'oomph', and that's probably because the quick production time from episode to episode, as well as the budgetary constraints, never really allowed the sound design to be too elaborate. Although dialogue is clear throughout the entirety of every episode, directionality isn't really noticeable from left to right, and none of the frequent explosions sound as devastating as they look. Again, this all relates back to the source so I can't really knock the DVD presentation for being rather timid, but everything across these three discs sounds technically accurate without any compression flubs. Fans with realistic expectations should be pretty satisfied.
For fans of the series, having the option to either buy the big box with over 300 episodes, or instead go for the individual volumes so you can stop when you want to, seems too good to be true. And here's the rub... it is. This individual volume has absolute no special features included at all. Chances are, if you're interested in purchasing the series volume by volume, you're probably only interested in the episodes themselves anyway. Still though, it would have been nice to see some special features included here. For those that ARE fans of special features, leaving them off the volume sets doesn't really a fair number of DVD addicts to bite, and not everyone is going to upgrade to the big 40 disc set just so they can get some special features. Anyway, here's what the menus on the disc look like:
If the question you had going in to this review was, 'is this series worth revisiting now that I'm an adult', then you should buy Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - Season 1, Volume 1 with confidence. Yes, the acting is atrocious, but most of the episodes focus on battles between the Power Rangers and various monsters, as well as the Megazord trying to save Angel Grove from a Godzilla-sized beast... while simultaneously destroying the poor town in the process. Chances are, most of the action is just as fun as you remember it to be, and you'll fall victim to the theme songs hook for some time to come. If you grew up on the series such as I have, this really is a no brainer. Of course, the caveat is this - There are no special features on this set. This might be a deal breaker to some, while others won't care. However, if you're really not interested in owning anything that comes after the Mighty Morphin branded episodes, buying the 40 disc set probably isn't even an option. The transfer on this set is nice, and you're sure to have a blast revisiting this classic, if not iconic series. Highly Recommended.