Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie is, at best, a glorified TV movie. Made when Power Rangers’ popularity was in slow decline after the zenith of the Mighty Morphin days, the film makes no pretense that it’s trying to be any kind of cultural event like the first film attempted to be. Instead, it only half-heartedly tries to bring in a new audience with the addition of kid Ranger Justin and struggles to please hardcore Power Rangers fans.
The story –new villain Divatox makes her way to a mystical island to marry an ancient evil and the Rangers have to stop her — limps along with little forward momentum. Guest alien character Lerigot, who speaks in an alien language nearly the whole movie, gets equal if not more screen time than Justin. There’s little to no character development for the main cast. It also takes over an hour and 10 minutes for the Rangers to actually morph and fight.
The two saving graces of the film are Divatox, played by Hilary Shepherd Turner, who brings a demented joy to the baddie, and the return of former Rangers Jason and Kimberly, who provide most of the memorable moments.
Overall, it’s a fairly dull movie… but it wasn’t always that way. Hidden in two early drafts of the film (specifically the third and fifth drafts) are some deleted gems, which, while they wouldn’t have completely saved the movie, would have made it a more enjoyable one. The characters all get more moments to shine, Justin (sort of) gets a character arc, we’re given more reason to care about Lerigot, Kimberly gets some snappy one liners, and there’s even an explanation of the changeover from the Zeo to Turbo powers!
Like we did with an early draft of the MMPR movie, we’re diving into these earlier versions of Turbo, but we won’t be covering every single change from script to screen. We’ll instead focus on the biggest changes and deleted bits that shed the most light on what could have been for the Turbo movie. (Which was originally titled Turbo Power Rangers: Race To The Volcano.)
The Zeo to Turbo Transition
Considering this film is very clearly aimed at fans, let’s start with the biggest sticking point for them at the time when this movie was released. In the final version of the movie, there’s no explanation regarding what happened to the Zeo powers from the previous season of the show. Power Rangers Zeo, the fourth season in the franchise, featured a set of powers that were supposedly the most powerful, able to grow stronger overtime. However, the Zeo powers were completely tossed aside in Turbo with no explanation as to why (maybe after they saw the Zeo morph sequence could be disrupted by water they decided to get something better). The Rangers accept their Turbo powers, and not much else is said on the matter.
For years this has bothered fans… if only they knew how close we got to a real explanation. The third draft starts out with a partial explanation, that the Zeo Zords don’t have the power to withstand passage through the Nemesis Triangle and, as Alpha lays out, “the force of the triangle has mangled many power sources.”
However, it’s a later line of dialogue that could potentially solve every single problem fans have ever had with this.
As the Rangers work on the Turbo Zords, which will take them through the Triangle, Alpha specifically says, “the transfer of powers is complete.”
Now you can be nitpicky and say this was only referring to the Zords but considering that the Turbo keys and morphers appear in the same room as the Turbo Zords, it’s close enough. Plus Zordon makes it clear in the fifth draft of the script that Justin’s powers can’t be transferred to Rocky and that, “from this moment on, you are the Blue Ranger” lending more credence to the idea the Zeo powers have become the Turbo powers.
(This runs contrary to what the show implied in “Shift Into Turbo Part 1,” which made it seem like Justin could give the powers to Rocky if he wanted them.)
Zordon also reveals they had the keys in their possession for safekeeping, which seems to solidify the idea they transferred the Zeo powers into the Turbo keys in a way that would allow them to cross the Triangle.
This is truly the best explanation fans will ever get. After nearly 20 years of endless theories, forum battles, and debates, there was truly a simple explanation for all of this.
Without a doubt the most controversial addition to Power Rangers at the time, Justin was a legit child who bafflingly got the chance to become a Ranger. Like the film, the early scripts provide no real reason why a child gets to be a Ranger, although it does try to have Justin explain.
“It was an emergency and all, Zordon said I had the right stuff to be a Power Ranger, even if I was a little young, and Rocky thought so too…”
Considering Zordon’s “right stuff” for recruiting the original Rangers was that they were “overbearing and emotional,” I strongly question his decision making process here. Does he just find the closest person who won’t ask too many questions and go, “good enough!”
