Five Power Rangers sequels are apparently being planned at Saban, as the big screen mighty morphin reboot continues to make bank around the globe. And what could possibly go wrong with a Power Rangers sequel? Um… quite a lot, actually, if you take a minute to look at the history.
Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie was the original cinematic sequel in the franchise. It came out in 1997, following 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. The first flick was poorly received (33% critical approval, according to Rotten Tomatoes), and the second got an even bigger kicking (slumping to just 16%).
Turbo, essentially, was the film that killed the series’ cinematic potential, relegating the property to cheap TV shows for two decades.
Now that the Rangers have a new lease of life, the creative team behind them will want to avoid the outright oddness and awfulness of the previous Power Rangers sequel.
They could certainly learn a few things not to do, judging by these 15 WTF Things From Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.
15. Only Two Years Later, But The Lineup Was Different And They Didn’t Explain Why
1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie had a line-up of Jason David Frank’s Tommy Oliver as the White Ranger, Steve Cardenas’ Rocky as the Red Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson’s Kimberly as the Pink Ranger, David Yost’s Billy as the Blue Ranger, Karan Ashley’s Aisha as the Yellow Ranger and Johnny Yong Bosch’s Adam as the Black Ranger.
Jump forward two years, and Turbo served up a very different team. Tommy is still around, but he’s now the Red Ranger. Adam returned as well, but in the guise of the Green Ranger. No explanation is given as to why these chaps changed colours. Rocky appears briefly, having become the Blue Ranger for some reason, but he promptly gets injured and replaced. (More on that later.)
Catherine Sutherland’s Kat is the Pink Ranger now, and Nakia Burrise’s Tanya is the Yellow Ranger. Neither of their origins, or the reasons why their predecessors left, are explained at any point.
Devout followers of the TV show would’ve known what happened to the previous roster, and why everyone who came back for Turbo had a new colour, but casual viewers who just popped along to the movies would’ve been absolutely bamboozled by this.
14. It Begins With The Cheapest Star Wars Opening Crawl Knockoff Ever
A lot of movies have tried to ape the iconic opening crawl of Star Wars, but none of the other imitators (to this writer’s memory) were as cheap-looking and perplexing as the one slapped onto the opening frames of Turbo. As you can see in the image above, this text rambles on about a wizard named Lerigot and a ‘wicked Galactic Pirate’ named Divatox.
This is the only explanation of the plot we get, with the reasons behind Divatox’s plan, and the exact nature of Lerigot’s powers, left almost entirely to the viewer’s imagination.
Also, the crawl neglects to actually mention the Power Rangers by name. Instead, the cheap-as-chips Word Art scrolling up the screen dabbles in some serious vagueness, teasing that Lerigot will need to ‘escape his planet and make his way to Earth’ and ‘seek the help of powerful friends.’
Again, this poorly-written preamble and its complete irrelevance to the events of the previous Power Rangers film must’ve been hugely confusing for casual viewers. And to be fair, even those with a deep understanding of the mythos might’ve been puzzled by the point of all this.
13. The Opening Scene Is A Tiny Wizard Creature Being Chased In The Woods, In Space
Shell Danielson and Shuki Levy are the credited writers of Turbo, and they must at some point have sat down to discuss the best way to open the film. The idea they settled on was this: to start with some unnamed baddies chasing a diminutive wizard through some woods.
The film’s opening shot is a pan down to an alien planet. They really weren’t being coy about borrowing from Star Wars. From there, the film transitions to an extreme close-up of a crossbow being loaded. “I’ve got you now…. wizard,” an unnamed baddy intones.
He fires the arrow and narrowly misses his target, which is promptly revealed to be a cutesy, cuddly character with a giant head, a luscious beard and diminutive stature. A dramatic chase follows, with some surprisingly sinister goons pursuing the adorable wizard.
