This Power Rangers Ninja Steel review contains spoilers.
Power Rangers Ninja Steel Episode 22
I think a lot about Power Rangers budget. Yeah yeah, I’ll get to the Christmas episode in a minute but go with me here. Ninja Steel (and Dino Charge before it) have used far less Sentai footage than Power Rangers normally does. Back in the Disney era especially they’d sometimes be burning two or three episodes worth of Sentai footage in one episode of Power Rangers.
It’s why Power Rangers even exists, to make a cheap show out of Japanese stock footage so I wonder why Ninja Steel especially has been so liberal with its original footage. Doing original fights with the suits used to be a big deal that they’d pinch their pennies for. Now it’s fairly standard.
Why is that? Why are they shooting so much original footage? Do they get some kind of extra tax credit for shooting more footage in New Zealand? Are they delicately balancing that with the Sentai stock footage? These are things I think about, people.
In my ongoing quest to provide reasons why Ninja Steel is the way it is (and honestly, this is way more interesting to write about than my review of the episode), I wonder if this influx of new footage is having a negative effect on the stories. Before Power Rangers would often use Sentai footage as a creative framework for their own stories. Now they’ve basically thrown all that out and are just doing their own original plotlines.
In concept I’m totally fine with that. Power Rangers shouldn’t feel so slave to the Sentai footage. The problem is that its original plot isn’t very good. While Chip Lynn is very famous for his work from In Space through Time Force fans shouldn’t forget that a large chunk of those seasons featured fairly direct rips of Sentai plotlines. Even the much-lauded In Space ripped the Psycho Ranger arc wholesale from Megaranger (and that’s why it’s overrated. SORRY NOT SORRY FANS.)
I know we like to attribute much of that to Jonathan Tzachor but I wonder if Lynn isn’t as strong without using that Sentai framework. Some amazing creativity can happen when you lean into the Sentai footage plus it can save money. Just look at Turbo with “Trouble by the Slice.” That’s an episode with a ton of Sentai footage and it’s considered a classic.
I don’t think Power Rangers should be so afraid to use Sentai footage. You can still use a lot of it and it can help inform your characters. If say you have a lot of footage of the Blue Ranger to work with, you have to construct a very strong Blue Ranger focus to help set that footage up.
These days they seem to just do whatever plot they want and find a Sentai fight that more or less works. It makes the story feel disjointed.
Like this episode. Brody gets to have the big (heh) fight after it was a Sarah focus episode. It just feels awkward.
So yeah, the episode. I’m not even going to go into all the time travel stuff that makes no sense and their one sentence reason why the timeline was so easily restored. It’s lazy and stupid. Power Rangers, stop using time travel. It’s been terrible every time you’ve done it these past few years.
It’s also a bad-framing device because Sarah could have easily just found a time when the whole team was together and explained the situation. Calvin and Hayley were fine with it, so why not the others? Why did they all need to be alone?
Let’s also focus on something budget related to tie this all together. Did they plan this clip show from the start? It looks like they filmed Sarah’s scenes at the time of filming those episodes (and if they didn’t that’s a huge wasted expense).
So… wait. If they did shoot all those scenes across the season then that means they must have already had the finale in mind. Think about it, the framing device is that Sarah needed to get the power stars they’d lost in the final fight with Galvanax.
So for over half the season they knew what they were building towards… And did next to nothing to set up. It looks as if they put more time and energy getting the holiday clip show ready than the actual finale.
Remember when tons of hard work went into planning episodes like “Fighting Spirit”? How other Dino Thunder episodes would have to be really Sentai heavy to make that episode possible?
Remember how much Greg Aronowitz fought to include a female Red Ranger? How he had to push back against Disney with everything he had?
Remember how “Always a Chance” brought back Adam for no other reason than it would be cool to see him and we got a nice look into his psyche? That must have taken some real effort and planning.
Now all that is put into a clip show. What a waste.
Shamus Kelley at least liked Santa wanting some snacks. That was legit hilarious. Follow him on Twitter!