At least the script does delve a little more into the idea of a child being a Ranger, with Tanya and Kat both unsure if Justin really knows what he’s going up against. Tanya reasons they’ll have to be his family now, which was a line that made it into the film (albeit spoken by Kat) but doesn’t carry anywhere near as much weight there, considering that both of Justin’s parents are dead in the scripts!
In the fifth draft, that backstory is downgraded to just his mom but it’s still given much more time to impact Justin. Tanya and Kat comment several times how much trouble Justin has had since she died and his dad moved away. He’s clearly taken to Rocky quite a bit and is really disturbed by Rocky’s injury. This comes full circle at the end when, in a deleted scene, Justin worries he won’t be a Ranger anymore but Rocky reassures him that he deserves the powers. For someone who looked up to Rocky so much, this is huge.
Justin’s story even gets tied into Lerigot’s! It only happens at the very end but in another deleted scene in the fifth draft (that was briefly glimpsed in the film’s end credits) Justin gets to hold baby Bethel and sorrowfully observes, “it must be great to have your whole family together again.”
Damn, that made me feel things for Justin! I wish this connection had been explored a bit more but perhaps it was something they had planned to develop in the TV series. Still, these little glimpses into Justin’s life would have made the idea of a kid Ranger easier to accept and given him a more emotional arc.
Lerigot was… certainly a choice. Someone in the Turbo movie production office must have thought they’d be making some serious tickle me Elmo money off this alien but uh… he’s horrendous. His face is the stuff of nightmares. His eyes are that of a killer. His voice is what you hear as you’re slowly dragged into hell.
As mentioned earlier, he takes up way too much of the film’s runtime, especially the first half as we watch him play with animals in Africa. Both in look and execution, Lerigot is a huge misfire. However, the fifth draft of the script at least gave us more of a reason to care about him and, delightfully, tied his backstory to Maligore.
In the film, it’s revealed that Lerigot’s key can get Divatox through the Nemesis Triangle to Maligore. It was kind of strange how this specific key could do that but in the script Zordon explains to the Rangers that Lerigot’s ancestors, the Liarians, were the ones who exiled Maligore to the island Muiranthias in the Nemesis Triangle. Lerigot inherited the golden key, which, as in film, opens the gateway to the island.
Speaking of keys, the keys the Rangers use to morph were also tied into Lerigot’s backstory. In the film, Zordon just calls them “similar” to Lerigot’s key but the script reveals that the keys and morphers were entrusted to Zordon for “safe keeping with the hope that they would never have to be used.”
So hey, uh, Zordon. Were you gonna… tell the Rangers about those powers at all? Could have been real useful all those times they lost their powers before now! Maybe you wouldn’t have even needed the Zeo Crystal if you just opened that wall and gave everyone the Turbo powers! Why do you have so many secret powers, Zordon?! We know you have a Zord fleet hidden away on an alien planet! I know you’re all about “don’t escalate battles” but people are dying!
Anyway, tying in Lerigot to the Rangers’ powers is a cool idea and does give both the powers and Lerigot more weight in the film since they’re the only things that can take on Maligore. The powers aren’t just something Zordon cooked up in a few minutes. It also conjures up images of ancient Liarian Rangers, possibly multiple teams who inherited the powers from each other.
That’s incredible! Even though it was scrapped, the idea of more alien Power Rangers out there isone I’m always open to, plus it gives us the image of Liarian Power Rangers beating up Maligore. This is an image I will treasure for all time.
Aqua Power Suits
One would think introducing the Turbo powers would be enough for a film but there were plans to feature a second set of… powers as well. Actually, it’s a little confusing so I’ll try to explain as best as I can.
In the script, Tanya and Adam are actively tracking Divatox’s landing on Earth instead of just kind of hanging around the Power Chamber while Tommy and Kat go off to Africa. Zordon instructs them to investigate and the two bust out the Aqua Power Suits, which are described as“five armored suits split down the middle and peeled back.”
Adam and Tanya don’t morph into them, they, as the script describes, “step backwards into their suits. The suits close from the feet up, snapping into place. The face shields show half of their faces as they step forward to reveal a small jet pack on their backs.”
No explanation is given as to where these suits came from; they were just hiding in a wall. At least, unlike the Turbo powers in the script, the team already knew about them and Zordon wasn’t hoarding them away until it was time to (sell some new toys) face a great threat.
