Monday, March 05, 2012

Series Commentary: Power Rangers: Dino Thunder

When I heard about Power Rangers: Dino Thunder, I wanted to watch it. Then I saw the CGI sequences, and wanted to forget all of the things I had heard about it. Even with the return of Tommy Oliver, I didn't want to see this CGI shit-stain on my childhood.

Finally, I watched it.

Let me pitch it to you and let you draw your own conclusions.

Three high school students from very different walks of life- not my high school, where the nerds and jocks were more often than not the same people, but your expected stereotype characters (to start with). A bitch principal- and I don't mean the harsh but well-meaning one, I mean the one who feels she's best done her job on days that she sent the most people to detention. Unrealistic indulgence character, yes, but there's a reason for it, if just as unrealistic and indulgent.

Okay, if you need to know, she's one of the Lieutenants of the Pure Evil Big Bad.

The mysterious yet cool new science teacher is a man named Dr. Oliver. This is probably the most serious attempt Power Rangers has ever made to bring in older viewers. It probably would have been cool to bond with a younger sibling over episodes with Tommy, the only Ranger I've seen who routinely attacked giant monsters, successfully, with his Ranger weapon.

Our "bully" character for this season really isn't that. Cassidy and Devin are your Season 2 Bulk and Skull. Cassidy is a reporter and Devin is her friend that hangs on her every word- and of course, all reporters in this universe are eventually tasked to find the identities of the Power Rangers.

Like Bulk and Skull, Cassidy and Devin have their own character growth, just as Blue Ranger Ethan goes through the same character arc that Billy Cranston did over three seasons. This is one of those seasons that focuses on the growth of all involved (even Tommy to an extent), dedicating episodes to every protagonist and ally except for Holly, the Alpha 5 character, and a fair amount of time to the various White Rangers, Elsa, and and Zeltrax.

There were two consistent annoyances throughout this series. The first, which I'm going to have to get over, is the sudden addition of powers and minimizing of the drawbacks. Something had to be lost when the effective character growth of three seasons was combined into one, right? Still, when a new ultimate power is added with a drawback that makes it a last resort, you expect that drawback to last for more than one episode. Was this an Abaranger fault? It's possible, but if so, cutting it out completely would have been both easier and told a better story.

Moving past the rushed stories of both the Triassic Ranger, I talk about, you guessed it, the CGI. Mechs shouldn't be CGI half of the time and suits the other half. Do them practical, preferably, but if you have to do them CGI, try and shade it so it's bearable, and keep them CGI all the way. This isn't just a complaint I have with Dino Thunder, but with many of the newer Power Rangers series. Again, something I should attribute to Super Sentai? I can't know for sure until I watch the appropriate counterparts.

A related complaint is Conner's battlizer. Mainly the fact that he has CGI-fueled Namekian stretching powers. This is too many kinds of ridiculous to count. It's entirely unnecessary and completely takes you out of any scene it's in. I suppose it's necessary to make toy sales go through the roof (meme courtesy of EZ Rider), but not for any other reason.

As I said, I'll leave it to you to decide to watch it or not. Dino Thunder is basically Mighty Morphin plus CGI and camp, but there are things that might appeal more to some people than some aspects of the original show did. It all comes down to what you like in your kids' shows. I liked it- most of it.

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