Power Rangers has been a staple in my life since I was a young child. At the ripe age of 2, I was enamored by the six teens with attitudes, who were granted superpowers and suits to protect the world. This series imported from Japan and retrofitted with new teenagers was something so unique, that it withstood the test of time. While Power Rangers may have traded owners’ hands over the past 30 years, the series continues to be produced to a great amount of excitement from those who watch them. So it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that a 30th-anniversary special, titled Power Rangers: Once & Always is arriving soon on Netflix.
With 21 distinctive teams since the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, it’s been a long time since fans have seen the original team reunited on screen once again. However, Power Rangers: Once & Always brings back many of the characters from the Mighty Morphin’ iteration of this team, which ran for three seasons. Returning from the original team are David Yoast and Walter Emanuel Jones as Billy and Zack respectively, who serve as the main faces for this anniversary special.
So is Power Rangers: Once & Always a good celebration for this long-running series, or is it a nostalgic dud? Let’s explore everything this special has to offer fans of the Power Rangers franchise.
[Warning: Light Spoilers and impressions from Power Rangers: Once & Always are below!]
The return of a Power Rangers’ foe
30 years may have passed on and off screen since the Power Rangers first formed, but it doesn’t seem like our heroes have missed a beat. Returning to Angel Grove feels like coming home after an extended period away. The only thing that’s changed is the quality of the picture and the appearance of our heroes. The original Dino-based team continues to suit up and vanquish evil long past their teenage years, although they’ve managed to keep their attitudes in check.
The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers still fight like a well-oiled machine, having honed their skills by defeating Lord Zedd and his wife, Rita Repulsa so many years ago. However, their reality is shaken to its core by the return of Rita Repulsa, who’s sporting a new mechanical body and two shiny henchmen.
Yes, she still has her iconic appearance, albeit with a new robot-face, and distinct voice easily identifiable as Barbra Goodson, who returns to the role. Not only is she formidable, but she’s out for revenge, a mission that changes the Rangers in ways they never saw coming.
While the entire original team is present in some capacity, Billy and Zack are the faces of this special, as the only representation from the fab five that are seen outside their Power Rangers suits. Instead, when the rest of their friends become incapacitated throughout the special due to Rita’s ultimate plan, Billy and Zack call on other rangers from the Mighty Morphin’ era to take up arms and become Rangers once again!
Together with Rocky (Steve Cardenas) and Kat (Catherine Sutherland), the second Red and Pink Rangers respectively, along with help from Trini’s daughter Minh (Charlie Kersh), these heroes must work hard to save the day from evil once more.
What worked and what didn’t in Power Rangers: Once & Always
As someone who grew up watching Power Rangers (and only really stopped watching them in my late 20s), my excitement for this project could not have been any higher. The idea of an official reunion with characters from my childhood ticked every box I had in the nostalgia column. As someone who’s seen more of the second generation of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – seeing the likes of Rocky, Adam (Johnny Yong Bosch), and Aisha (Karen Ashley) return made 2023 for me.
The action was in line with that of Power Rangers, with fights in and out of suits that appeared well-choreographed. It was more reminiscent of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, where the fighting seemed to have a higher production value. Sure, that’s probably because it has Netflix footing the bill this time instead of broadcast television. Along those lines, even the Megazord battles are well-developed instead of the early 90s production that appeared like a toy on a city playscape.
The CGI in Power Rangers: Once & Always was understandably leagues above that of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. The color traces that appear as the Rangers are transported from one location to another are cooler than the radio static they used to be. As well, the CGI of the Megazord in the final battle was better than some of the recent seasons of Power Rangers, though if you’re expecting perfection or CGI of Marvel or DC films, this children’s show isn’t for you.
While Power Rangers: Once & Always checked many boxes for me, it was just good, not great. The acting was subpar, with performances that seemed out of a soap opera more so than a children’s show. Though, again I had to remind myself that even though this was a 30th-anniversary special aimed at the children that grew up watching it, it’s still a children’s show. So when you factor that in, the acting itself can be easily excused away.
The story itself also suffered in parts, playing out as an extended episode from any season of the franchise and not necessarily as something special to write home about.
Perhaps the biggest grievance I had with the special was the lack of involvement of the original Rangers. Now before you get mad, I know that two of the six passed away before the special, therefore it was impossible to have them show up in Power Rangers: Once & Forever. However, with the lack of Austin St. John as Jason and Amy Jo Johnson as Kimberly on top of that, there was something missing from it.
I think the reason why it felt so hollow was that the characters themselves were still in the special, however, they never came out of their suits and were only seen during fight scenes. Viewers will still hear their voices as they battle, which hurt in a way. Nothing like hearing Tommy’s voice coming from the Green Ranger to remind you that Jason David Frank is no longer with us.
Final thoughts from Netflix’s Power Rangers special
Overall, I wasn’t blown away with Power Rangers: Once & Always like I was anticipating. Part of that is remembering the original series through the eyes of my younger self, which definitely added some child-like wonder to the series. However, I’m sure if I went back and watched it now, the special would be on par with the quality of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
Interestingly enough, it definitely seems that they left the story open for more if Netflix so chooses to continue it. However, it also isn’t necessary. If you grew up watching Power Rangers, then you will most definitely want to check this out, however, just know it’s not the exact same show you’re probably expecting.
Power Rangers: Once & Always arrives on Netflix on April 19th. Are you going to be checking it out? Let us know on Twitter or in the Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Power Rangers Universe!