Since Lerigot (the wizard) can’t properly speak, the only dialogue he offers is garbled gurgles and gibberish, making this incredibly odd opening scene even weirder to watch. And when Lerigot manages to teleport away, you find yourself wondering why he didn’t just do that in the first place.
12. Rocky Spinning-Kicks Himself Into A Neck Brace
The action then heads to Earth, with Tommy, Rocky, and Adam sparring in their martial arts gear. Their trainer tells Rocky to try a ‘spinning heel’ move on the pads he’s holding. Rocky completely misses and falls to the ground. “You’re trying too hard,” the coach tells him, in a rather useless piece of advice.
Rocky gets up, and questions whether he’s trying too hard, or not hard enough. Deep stuff, right? He gives the spinning jumping kick another shot, completely misses again and goes flying out of the ring. He’s promptly put in a neck brace and a hospital bed, and left there for most of the movie.
What an unceremonious (and unintentionally hilarious) way to ditch a character. It’s one of the many ‘this sequel is also a reboot, and we’re not gonna be subtle about it’ decisions in the movie. The powers-that-be wanted to bring in a younger Ranger, and Rocky drew the short straw. And by younger, they really meant younger…
11. The New Blue Ranger Is Literally A Child
Enter Blake Foster as Justin Stewart, a young kid that is introduced on a school bus. The Yellow and Pink Rangers are involved with some sort of children’s group (again, they don’t bother explaining it), and near the start they’re seen leading a singsong that Justin doesn’t fancy joining in with.
Justin later visits Rocky in hospital, and inexplicably decides to hide under the bed when the rest of the principal cast show up. He overhears them talking about Power Rangers stuff, and he works out their secret. Justin then goes off for a while, only to reappear later… as the new Blue Ranger!
Zordon makes the decision to recruit this child off screen, with Justin showing up in his car Zord just before the other Rangers head off to stop Divatox. Nobody bats and eyelid, or seems at all concerned about their duty of care over this kid, or the fact that nobody’s telling his family about any of it.
10. Snake Fight!
Back-peddling a bit here, there’s a whole ‘Africa’ segment before they get the new Zords, which was blatantly filmed in the same woods as the alien planet sequence. While Lerigot, the cute little wizard, runs around befriending monkeys, the Rangers get into a few scrapes while searching for him.
A particular highlight is Tommy getting into a fight with a snake, with Jason David Frank giving it his all to make the conflict seem genuine. Just look at that facial expression! There was a lot of rolling around involved, too. Meanwhile, the Pink Ranger falls off a cliff and into a river. Kat morphs just as she hits the water, but she still gets injured.
Tommy defeats the snake and dives in after her. Eventually, after all this drama, they find Lerigot having a grand old time with his monkey mates. He heals Kat’s leg, displaying a very useful power that nobody mentions again for the rest of the film.
9. The Main Villain Wants To Marry A Volcano Beast
In that god-awful opening crawl, it’s explained that the ‘Galactic Pirate’ Divatox wishes to use Lerigot’s powers to ‘release a terrible demon-like creature’, which she wants to join with ‘in a sinister marriage’ to ‘bring forth a reign of terror on the galaxy.’
Hilary Shepard Turner plays Divatox, and she’s squeezed into an unnecessarily revealing outfit throughout the film, as she attempts to enact this convoluted plan.
The exact nature of the backstory between Divatox and the ‘demon-like’ Maligore isn’t explained, along with pretty much every else in the film. When they eventually meet, Divatox seems surprised that her betrothed is a ginormous volcanic beast. But there isn’t much time to dwell upon it, as they’re well into the third act by that point.
Maligore battles the Turbo Mega Zord and eventually gets vanquished. At the end, Divatox laments that they didn’t even get a honeymoon, and then she runs off. Sadly, we never got to see what union between a voiceless volcano monster and a saucy space pirate would look like. Spinoff, please!
