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"Power Rangers S.P.D." DVD Reviews:
Volume 3: Wired | Volume 4: Boom | Volume 5: Zapped

Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 3: Wired from Amazon.com
Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 4: Boom from Amazon.com
Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 5: Zapped from Amazon.com
Power Rangers S.P.D.: Volumes 3-5
Show Details
Executive Producer: Greg Aronowitz / Power Rangers Creator: Saburo Yatsude
Recurring Writers: Jackie Marchand, Bruce Kalish, John Tellegen
Directors: Paul Grinder, Britta Johnstone, Andrew Merrifield, John Laing, Mark Beesley

Cast: Brandon Jay McLaren (Jack/Red Ranger), Chris Violette (Sky/Blue Ranger), Matt Austin (Bridge/Green Ranger), Monica May (Z/Yellow Ranger), Alicia Purrott (Sydney/Pink Ranger), John Tui (Doggie Cruger), René Naufahu (Emperor Gruumm), Michelle Langstone (Kat), Kelson Henderson (Boom), Josephine Davison (Morgana), Barnie Duncan (Piggy), Olivia James-Baird (Mora)

DVD Details
Running Time: 105-106 Minutes each (5 episodes each) / Rating: TV-Y7
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Episodes Originally Aired Between April 16, 2005 and August 12, 2005
DVD Release Dates: Vol. 3 - September 6, 2005; Vols. 4 & 5 - December 6, 2005
Each volume: Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Each volume: Suggested Retail Price: $19.99; Black Keepcase


If you force yourself to think about it, the Power Rangers are an odd beast. They stand out among the Disney family and the entertainment scene at large, yet you probably have taken their existence for granted since they burst into pop culture in the mid-1990s. As present as any property among the current Disney Store offerings but summarily dismissed by the majority of adult viewers (at least non-parents), the next-to-latest incarnation of the franchise, "Power Rangers S.P.D." exists much like the previous versions of the series did. A police action-crime-drama strictly for children, "S.P.D." is adapted from Japan, filmed in New Zealand, and populated by a cast of no-name Canadian and American actors with few film credits under their belts. Anyone with a critical bone in their body is apt to condemn the series for its intellectual and moral shallowness and yet it holds a faithful following, evident from the healthy supply of toys, merchandise, and spin-off series.

Among the merchandise most notable for fans of "Power Rangers S.P.D." are Buena Vista Home Entertainment's chronologically-arranged five-episode DVDs, five volumes of which were released within 10 months of the series' February 2005 television launch. Like most of this site's readers, our reviewers did not pay much attention to the DVD releases of Volumes 2 and 3 last September and Volumes 4 and 5 in the busy month of December. When we did, we got bad headaches and those weren't really worth ruining the important holidays over. So, with Easter past, Arbor Day quickly approaching, and June promising the DVD debut of "Power Rangers Mystic Force", we decided it was high time to lighten our collective "Reviews To Do" load and do the nasty.

How many Power Rangers can one split-screen hold?! Acting at its finest: the cast of "Power Rangers S.P.D."

Being ever considerate of the well-being of our readers, we determined that having already brought you a full-length review of Volume 1 - Joining Forces, providing four additional reviews of this length would only bring you grief, us apathy, and the world a bunch of repetitive oft-viewed, sparsely-read critiques. So, not unlike the young men and women in the brightly-colored jumpsuits, we decided to join forces and bring you a single standard-sized review covering all four follow-up volumes. One of our rangers and one of the discs, Volume 2 - Stakeout, got lost amidst all the forceful kicks and mighty morphin' costume changes. The result is that you'll have to settle for reviews merely of Volume 3 - Wired, Volume 4 - Boom, and Volume 5 - Zapped.
Altogether, the three discs contain 17 episodes including the same one presented as a bonus feature twice, meaning that we actually endured six hours of "Power Rangers S.P.D." (over eight hours counting re-watchings) to bring you this one page. The only fruits of these extensive labors will be finding our honest observations subsequently trashed on "Power Rangers" message boards. Pimps aren't the only ones it's hard out there for.

As you might know by now, "Power Rangers S.P.D." is set in the future, in the year 2025. The "S.P.D." stands for Space Patrol Delta, an academy for law enforcement officers. The legal system has been remarkably sped up; we are led to believe that less than twenty years from now, a Power Ranger simply needs to hold up his or her handheld device and say "judgment." Voilà, a verdict is rendered. And you thought instant pudding was fast. While this process has been enhanced to the point of apparent infallibility, that hasn't swayed some folks from trying to get away with crime and malice. Thus, the services of the Power Rangers are always in demand. Powering up and making use of sundry gadgets with which technological advances have equipped them, the five young rangers serve justice to a diverse group of villains, who are often working in tandem. Overseeing the central quintet (who, per tradition, are each assigned a defining color) are the authoritative commander Doggie Cruger, the resourceful Dr. Kat Manx, and the likeably dorky comic relief Boom.

