Turbo: A Power Rangers Adventure Review

by Dairenn Lombard (piero AT cyberverse DOT com)
April 15th, 1997

TURBO: A POWER RANGERS MOVIE
    A film review by Darienn Lombard
    Copyright 1997 Darienn Lombard

A Twentieth Century Fox-Film Corporation Release
Produced by Saban Entertainment in association with Toei Company, LTD.
Length: 99 min.
MMPA Rating (USA): PG (for action scenes).

Contents:

I. Preface

a. Disclaimer
b. The Story
c. Background on the Production

II. Story Critique

a. Plot Review
b. Script Quality
c. Characterization
d. Direction

III. Presentation

a. Audio
b. Video

IV. Movie Review

a. Good Qualities
b. Bad Qualities
c. Ending Grade

I. Preface

a. Disclaimer

The below text contains detailed information regarding the content of the above listed motion picture. If you have not viewed this film yet and do not wish to be told the plot ahead of time, do not continue reading. This post is for those interested in whether or not they should spend the money and time watching this movie. Do not write angry E-Mail to me regarding this review. This is America and I am entitled to make available my opinion on subject matter available to the public. Thank you for your time.

b. The Story

In order to prevent the closing of an orphanage Justin (Blake Foster) lives at, Tommy Oliver (Jason David Frank), Rocky (Steven Cardenas) and Adam Park (Johnny Yong Bosch) participate in a martial arts tournament to raise money to save it. However, during training, Rocky injures himself endangering the fate of the tournament. Justin learns of the identities of the Power Rangers while paying Rocky a visit in the hospital.

Meanwhile, Lerigot possesses powers to allow intergalactic pirates led by the dominatrix-type villainess Divatox (Hillary Shepard) to pass through the Nemesis Triangle. Beyond this interdimentional gateway lies the lost island Muranthias where her object of matrimony exists, a hideous beast named Maligore resides. Once married, Divatox figures she will have possession of all the universe's riches through exploiting his unmatched might.

Upon Lerigot's escape to Earth, the wizard is taken under the wing of Alpha V (voiced by Richard Wood), the automaton guardian of the Power Chamber where Zordon (voiced by Bob Manahan) resides. However, Lerigot has a wife: Tera and a son. Divatox threatens their safety if Lerigot does not serve them; Lerigot prepares to surrender. The Power Rangers refuse to turn the wizard over to Divatox until they learn that Jason Lee Scott (Austin St. John) and Kimberly Hart (Amy Jo Johnson), the former Red/Gold Ranger and Pink Ranger have been captured by Divatox. Her interest in them is only to present a sacrifice to Maligore.

After Divatox tricks the Power Rangers in to believing they turned over Jason and Kimberly, they formulate a plan. Chase Divatox and her fellow pirates to Muranthias to rescue Lerigot and his family, Jason and Kimberly and stop Maligore using their new Turbo Power Morphers. Since Rocky is still in recovery, Justin is called to become Blue Ranger.

A VERY LONG voyage on an enchanted ship leads the Power Rangers with their new Turbo Vehicles to the lost island of Muranthias which does not end without consequences. Divatox's submarine fires torpedoes at the Power Rangers' ship blowing it up entirely bringing Adam to the bring of believing his friends have died. However, the rangers successfully escape in their Turbo vehicles. Upon reaching the island, the rangers use their keys to activate their Turbo Power Morphers as follows:

    Tommy: Red Ranger, driver of Red Lightning Turbo Zord
    Adam: Green Ranger, driver of Desert Thunder Turbo Zord
Justin: Blue Ranger, driver of the Mountain Climber Turbo Zord
    Tanya: Yellow Ranger, driver of the Dune Star Turbo Zord
    Kat: Pink Ranger, driver of the Wind Chaser Turbo Zord

Together, they will form the Turbo Mega Zord, the most powerful Megazord yet to fight the self-enlarged Maligore to the death.

c. Background on the Production

It is amazing that Saban was able to find the investors to provide the budget for this film. In its first week, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie made over $3 million at over 2,110 auditoriums, so they didn't make any money. At least, not directly from the film (or its soundtrack). However, they probably have sold a great deal of toys.