8. The Villains Travel Around In A Teleporting Submarine, With Matching Jet-Skis
Prior to the showdown at the end, Divatox spends most of the film in her teleporting submarine with her henchmen. These include her cyber-enhanced, pointy-headed cousin Elgar and a range of other quirky characters. But let’s not bury the lead here: they travel around in a teleporting submarine.
This raises a lot of questions, but none bigger than this: if you can teleport, why do you need a submarine? Couldn’t you just use the technology to zip around from one place to another, without having to live under the ocean in a cramped submersible craft? One can only assume that Saban wanted to sell some cool submarine toys off the back of this.
With the submarine comes a range of matching jet-skis, which play a part in a major set piece where Tommy doesn’t realise the hostages he’s meant to be rescuing are actually lifeless dummies. He lets the baddies escape on their jet-skis while he swims to the decoy prisoners. Not the sharpest tool, that one.
7. There’s No In-Universe Reason For The Rebrand
Are cars cooler than dinosaurs? It’s a tough call. Clearly, Saban decided that they are, and they used this whole movie as a way to rebrand the franchise with more horsepower and fewer extinct creatures in metal form. One thing they forgot, though, was to actually include a reason for the change in the plot.
After they work out where Divatox is heading, Zordon simply tells the gang to pick up their new Zords. Nobody asks what happened to the old ones, and they don’t seem phased at all that such a large part of their shared adventure has been given a shameless reboot.
Apparently, there were plans at one point to include a scene where the old costumes get trashed, providing an excuse for the rebrand, but nothing like that happens in the movie itself.
The Turbo Zords come with matching keys and costumes, the latter of which even have headlights around the visor bits. Also, cool codenames are a must, with Red Lightning, Mountain Blaster, Desert Thunder, Dune Star and Wind Chaser being the monikers of these snazzy new Zords. Who cares why they exist, when they’re so damn cool… right?
6. As Soon As They Get Car Zords, They Put Them On A Boat And Don’t Use Them For Ages
Anyway, they get the car Zords, which surely means it’s time for a cool action scene centred on driving and stuff? Nope. They bring the cars to an old pirate ship called the Ghost Galleon, and park them below deck for ages. After the montage of all the Turbo Zords being introduced, this is the very next thing that happens.
It has all the excitement of a lengthy ferry crossing, plus the added disappointment of being sold a thing and then immediately having it snatched away. On the Ghost Galleon, they travel at painstakingly slow pace through the ‘Nemesis Triangle’, eventually arriving on the island where Maligore lives, which has no roads and barely any space to drive a car.
Honestly, it’s like they came up with the plot of this movie and the idea to have car Zords entirely separately, and just decided to mush the concepts together and hope for the best.
5. Tommy Says “Boo” And Scares A Monster Into Falling Overboard
While the Ghost Galleon portion of the film is dragging on, Divatox sends some slimy beast things to attack the Rangers. It’s such a challenging battle that they don’t even bother morphing. Instead, they use any random technique the stunt guys can think of in order to knock the monsters overboard.
Justin swings on a rope and kicks one. The Pink Ranger and the Yellow Ranger throw a net over one. The Green Ranger lobs one into the ship’s bell and then gets grossed out by the slime on his hands. And then Tommy does something even weirder.
There’s one of the things left, and Tommy squares up to it and shows off a load of his martial arts skills. He doesn’t actually strike the thing, he just poses in front of it a few times. Then he says “boo” and thing tumbles overboard. Truly brilliant stuff from the most iconic Power Ranger of all time.
4. Rita Repulsa’s Surreal, Unhelpful Cameo
Carla Perez cameos as the Power Rangers’ number one nemesis, Rita Repulsa, just before Divatox’s submarine and the Ghost Galleon make landfall on the island. Upon realising that she was in for a showdown with the band of costume heroes, Divatox called up Rita for advice. She asked, “How do I get rid of the Power Rangers?”
