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Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 1: Joining Forces DVD Review

Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 1: Joining Forces from Amazon.com Power Rangers S.P.D.: Volume 1 - Joining Forces
Show Details
Executive Producer: Greg Aronowitz
Power Rangers Creator: Saburo Yatsude / Writers: Bruce Kalish, Greg Aronowitz, Jackie Marchand, John Tellegen, Jackie Marchand
Directors: Greg Aronowitz, Andrew Merrifield

Cast: Brandon Jay McLaren (Jack Landors/Red SPD Ranger), Chris Violette (Schuyler 'Sky' Tate/Blue SPD Ranger), Matt Austin (Bridge Carson/Green SPD Ranger), Monica May (Elizabeth 'Z' Delgado/Yellow SPD Ranger), Alycia Purrott (Sydney Drew/Pink SPD Ranger), Rene Naufahu (Emperor Gruumm), John Tui (voice: Commander Anubis "Doggie" Cruger/Shadow Ranger), Michelle Langstone (Dr. Katherine "Kat" Manx), Kelson Henderson (Boom), Olivia James-Baird (Mora), Barnie Duncan (Piggy)

DVD Details
Running Time: 107 Minutes (5 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Stereo Surround (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Episodes Originally Aired in 2005
DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99; Black Keepcase


Review by Aaron Wallace

Shortly after debuting in the mid-1990s, the Power Rangers crossed over from popular children's television series to global phenomenon, spawning everything from action figures to feature films. After a few successful seasons, the decision was made to shake things up a bit in 1996 and what had been known as Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers became Power Rangers Zeo. That began a tradition of revamping and renaming the series with the beginning of each new season. The reincarnations continue to this day, and along the way the franchise has been picked up by the Walt Disney Company, with which it is now aired on the company's ABC Family and Toon Disney networks (if you've noticed that Rangers isn't a 'toon, you're not alone) and even incorporated into Walt Disney World theme parks. The Mouse House has even begun releasing it in installments on DVD, beneath the Buena Vista Home Entertainment Logo, including the new release of Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 1 - Joining Forces.

Whether you want to view S.P.D. (which stands for Space Patrol Delta) as an independent series based on the original or simply as the thirteenth season is up to you. Aside from the names and costumes, though, there isn't a lot in common between this new take and its original source. The main characters are still young, but they aren't your every day high school students who just happen to save the world in their spare time. Instead, they are space-stationed cadets training to become part of what is now the galactic Power Rangers police patrol in the year 2020. When things in space get heated and the top-dog A Squad of Rangers is called into duty, the cadets see a little action of their own as the B Squad. They even sometimes have to "morph," taking on special abilities and gadgets in their colored suits or manning giant vehicles that form together to form the ultimate robot.

The Red Ranger is the unlikely leader of the group. The first three cadets from Squad B search for an invisible enemy.

The five episodes presented here are the first in the series and therefore depict the unlikely formation of this inexperienced squad. A blue dog-like creature named Commander Cruger (voiced by John Tui) is their leader and he dictates a chain of command among the rangers that results in tension between the leading Red Ranger (Jay McLaren) and his subordinates. Despite their disagreements, the five must band together to enforce the law and thwart the efforts of the evil Emperor Gruumm (Rene Naufahu), who is unsurprisingly seeking domination of the universe.

S.P.D. lacks most of the charm of its original source, relying on flat and fairly boring storylines and mostly uneventful action sequences. The characterization is weak and stereotypical, and yet the acting still falls short of it. To be fair, Alycia Purrott and Matt Austin are funny and a bit above the rest in terms of performance in their respective roles of Pink and Green Rangers. The rest is dry and cheesey to the point that it's unpleasant to watch. The villain, too, doesn't offer much to root against, as he's rarely shown and is usually arguing with his daughter (Olivia James-Baird), whose humorous performance may be the show's best, when he is.

The included episodes are "Beginnings" (Parts 1 & 2), "Confronted", "walls", and "Dogged." To the disc's credit, the "Play All" option blends each episode together into one feature. Given that each episode picks up directly where the preceding one left off, this allows the episodes to feel like one fluid feature, even if the ending isn't entirely conclusive. The bonus features and presentation, too, are applaudable, at least moreso than the show that they accompany.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The show is presented is 1.33:1 "fullscreen," the ratio in which it is aired on television. A little bit of grain shows up in some shots, particularly those set outdoors, and the occasional line runs through the screen. For the most part, though, the video is clean with vibrant colors and is of good quality.

The audio track comes only in Dolby Stereo Surround, which is fine for this sort of TV program. The track is well-mixed and conveys everything as one would expect it to.

In the disc's game, pressing the arrow on your remote that matches the one on the screen allows you to dodge the objects ahead. The main menu takes you inside the control room of the S.P.D. Academy.

BONUS FEATURES and DESIGN

"'The Power Rangers Want You!' with Bridge Carson" (4:16) is a spin on military recruitment ads in which the Green Ranger, Commander Cruger, and Dr. Kat Manx take you behind-the-scenes of the S.P.D. Academy to profile the responsibilities of a Power Ranger and the cool gadgets they get to work with. Potential cadets are told they can register at disneydvd.com/powerrangers to enlist. This is a simple but inspired supplement and its inclusion is commendable.

The only other bonus feature is a brief, high-speed game in which you rush through the Academy corridors and dodge imposing objects. You have the option of playing with or without arrows that tell you which button to press and the direction in which to move. If you don't hit anything at all, it will make all the right moves anyways, but if you press the wrong button, the corridor goes up in flames and the game reboots. It's simple, but features pleasing sound and visuals and should be fun for at least a couple of run-throughs.

While the case won't label this release a "Disney DVD," the menu features the now-standard EasyFind menu, complete with a "Backstage Disney" section of the bonus features. The menus themselves are well-done, each one portraying a different room in the S.P.D. Academy via live footage of employees going about their business on computer consoles and set to selections from the score. If you wish to choose one particular episode for viewing, that can easily be done from the "Episode Selection" screen. Otherwise, "Play" runs through the whole lot.

The disc opens with previews for Chicken Little, Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga, and DVD installments of Power Rangers: DinoThunder. One can also access sneak peeks at Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys, Beyblade The Movie: Fierce Battle, Tarzan II, the 10th Anniversary DVD edition of Pocahontas, and Power Rangers S.P.D. on the Toon Disney network.

The B-Squad catches a glimpse of the A-Squad in action. The commander's costume isn't the most convincing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Power Rangers S.P.D. is a pretty unremarkable show. Bland storylines, unimpressive action sequences, poor scripts, and bad acting don't offer much to be interested in. One could probably excuse these faults as "just a kid's show," but there's plenty of quality children's entertainment that proves that this doesn't have to be the case. It's a shame that the superior original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers isn't being released in its place.

If you or your children are already fans of the show thanks to its network slots, the satisfactory disc treatment makes this one worth considering. For anyone else, though, you're probably better off looking elsewhere for quality entertainment.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed June 13, 2005.