Showing half their faces in the suits brings to mind the abandoned plans from the first movie, which featured open visors during fight scenes. It makes more sense here considering the suits, as written in the script, sound more like souped-up scuba gear than actual morphed suits. A later scene reveals that the suits have miniature radar screens, a button on the helmet that allows the wearers to talk to each other underwater, and a weapon attached to the hip.
The suits were mainly used in an altered scene where, instead of Jason and Kimberly simply being captured by Divatox, Tanya and Adam tried to save them in a thrilling underwater battle. The two former Rangers are taken into the subcraft, and before Tanya and Adam can try and get inside, Divatox electrifies them. It’s a great sequence that would have added some much needed action to the start of the film.
Concept art of these suits has been released by longtime Power Rangers writer Jackie Marchand but the images don’t match the script at all. The art features the regular Turbo Rangers, only with additional underwater equipment. They depict the aqua aesthetic as more of a power-up rather than a whole other suit.
So uh… how would that have all worked if the Aqua Power Suits were introduced BEFORE the Rangers got their Turbo powers? Would the Aqua Power Suits have appeared over the Zeo suits?
One explanation might be that in an even earlier draft of the script the Rangers did use the Aqua Power Suits later in the film. According to Power Rangers: The Ultimate Visual History, the original script for the film (which we assume is the first draft) was 150 pages, so there was ample time for the new suits to appear. (For reference the third and fifth drafts we’re covering are 87 pages and 91 pages, respectively.)
Another possibility is that, while the suits were designed for the film, Turbo didn’t really have the budget to film the scenes they were used in. As cool as an underwate fight scene would have been, it wouldn’t have been easy to pull off. Doubly so with actors in costumes like Ranger suits. Actor Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam Park) revealed in 2013 that, while some scenes leading into the Aqua Power Suits were filmed, they were ultimately cut during production.
The unexplained change from Zeo to Turbo powers isn’t the only plotline that left fans of the TV series baffled when this movie hit theaters. In the finale of Power Rangers Zeo, Bulk and Skull were recruited for a secret detective mission off the coast of France, quitting their positions working under the former Lt. Stone. It was a seismic shift that was almost completely dropped in the film; the trio’s suddenly back on the police force that they’d been fired from with the only acknowledgment being Stone remarking they were lucky to be rehired.
While the scripts don’t address the France mission cliffhanger, it does at least provide some explanation for how the trio got back on the force. Stone tells Bulk and Skull at a baseball game that, “we are in the middle of the international summer festival. The department is short on manpower. Trust me… they must be if they hired you back.” It’s not much but… it’s something and does lead to a series of deleted scenes.
During the same baseball game scene, as in the film, Stone instructs Bulk and Skull to relieve him at the international danceathon. This is a reference to a subplot that never made the cut, with Stone stuck at the dance after Bulk and Skull were kidnapped by Divatox. Twice during the film we cut back to him being forced to dance, first to German polka and then a Jamaican line dance. This plot was to be wrapped up in a final scene where Bulk and Skull finally show up, only for Stone, in Kabuki makeup, to chase them down with a stick.
While I’m glad to see Stone get something more to do, these scenes are of little consequence and it’s no wonder they were cut. They were filmed though, and the footage that exists isn’t all that funny, especially since it features several cultural stereotypes that are downright offensive.
The Malichians make an appearance at the festival in these deleted scenes (seemingly having followed Bulk and Skull back from the island), and just like in the film, they’re a painfully out of date and racist depiction of native people.
Mandika the Mermaid
Ever wonder how Bulk, Skull, and Kimberly made it to shore after escaping the sub craft? In the film, it’s implied they floated back up but the script gives us a far more entertaining explanation. It was a mermaid! And not just a random mermaid but one that was going to share a subplot with Adam!
In the script, the Rangers face a much longer trek to get to the Ghost Galleon, needing to follow a river in the “Digathian Forest.” The Rangers drive there but can’t find their way until they spot “a beautiful young girl of about eleven. Her skin is the color of alabaster with long blue/black hair that trails in front of her bare chest.” (What a creepy description.) “She dives and a silvery tail flips out of the water.” The mermaid is named Mandika and is friends with Alpha! That robot must get up to some amazing adventures off screen.
