This Power Rangers Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Ninja Steel Episode 1
I don’t think I’ve ever been more apathetic to a Power Rangers premiere in my life. Usually I’m really hyped! New characters, new plots, new theme song! There’s a hope that even if the last season wasn’t my favorite, this one will be able to step up.
It’s tough to feel that way after Dino Super Charge was such a train wreck. It cannot be overstated how the end of that show completely nuked a lot of the hope I had in this franchise. No longer can I pepper my reviews with “hopefully they’ll come back to this” or “I can’t wait to see where this character goes!” Dino Super Charge demonstrated the current production regime wasn’t capable of delivering on the promise of Dino Charge’s early episodes.
So going into Ninja Steel? I already fear that anything good or promising about this premiere isn’t going to be followed up on. The series has to win back my trust and hope. This premiere didn’t do much in that regard. I can’t say it was a bad premiere but it was a little lifeless. It doesn’t help the main character was completely devoid of any personality.
Brody has been a prisoner on board an alien space ship for ten years. This should leave him perhaps a little hardened or jaded. Maybe he’s got a huge chip on his shoulder. Instead his sole personality trait seems to be “I’m a ninja”. Nearly every line he has in this premiere is based on exposition and not on character. It’s all plot with no substance.
Compare him to the main character of the Dino Charge premiere, Shelby. In that premiere Shelby had a lot of personality and a relatable goal. She wanted to be taken seriously by her boss and prove her worth. I could get behind that. I can’t get behind, “My father has been missing for ten years and I’m stuck on a spaceship and I need to get this giant ninja star.”
So… Let’s talk about the missing father. This is perhaps the biggest knock to the premiere. It’s straight up recycled from LAST SEASON. Oh sure, a few details are changed, but Brody’s (oddly white) father is missing. He vanished. So we get another “gotta find dad” plot. Look, when Dino Charge did it? I thought it was a nice (unintended) throwback to VR Troopers. Now it’s just lazy. They couldn’t even change the number of years the dad was missing? Come on.
Also, where’s Brody’s mom? What is with Power Rangers and having so few moms? Its head scratching because Brody is all for finding his brother later in the episode but not even a passing mention of his mother. Again, I can’t say the show will come back to this because I have little faith it will. See? All benefit of the doubt is gone!
Preston and Sarah go over much better. They don’t get much but they at least have relatable goals. Preston wants to be a magician but no one takes him seriously. Sarah is an inventor, new in school, and wants to set a record with her hover board. It’s all fairly basic but it’s just enough to get me invested in them. Plus they have a fun little meet cute and dynamic. The two taking off on Sarah’s hover board, especially when Brody secured his hat? Amazing.
We don’t see much of our soon to be White and Yellow Rangers, Hayley and Calvin respectively, but that’ll be in episode two I guess. We do however get to meet our civilian side characters, Victor and Monty. I’m not sure how I feel about these two. On the one hand I’m all about having non-Ranger characters for the team to interact with. It was one of my biggest complaints throughout Samurai, Megaforce, and Dino Charge.
These guys however seem a bit too stereotypical for my tastes. One’s the nerd and one’s the jock. I guess they could develop them but again, not a lot of hope there. It was nice to see Victor get his ass handed to him but that hover board sequence went on way too long. It wasn’t ‘Ninja Encounter’ baby chase sequence length, but it overstayed its welcome. I want to like these two so if they can tone down the wacky a bit I’ll be fine. Although they’re both covered in what looks like food in the opening sequence so I really won’t get my hopes up.
Mick, Brody’s alien friend, doesn’t get much either. I love that he’s played by Disney era mainstay Kelson Henderson but there’s just not much there. Again I have to compare this to Dino Charge‘s premiere where even when characters like Chase and Koda got about five seconds of screen time they had more distinct and fun personalities. If Ninja Steel can’t even land the characters in its own premiere like Dino Charge did? We’re in for some problems.
The villains are also a bit of a blank slate. None of them stand out much. The setting they’re in is great. I love the idea of the Galaxy Warriors tournament/show. What I don’t love is once again recycling prominent old monster costumes. Look, I’ve already accepted Ninja Steel is in its own continuity. It has to be, otherwise dinosaurs would be chilling around and I would have to somehow figure out why a Venjix body is on the ship.
Even with that in mind, why are they using such prominent monster suits from the past? A monster of the week? Sure, reuse that all you like. Seeing multiple Beevil’s in the crowd didn’t bother me at all. But using Venjix, the main villain of RPM, and a Fearcat, one of the main villains of Overdrive? No. That is not acceptable. It’s either lazy in that they didn’t check if these were prominent villains or it’s insulting that they thought no one would notice.
It’s like if the Lord Zedd outfit was used for a monster of the day. You can’t just do something like that. It’s distracting to the story, much like how Not!Fearcat was from the Ninninger galaxy.
I ranted about this last year with Sentai Six, Kamen Five, and the Kyoryuger Galaxy. It’s dumb. It’s supposed to be a fun in-joke for fans but reads more as, “Hey, this Japanese word? It’s so alien and exotic!” Come on. The Power Rangers universe is filled with planets and alien races. Use them.
Also, way to undercut one of your evil generals, Ninja Steel. Having Brody fake Ripcon out while unmorphed and without a weapon is a good way of making sure I feel zero suspense when they actually fight.
The final act with the Rangers discovering their powers is also lackluster. Hell, the whole concept of finding “Ninja Steel” is confusing. The shards of this power star can create powers I guess? The Rangers are able to reach into the star? Okay, sure. Since this whole final act is centered on Brody, it loses much of the premiere’s momentum. When I’m not invested in the characters I can’t really get invested in the action.
I’ll give that scene one thing though. When Not!Fearcat leapt out of nowhere and yelled, “Surprise!” I legit laughed my ass off. Sometimes a cat monster leaping at you is hilarious, what can I say?
It also goes without saying the music is once again lackluster. A good score can save an otherwise mediocre episode but Noam Kaniel’s work fails to impress once again. Adding a few flutes to the soundtrack doesn’t make everything ninja-y.
The theme song isn’t great, either. Not bad but it doesn’t have the same sort of driving energy that made Dino Charge’s so memorable. I can’t even tell what half the lyrics are! It also felt like it went on for about fifteen seconds too long. Watch it again and once it hits the EP credits, tell me it couldn’t have ended there.
The premiere of Ninja Steel has a lot of great ideas but it focuses on too many plots and characters and doesn’t give enough attention to any of them. I can admire the season wanted to start big but maybe they should have held off on a few things till the second episode to devote more time to Brody’s character. Without him to ground the episode, everything kinda falls apart.
– Hey hey, I see you ToQger villain.
– Those kids have some really heavy Kiwi accents.
– Hey, Nickelodeon. This isn’t Dino Charge. Change your bumpers. Thanks.
– How in the world did no one on that ship realize it was the Ninja Star under that sheet?
– Preston. Prest-O. I can’t decide if that’s amazing or ridiculous.
– Victor Vincent. Okay, I do love alliteration in character names.
– Good to see Ninja Steel’s first bit of fanservice is with the guys.
– “Yes I’m still connected to the ships computer.” That was some of the most awkward exposition I’ve heard out of Power Rangers in awhile.
Shamus Kelley thinks watching Ninja Steel after season two of Voltron was a poor choice. Follow him on Twitter!