Do you really need to know more than that to enjoy the series? Yes and no. Most will find enjoying "Power Rangers S.P.D." a task not ever achieved. But some people not only like "S.P.D.", they love it. Perhaps they grow fond of the rangers' individual personalities and group camaraderie. More likely, though, I think they are content to soak up the hyper action and bizarre good-versus-evil plotting.

No, that isn't Kurt Russell, it's Boom, the elusive Orange Ranger. The Ranger Mind-Meld

Wired, the third "S.P.D." volume, picks up with the series' 11th episode - "Shadow," in which the details of Commander Cruger's past are revealed, much to the cadets' surprise. His secret isn't all that menacing, however, rendering its dramatic reception and the number of episodes dedicated to it unwarranted. These episodes are, amazingly, even worse than those that preceded them, as the flat acting and insipid stories become too much to bear. Rather than excite, the abundant action scenes frustrate, filled with choppy camera work and racket that can induce only headaches. I'm left wondering how an academy of rangers-in-training sees so much action anyways. The maudlin scripts don't improve here, either. By the fifth episode, a cyborg named Sophie has joined the academy and viewers are dealt a transparently didactic card. Cyborgs are people too, after all, and that's apparently a pretty serious issue at the Academy. The intention is honorable, but the "I can't believe I'm prejudiced" (an actual line from the show) messages are too phony to swallow. Those insisting on watching all five episodes will fare best by watching them in the seamlessly-interwoven "Play All" fashion if insanity doesn't win out first.

After hours of drudgery, Volume 4 - Boom is a mild relief. Picking up with the sixteenth episode, it begins and ends on a humorous note. The first episode involves Boom, the Academy's affable helping hand, who has allowed his parents to believe that he never dropped out of S.P.D training and is actually an all-important Orange Ranger. That leads to some sophomoric but not intolerable comedy, followed by a slightly interesting change in pace when Blue Ranger Sky's body is taken over by a nemesis by the name of Wootox. Soon enters a galactic Samurai warrior, accompanied by no shortage of gentle stereotypes, who schools the rangers in fair fighting, and the S.P.D. Supreme Commander who schools Commander Cruger in the chain of command. In the last and weakest episode, the cadets argue over whose account of a recent battle is the most accurate and most flattering to the respective rangers, the redundancy of which quickly runs thin. Volume 4's set of episodes still isn't of high enough quality to earn anything resembling a recommendation, but thanks to variations in plot and a less serious demeanor, it's a little more pleasant in comparison to the earlier installments.

Moving onto Volume 5 - Zapped, we reach the latest and presumably last of the "S.P.D." DVDs, though twelve of this incarnation's thirty-eight installments have yet to see the light of home video. This disc posed an introduction to "S.P.D." for one reviewer, who concludes that the best way to succinctly describe the series is basically thus: an antidote to Ritalin. The show seems to follow a pattern, in which about three minutes of bearable exposition are followed by loud, brash fighting. Dialogue alternates between hammy and obvious. The low production values are almost a source for unintentional amusement, such as when disjointed computer graphics or clearly miniature scale models are summoned. The moral and educational value in the show is approximately nil. Sure, there is hackneyed fluff about the power of teamwork and avoiding jealousy, the importance of trusting yourselves, and so on. But unless a penchant for "play fighting" is something you're looking to instill in your youth, the program seems to do far more harm than good.

In "Zapped", Morgana teams up with a funny-looking magician. The Power Rangers are caught in Mirloc's reflective attire, and thus they turn up as reflections in a window. When you really think about it, that doesn't make any sense.

In the opening two-parter "Messenger", a radio broadcast from the
future tips off the Rangers that they are in doom this very day. Such peril comes in the form of villains who want to -- get this! -- take over the world. Child-turned-baddie Morgana plus her robotic ally Devastation and his younger brother Shorty pose a serious threat, but the Rangers get help from a new acquaintance from the future, the Omega Ranger. While Omega primarily exists as a sparkle, when he's suited up, he's one tough crime-fighter. Still, the rest of the gang takes offense when he wants "outdated technology" (i.e. them) sidelined to face off the foes all on his own. The Rangers' obligation to the S.P.D. code defeats their stubborn natures and has them striving to help. It is later discovered that the Omega Ranger's name is Sam and that the Rangers have come into contact with him before. Needless to say, he's stuck in their time for the moment.

The episode from which the disc takes its title, "Zapped", presents a mild change of pace; it has a more comedic bent than the two-part storylines which bookend it. Here, Morgana teams up with a magician named Mystical, who takes on Pink Ranger Syd as his assistant. Meanwhile, the Rangers become jealous of how strongly the commander has taken a liking to Sam. Things conclude with two-parter "Reflection", in which the Rangers' perfect afternoon of Frisbee gets ruined by unexpected appearances of Rhinix, Hydrax, and Bugglesworth, foes they have already captured. This takes things down a Silence of the Lambs path, as Sky (suffering from a case of Red Ranger envy) gets assigned to talk with Mirloc, an imprisoned mastermind who can escape through any reflective surface. At least these moments offer a departure from the action (which the rest is packed with) and allow the show to approach being nearly clever. In the second installment, with Blank Slate wiped, the Rangers must square off against Mirloc himself, who quickly puts them each into reflective captivity while less than subtle hints lend a Darth Vader overtone to the proceedings.