Just after that introduction Adam is unnerved by a vision of Maligore at a campfire (the image of Maligore in fire recurs in the script) and goes for a walk. Mandika leads him to a pirate skeleton, which points the way to the Galleon. After that, Mandika pops up to save Bulk and Skull and then Kimberly before needing to be saved herself, which also helpfully fills in a plot hole.
In the film, as two missiles streak toward the Galleon, Kat suggests, “We can’t be detected inside the Turbo vehicles.” Which is completely pointless since the missiles end up hitting the ship anyway and the Zords simply withstand the blast.
In the script, the Rangers getting into the Zords diverts the missiles…to Mandika! She’s unaware of the missiles and Adam, on a recon mission, takes a bungee cord out of his power box and leaps down to save her in the nick of time. She thanks him and dives back into the water, never to be seen again.
Mandika is completely pointless. She has zero personality and is only there to help bolster the movie’s attempt at being a big adventure. But we’ve already got five Rangers plus the villains. We don’t need anymore side characters.
Notable Deleted Sequences
Director David Winning said in an interview for the Ultimate Visual History book that the script for the film was “massive – a series of one adventure after another. The original edit was over three hours long, so, realistically, it had to be cut down.”
While that edit was probably a very early rough cut, it still means a lot of sequences had to go, even some potentially great ones.
Power Rangers fans have hungered for these scenes for years, clues to their existence slowly trickling out. The script finally sheds some light on what these scenes were all about.
One of the biggest of these is Kat firing a flamethrower, with Tommy looking on, an image advertised on the back of the Turbo movie VHS. The script reveals their target was a crocodile, which followed Tommy and Kat after they reunited in the water. Tommy gets Kat out just before the croc tries to attack, getting into a full on brawl with the animal, even grabbing it in “an upside down bear hug” and shoving a branch in its mouth. Tommy gets to shore and Kat scares the croc away with a blowtorch that was in a power box. This sequence was probably cut for time or maybe the image of Tommy wrestling a crocodile wasn’t as cool as the script made it out to be.
Another scene known to fans was of the Rangers traveling through several different chambers to get to Maligore’s temple. This scene was briefly featured in a short music video at the beginning of the Turbo VHS tape, and while it promised something exciting, the script makes it seem pretty boring.
Tommy opens a door to the temple with his Turbo key (which makes more sense than Justin just happening to find a random entrance in the film) and the team enters the “Serpent’s Temple.” There’s an oil slick lake covering the floor, and as they move through, they see cobra statues with real snakes all around them. Tanya hates snakes because Indiana Jones reference and then they just… run into the main chamber. They don’t even fight some snake monsters.
Much better are two scenes that did show up in the film but only in silent form in the end credits. The first is made up of several shots of Lerigot, his family, Jason, Kimberly, Bulk, and Skull entering the Turbo Megazord. Kimberly and Jason share a hug with Tommy looking on, leading some fans to speculate Kim and Jason were now a couple. The script does not mention or indicate that at all but it does contain a great bit where the Rangers react to Bulk and Skull’s weirdness, and Jason bemusedly observes, “I’ve known them since Kindergarten and I still can’t figure it out.” This is the kinda character moment the movie needed more of.
The second is the shot of Justin getting to hold Bethel that we mentioned earlier, but it also ends with Alpha getting Lerigot to say in English, “Go… go… Power Rangers.” Ugh. I kind of love it.
Fans haven’t heard of all the deleted scenes, though. One particularly interesting one occurs as the Rangers are about to enter the Triangle but first have to pass through some fog. There they see a phantom ship appear and vanish, along with a “world war fighter jet” and even a UFO!
This is a scene I really wish had been kept in the film. It gives the island more weight
because it’s a place humans have at least tried to interact with (and earlier dialogue in the script makes it seem like the Triangle is a well known myth.) It makes Earth just as magical as any of the far off planets the Rangers have encountered. If our planet is hiding this kind of power, it’s no wonder villains are always looking to conquer it.