Rita, who had just woken up, laughed off the question, saying, “What?! The Power Rangers? Hahahahahaaaaa! If I knew that, do you think I’d be lying here listening to this?!” She then holds the phone up to Lord Zedd, who is lying in bed next to her. He lets out a loud snore. What fun!
In all honesty, this is one of the better moments in the movie, and exactly the sort of cameo throwback you’d expect in a franchise film these days. But still, the idea of Rita and Zedd sharing a bed isn’t something you want to think about too much.
3. The Morphing Grid Transforms Justin Into A Fully-Grown Person
When the small child Justin morphs into the Blue Ranger, he grows into a normal-sized person. Of course, The Morphing Grid often displays random new powers that are never explained or mentioned again (something even the new movie is guilty of doing), but this still stands out as strange.
Not least because, when the suit is on and Justin is replaced by his adult stunt double, he jumps around a lot and gets very enthusiastic about everything. They dub Blake Foster’s voice in over the top, but it’s clearly someone else doing a totally different performance under the suit.
Again, the sense that there’s a disconnect between the suited Power Rangers and the non-suited actors is nothing new. Most of the post-morphing fight scenes in the TV series were borrowed from the Japanese show Super Sentai, after all. But in Turbo – one of the rare Power Rangers productions when no archive fight footage was used – the difference between Ranger Justin and actual Justin is super distracting.
Plus, the idea that The Morphing Grid stretches Justin out into adult form every time he morphs, and then turns him back into a kid afterwards, is quite harrowing. How does he feel afterwards? And does he even know what his grown self looks like? It’s best not to dwell on it.
2. Bulk and Skull Inexplicably Turn German And Spanish
There’s a running subplot throughout the movie that Divatox needs a sacrifice – two people who are pure of heart – to offer up to Maligore. Before they head towards the Nemesis Triangle and the island, she sends her nephew Elgar to find some suitable candidates for the job.
Elgar first abducts Paul Schrier’s Bulk and Jason Narvy’s Skull, the comic relief characters who recur throughout a huge number of Power Rangers episodes. Divatox decides that they’re not worthy, so she ‘scrambles their brains’ and leaves them to rot in the prison section of her teleporting submarine/evil lair.
This has a rather interesting consequence: Bulk and Skull, after the technical-sounding brain-scrambling process, end up having different accents. Bulk is German now and Skull is Spanish. The latter introduces himself as Antonio.
No one gives this change in their behaviour much thought, or bothers trying to reverse it at the end of the film. Even though these guys have been a consistent nuisance for the Rangers over the years, that’s still pretty harsh.
1. Jason And Kimberley Go Scuba Diving, Get Kidnapped, Nearly Drown, Dangle Over Lava, And Then Turn Evil
And finally, the weirdest thing about Turbo has to be its use of the original Red Ranger Jason (played by Austin St. John) and the original Pink Ranger Kimberly (played by Amy Jo Johnson). After deeming Bulk and Skull to not be up to the task, Divatox has Jason and Kimberly kidnapped, in order to offer them to Maligore.
Again, no attempt is made to explain why these two aren’t actually in the team anymore. Instead, These classic Rangers get captured during a scuba diving trip, and spend a huge portion of the film locked up in the submarine. They share a few scenes with Bulk and Skull before nearly drowning during an escape attempt. They wash up on the beach of third act island, and promptly get captured again.
Kimberly and Jason are then dangled above a pit of lava. They eventually get dropped into it, and reappear afterwards as evil lackeys of Maligore. They fight the new Rangers for a bit (with Kimberly even telling her replacement that ‘pink is out’), before coming to their senses. They fight the normal-sized villains, then do nothing during the Zord battle.
The film then ends with a martial arts tournament back in Angel Grove. Our heroes win, and rejoice that they’ve won the money to keep their shelter open. It’s a resolution to a subplot so tiny that many won’t even have known it was there.
It’s a suitably weird end for a totally WTF film. It won’t be hard for the new Power Rangers sequels to do better than this…