Rumor in late 1995 was that there would be a second Power Rangers film, however, it would be filmed in Mexico. Fortunately, they didn't go to such extravagant means to shoot this film. They did film in Hawai'i but most of the production took place in Woodland Hills (outdoor scenes) and sets were built at Saban Studios in Valencia, California; Stage 3.

Mercury Records was behind the soundtrack on this motion picture which would explain why more than one song produced by Ron Wasserman made it onto the soundtrack, however, they still fought hard to eliminate rock music from the score. Of course, they could not entirely eliminate it considering that it is apart of the Power Rangers motif. Shuki Levy, known for scoring early 80s DIC produced animated series', had never scored any music for Power Rangers until this movie. And fortunately he did not fail us.

II. Story Critique

a. Plot Review

One must admire Shuki Levy and Shell Danielson, the writers for this motion picture, in their attempt to raise the level of intelligence required to watch this movie beyond none at all. However, it is too little too late. I say this because, in the case where Justin discovers the identity of the Power Rangers, Rocky is in the hospital from over-extending himself and his friends visit him. They're called by Zordon via their wrist communicators and teleport away. Meanwhile, Justin is hiding under Rocky's bed listening the whole while.
Even though that was a clever thing to write, it isn't so clever when you compare it against the past near 200 episodes of Power Rangers where they have morphed in public, stood around without their helmets in public, communicated and teleported in public, and so on. By the definition of these "low-intelligence" episodes, that should have never happened.

Meanwhile, we've got the same old, over-the-top, unrealistic character playing lead villain (or villainess in this case). The only thing that sets this movie apart from previous episodes of Power Rangers is that the villains are actually pretty gruesome looking. However, Divatox and her right-hand-man are the worse they have ever done. Lord Zedd was better. She spends the whole episode jiggling her over-exaggerated bosoms while ranting and over-acting. Whenever she was on camera, one could not wait until she was not. I don't know who screwed up; Hillary, the director or the writer (which was the same person in some cases), but this character was a total mess.

A lot of time was wasted on suspense and "cute" scenes to amuse Children (to off-set the actually darker tones set in this movie than in the last). This run time could have been more constructively put towards character development. A peek into their personalities, a crack in their otherwise flawless appearance of existence.

Finally, what's amazing about the very beginning of the movie is that it carries over the same aggravating sexism that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie actually flaunted flamboyantly. In the case of Power Rangers Turbo, it is less apparent. However, it is given away by the fact that while the male rangers are training, Kat (Catherine Sutherland) and Tanya (Nakia Burrise) are singing Kindergarten songs to a bus full of children on their way to the tournament (for what purpose, is unknown to me). It seems like that warriors who fight the forces of super-powered Aliens on a regular basis should either already have their skill mastered or be constantly practicing, if not both.

b. Script Quality

This film is already better than Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, by the fact that it included elements from the original series. Such as the usage of the Zeo powers (even if it was for just a brief moment). Alpha 5 looking more like himself and the Power Chamber looking more like it does in the television series. It's also nice the Rangers will look the same in the TV series as they will in the movie. Too bad Ernie (Richard Genelle is only seen for a few seconds at the end of the film).

Power Rangers Turbo was not as heavily saturated with catchy one-liners like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie was. This movie had an overall darker feel than the first did with an enhanced atmosphere of "Getting down to serious business". When the Turbo Power Rangers first make their appearance into the Power Chamber, their walk indicates there is about to be a deadly challenge to be faced.

It was nice they didn't make Lerigot speak English. Even Grade A sci-fi such as Star Trek make it seem like the universal language is English, most of the time (it was nice of them to give the Klingons their own language, however). Anyway, I'm getting off the point. This film reminded me of Star Wars more so than the last Power Rangers movie (which was professed to feel like Star Wars, which I didn't feel). In Star Wars, there is supposedly 6 million languages or something to that effect. Lerigot comes off as an authentic non-Earthling/partial-humanoid, especially with the Jim Henson-class costume effects. Too bad they didn't follow the same lead with Divatox and Friends. Unfortunately, they are cartoony-Earthlike supervillains rather than aliens with malicious intent.