Another great scene is an extended version of the Putra Pod fight where the Rangers actually morph! In the film, they take out Divatox’s minions on the ship unmorphed but in the script the fight is longer and much more exciting. There’s much more action described, with my favorite bit being Tommy having to fight his way into the captain’s room so he can pull the Turbo keys out of the ship. We even get an early version of the morph call, “It’s morphin Turbo time.”
That’s a mouthful but I desperately wish this has been in the film. It still takes way too long but it gives us some Ranger action earlier, which the film badly needed. Even the first film, for all its flaws, knows it has to bust out a Ranger fight early on to keep you interested.
Deleted Character Moments
Without much action to break up the film, a huge problem quickly arises, there are very few character moments. When the film isn’t shoving Lerigot in your face, the Rangers are mostly given painful amounts of exposition or mind numbing dialogue that doesn’t feel specific to them as characters. One could argue the Rangers were never that deep to begin with but there was enough to draw on if they wanted to… and the script did.
Unfortunately, when editing a movie, the first thing to go are little character moments, and that’s a real shame because there are some fantastic ones here. One of my favorites comes early when the Rangers and the shelter kids are all at the baseball game and Tanya catches a speeding ball hit into the stands. It’s a perfect little bit that references her baseball skills from Zeo and gives her a moment with Justin where she gives him the ball, producing his first slight smile in the movie.
There are actually several deleted little bits about Tanya. When Jason and Kim see Bulk and Skull acting strangely in the subcraft, Jason’s reminded of a report Tanya did about trauma and how people respond to it. Hey, they remembered Jason knew her! Tanya also tells Tommy and Katherine to “send my love to Africa” before they teleport there.
The whole team also gets an absolutely brilliant scene where they’re all around a campfire just before Justin shows up. They all talk about how they used to be afraid of the dark, with Tanya remarking, “That’s when all the monsters camped out under your bed.”
It’s such a sweet bit, especially with Tommy being the first to admit his fear. It also subtly feels like the team is comparing their childhood fears of monsters to their present day lives of fighting them all the time. This moment lets the Rangers feel like genuine people with the weight of the world on their shoulders. If this had made it in, it would have easily been the stand out moment of the movie.
Or maybe it would have been anything Divatox says. She was already one of the best parts of the film but the script gives her even more time. Early on, she gets Rygog to draw up a prenup for the marriage. Rygog dutifully confirms, “Everything that is yours remains yours. And everything that is his becomes yours as well” to which Divatox says, “Sounds fair to me.”
Later, during the big Volcano fight, she threatens to “throw a few Ranger wimps on the barbie” and adds, “You should appreciate that, Pink Ranger!” Divatox remembers more about Kat’s backstory than the final film did.
But none of these scenes even hold a candle to a line that should have been in every trailer because it would have sold this movie. Jason, having just been brought to the volcano, gives the very standard Power Rangers line of “Don’t you know bad guys never win?”
To which Divatox responds,
“Of course they don’t. Guys are complete idiots. Now women on the other hand…”
I LOVE IT. I ADORE THIS LINE SO MUCH. How could you not film this? How could you cut this? It’s brilliant! Perfect for Divatox.
How Much Better Is The Script From The Finished Movie?
Look, many of these deleted bits are great. The character bits help give the film more depth. It made me want to know more about Lerigot, and that’s a true accomplishment! There are some killer lines, acknowledgement of the TV show’s continuity, and Justin is far more likeable. For the hardcore fan, these moments do a lot.
That being said, these little bits don’t fix the film. It’s still a deeply flawed movie that, like the first film, seems to be ashamed of the TV show and tries to tell a story that is as far away from it as possible. But it’s just not that good a story on its own so the only thing that’s worthwhile are those moments that connect to the show and the characters we already love — which are few and far between.
The script gives us more of those but it doesn’t fix the major flaws, like the painfully slow start, the overuse of Lerigot, the lack of character arcs, and too little Ranger action, though the extra scene on the ship is appreciated.
So yes, the script is better than the film but it wasn’t exactly a super high bar to clear in the first place. At least if some of these scenes had been included, the movie would have been more enjoyable for Power Rangers fans, which really are the primary audience for the film anyway. I’m not saying that’s whom the studio should have been exclusively catering to but the only time the script is able to shine is when nodding at hardcore fans. Without that, Turbo is just a forgettable ‘90s kids movie.