Film discussion

Throwback 20 – Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie

As it turns twenty years old, Amy Walker looks back at Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie...

Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie is the second Power Rangers film, and acts as a bridging gap between Power Rangers Zeo and the Power Rangers Turbo television series.

On a distant planet the wizard Lerigot is being hunted by the villain Divatox, a space pirate who wants Larigot’s magical key. Divatox plans to use this key to open an interdimensional gateway to the Nemesis Triangle, where she will find the mystic island home of the demon Maligore, who she intends to wed. Lerigot flees to Earth to seek help from Zordon and the Power Rangers. Unfortunately, Divatox kidnaps their friends and former Power Rangers Jason Lee Scott and Kimberly Hart. Lerigot hands himself over to Divatox in the hopes that she will release her prisoners.

When Divatox betrays the Rangers and heads to the Nemesis Triangle the Power Rangers must use their new Turbo powers, along with their new member Justin, to follow her and save their friends.

Whilst Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie is the second film to feature the Power Rangers, it’s the only one that is actually within the series canon. As such, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie draws upon elements established within the previous series, Power Rangers Zeo, and sets up major elements for the next series of the show, Power Rangers Turbo, such as new powers, new villains, and a new Ranger.

Because the film has four seasons of television to draw upon it feels like there’s a lot more to it than a stand alone film has, even with the inclusion of small background elements that most casual viewers wouldn’t pick up on. Whilst this might seem frivolous, the inclusion of Earnie in the background of the martial arts competition, Lieutenant Stone appearing for two minutes, and the return of previous Power Rangers Jason and Kimberly helps to make it feel like part of a larger universe.

The story isn’t the best, sadly, with many pieces of Power Ranger mythology appearing here for the first time, and as such not being given a great deal of focus. Some of this may be largely due to the original script for the film changing due to actor availability, such as David Yost quitting the series due to homophobic bullying from the crew, and an original cut run time of three hours having to be cut down.

Some of the cut scenes, which have been described in detail by various members of the production but never released, would have added more to the experience. The original cut featured an underwater fight scene between the Zeo Rangers and Divatox’s minions, which would have resulted in the Rangers suits in ruins, explaining the need for improved powers. Without these scenes the Rangers simply receive an upgrade for vague reasons of ‘because Zordon could’.

Perhaps a longer run time would have allowed for more character development and for a more comprehensive story. As it is there are certain elements of the film that feel underutilised. Whilst the Turbo series will go on to explore a number of these elements in greater detail it does leave the film feeling weaker in certain places. Turbo introduces a new Power Ranger to the mythology when the character of Rocky DeSantos is injured during training. Unfortunately, the new Ranger is possibly one of the least liked in Power Rangers history: Justin Stewart.

Justin is a twelve year old boy who is selected to be the new Blue Power Ranger simply because he happened to discover who the Rangers are. Whenever Justin morphs, however, he transforms into an adult, though we still hear a child’s voice coming out of his helmet. Whilst this may have been a Captain Marvel style attempt at making children think that even they could become Power Rangers, it’s one of the most ridiculous decisions the franchise has made.

Other than these small issues the film is generally very good, with higher production values than the series at the time, making it stand out from the show. With the larger film budget they’re also able to film some scene on location and on sets that are much bigger than they are used to, giving the episode a sense of scope that is often missing from the Power Rangers franchise.

Though not perfect by any means, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie is a competent leap to the big screen for the franchise, one that respects the series and builds upon what has come before.

Are you a fan of the Power Rangers franchise? Let us know!

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