Some portions moved a lot faster than they should have, however, this is probably at fault of the Film Editor and not the directors Shuki Levy and/or David Winning. However, it never made any sense to me that Tommy would remove his helmet during combat. Levy and Danielson was trying to convey that Tommy believe that by seeing his face, Jason would "snap out of it" but that would also imply that Tommy is not a very good martial artist. As anyone in the field of combat knows to never let your guard down.

The best part of the film was ironically when Jason and Kimberly were made evil. Once again, the overall darker overtones expressed in this film made everything more realistic allowing non-children viewers to take the film more seriously (compare to 1st season Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode, "Power Ranger Punks").

c. Characterization

Practically non-existent, however it was nice for Jason to give Bulk (Paul Schier) and Skull (Jason Narvy) the verbal lashing they have long deserved for being the inappropriate comic reliefs that nobody needs.

There would have been more of an opportunity to focus on characters if they had made the martial arts tournament an implied occurrence which never made it on screen. It was necessary to write a believable story about how Justin, a boy, could have all this free time to be a Power Rangers, however, it isn't necessary to consume all this time that could be used into going into exposing the true nature of who these five teenagers are. As without that, you really can't care about these characters as heros.

d. Direction

David Winning, I can tell, saved this movie from the certain doom Shuki Levy presented to it. Almost every episode he and Shell Danielson wrote of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wound up a total disaster. Especially when this dynamite-duo get together and direct!

This film beats out the first one in the action department, especially with all of the dangerous looking underwater stunts. There was only two martial arts combat sequences, however. And for a film Based on martial-arts, this is pretty poor. It's even worse when you consider that only one of those battle scenes were done out of costume. Jason Frank and Johnny Bosch are talented martial artists (I've seen them perform behind the scenes, they know their craft). Not taking further advantage of this isn't good for an action film. On the other hand, it's obvious that this was supposed to be more of an adventure, rather than action film (primarily to satisfy the parential consortium), however, this just didn't go over well with me at all.

The battle sequences in costume made poor use of props, even though they did a better job than in the last film. However, both forgot what those weapons were attached to their belts. And all the superior visual effects like blows-to-impervious-uniform-generating-sparks used plentifully in sentai (the originating genre this movie was based on), was missing in Power Rangers Turbo. This is probably because they were trying to satisfy the US audience used to seeing US-style martial-arts films. If you want to see this movie for Japanese-style action, don't.

Still, however, Power Rangers Turbo did not welch on the martial arts. The last film made too frequent usage of "wire gags" (flying and what have you) and not enough raw talent. Turbo, on the other hand, had plenty of hand-to-hand combat sequences of high complexity Almost worthy of the Japan Action Club (the JAC being the source of stunt-persons for high-grade on-screen Japanese martial-arts).

The "evil" Jason and Kimberly scenes were the best part of the ranger combat portion towards the end of the movie. It was believable and well executed. What was even better was Maligore. This is the first non-Computer Generated enemy the rangers have ever faced where it was genuinely demonic looking. No foam-rubber here, just one authentic "Alien"-grade monster.

Some might prefer the hard-to-follow Megazord sequences in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie because of the 90's addiction to CGI, however, the CGI was admittedly rushed and thus the zords appeared as if they were made out of liquid metal (the same goes for the two monsters they fought, Hornitor and Scorpitron). However, the Turbo Megazord looked like back-to-basics, original Japanese-style robotics involving some pretty neat effects where Divatox was standing on a hill next to the fight between it and Maligore. The "size" proportioning was executed well. And so was the battle.

III. Presentation

a. Audio

Ron Wasserman warned me that his songs were going to come out sounding bad and that was the case. They, indeed, mixed his music wrong--so wrong I could hardly tell he produce it until I heard his voice. The score was enjoyable, even though the mix of symphony and hard rock was somewhat strange. The main theme song wasn't too bad, but I liked Power Rangers Zeo's theme better.
Speaking of Power Rangers Zeo, unless you're a die-hard fan like yours truly, you'd probably not notice this, however, in the final scenes where Tommy, Adam and Jason were fighting in the tournament, they played Power Rangers Zeo's best battle song: Calling for a Hero. It was nice hearing that wonderful composition by Ron's friend Jim Cushinery in surround-sound Dolby stereo.
Sound effects. They were professional, of course. However, they were applied more carefully to provide more realism. For example, the stomp-like walk of Maligore and the march of the Turbo Megazord.

b. Video

What's interesting about this movie is that Kat looked much like a super-model in the face. It's obvious they spent a lot of time making her look good (which is interesting, considering she already does); including throwing her in some way-too-short jeans. Because they had a professional motion picture team working on this film, it is obvious they instructed the camera operators to de-emphasize Nakia Burrise's nose. I am not poking fun, it's just that since glamor is a huge part of the motion-picture industry, I am surprised they did not pick someone more "flawless". (It's even more amazing that the Film Editor didn't clip the scene where Kimberly's rump is prominently displayed after she is washed ashore). One of my prime complaints about the first movie was Kimberly's lack of athletic clothing (fitting her motif of gymnastics). I guess my prayers have been answered.

The special effects of Lerigot's wizardry were not less than professional. It looked as if they spent a fortune on convincing special effects and computer graphics.

The abduction of Bulk and Skull actually made their cowardly cries worthy of our annoyance by how frightening they actually were taken!

The morphing was over-done and should have been completed with a single vocal command, say, "Turbo Ignition!" but instead, there was this long ranger-by-ranger morphing sequence similarly to the tiresome Zeo morphing sequence. I don't mind the visual effects of the transformation, but there should have been a five-way split-screen of the rangers being suited rather than one-by-one. However, since they only "morph" ONCE during the entire movie, a lengthy henshin (or transformation) scene was necessary to satisfy the audience since they weren't ever going to see _that_ again.

It was interesting that once morphed, the rangers ran "super-fast" because in the originating sentai that Turbo was based on (Violent Dash Task Force CARRANGER), the CARRANGERs ran "super-fast" (followed by engine-rev and brake sound effects).

The highlight of visual effects are after they reach the Island Muranthias. Maligore was the best monster the Power Rangers have ever fought. The Turbo Megazord transformation sequence was equal to that of the first movie, and I thought both were excellent. Good set construction on the Megazord cockpit, including realistic camera work (each step the Megazord took, the cockpit changed angles).

IV. Movie Review

a. Good Qualities

Script Content:
The dialogue was not conspicuously "text-book" generated. Even though battle phrases will be duplicated (because there are only many ways to give orders), the movie managed to avoid pointless one-liners. The worst aspect of the movie was Divatox. This aspect earns a B- Grade.

Director's Efforts:
Success. He managed to get Amy Jo Johnson and Austin St. John to come off as if they were possessed by the devil himself. All stunts were equal to the TV series (not comparing against original sentai footage). This aspect deserves an A Grade.

Audio Soundtrack:
They messed up the music a little bit, however, all mistakes are excused with the usage of Calling For A Hero. All Sound Effects were flawlessly applied. This movie's sound (music & effects) easily out-do most tokusatsu (the genre where sentai comes from). This aspect deserves an A- Grade.

Visuals:
The Turbo Megazord was the best I have ever seen the US do as far as imitation Japanese giant-robot sequences go. Maligore was the most threatening, deadliest looking monster ever shown on screen during anything for the Power Rangers. If this is how Power Rangers had have started, I do believe more would take the series more seriously. This aspect deserves an A.

b. Bad Qualities

Plot Content:
A worthless premise. Earth was in no immediate danger, they were more or less doing yet another intergalactic being a favor (cf. Masked Rider, 1995). Because the plot was not related to the characters state of minds at all, this aspect gets a C- Grade.

Characterization:
Because they neglected to include any, they get a D- grade in this department, which strongly detracts from the strength of its plot.

c. Ending Grade

Even though the characterization was non existent forcing the plot to be empty, the direction and visual effects saved the film with a strong soundtrack of sound effects to support the on-screen performances and special effects. It was worth the $4.50 I paid to see it.

So, I give this movie a B- grade.

Dairenn Lombard
piero@cyberverse.com
http://www.cyberverse.com/~piero/

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