It must be tough for the actors of "Power Rangers S.P.D.", especially those who don't get to hide behind masks and/or full body costumes. These performers have received a much desired thing - exposure. But they are dealt some awful writing and often can't help but contribute to its awkward foulness. "Heroes come in all colors" is treated dramatically as if it is some eye-opening introduction to a world advancing against prejudice. Really, it's just rubbish, though. And it being a kids program is clearly not a valid excuse. "Virtue and honor"? Whatever.

The Omega Ranger, a.k.a. Sam, joins the gang and figures prominently in Volume 5. Wow, what a mind-blowing visual effect, man! How much do you think it cost to build those clearly gigantic dueling robots? I bet a long time.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The "S.P.D." episodes are all presented in the aspect ratio of their original broadcast: 1.33:1 "fullscreen." One can sum up the video quality of all three of these discs in one sentence: The transfer is mostly acceptable, though not entirely free of grain and generally softer than preferred.

Audio comes by way of a Dolby Digital stereo track, regardless of claims of "Surround Sound" on Volume 3's packaging. The sound quality is pretty standard for such a television series and the track is largely free of complaints. Some may be surprised that an action series like this doesn't get treated to a 5.1-channel presentation the way that Disney Channel shows like "That's So Raven" and "Phil of the Future" do, or at least a Dolby Surround track. Oh well, fans still get way more episodes at their disposal than most non-network Disney series have.

The Blue Ranger wants you to be a Power Ranger. (The Power Rangers are trained professionals. Do not try their stunts at home.) Press the right arrow button and you'll run into the cardboard baddie. Don't press the button and you'll do the same. Such is the mystery of Delta Squad Runner Simulator: A Level. The cadets rejoice a little too soon in "Wormhole," Volumes 4 and 5's bonus episode.

BONUS FEATURES

A clear pattern emerges
in looking at the bonus features of multiple DVD volumes of "Power Rangers S.P.D." The first component is a series of PSA-type featurettes titled "The Power Rangers Want You." It's not entirely unfair to tack on the subtitle "To Visit Their Website", but before the promotion kicks in, there is a seemingly sincere if very repetitive pitch for the S.P.D. task force, in which Doggie Cruger and Kat talk about weapons and ideals. The variable is that a different human ranger serves as host and focus for each volume. Volume 3's (4:59) offers Blue Ranger Sky Tate, Volume 4 features Yellow Ranger Z Delgado and Volume 5 (4:30) gives you the group's leader Jack Landors.

Next up is a set-top game called "Delta Squad Runner Simulator." The game is essentially the same on each disc and the goal is basically to wipe out the bad guys. There are three levels, robotic narration, and you can choose to play with or without guiding arrows on screen. It's a bit disheartening to realize that whether you press the buttons on your remote control or not, the action proceeds in the exact same fashion. Missing even one of your targets makes you lose, but that's fairly hard to do, despite the illusion of it being fast-moving. In addition to this mild violence, there are some easy questions to answer about S.P.D. way of life. The contents of this simulator game differ slightly from volume to volume - the decor changes, your ranger host matches the featured "Want You" host, and each purports to take you on a different level: Volume 3 - "C Level" with the Blue Ranger, Volume 4 - "B Level" with the Yellow Ranger, and Volume 5 - you guessed it! - "A Level" with Jack.

This is the end of the supplements for Volume 3, but Volumes 4 and 5 take you one big step further, though it's the same step twice. Adding a little more value to the set (if more "S.P.D." can even be considered valuable), both of these volumes contain a bonus episode (22:34) entitled "Wormhole." Originally promoted as being "never-before-seen", two months after the discs were released and three months after "S.P.D."'s finale premiered, "Wormhole" aired in a special timeslot on Groundhog Day 2006. In the episode, it looks like Emperor Gruum is retreating, but he's really traveling through time! Faster than you can say "1.21 jiggawatts", Gruum ends up in 2004 in an attempt to conquer Earth in the pre-S.P.D. era (ah, those were the days). Of course, the cadets aren't far behind him and they soon team up with 2004's lot of high school Rangers, the DinoThunder squad, to stop him. That makes this something of a crossover in addition to being something of a post-finale finale.

Ever wonder what would happen when two sets of Power Rangers simultaneously let it rip? Volume 5's Bonus Features menu won't settle for subtle website promotion.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The menus for each "Power Ranger S.P.D." DVD appear to be identical. A brief animated intro segues into a selection screen at the academy base where action continues on in the background. It's an apt use of live action to make the menu animated and the setting is obvious but fitting. Inside each disc's black keepcase, there is a double-sided insert which both lists the episodes and promotes the series on DVD.

These three discs wouldn't be able to call themselves Disney DVDs without a robust offering of sneak peeks. Volume 3 contains previews for the Disney Channel Movie Surfers' looks at The Greatest Game Ever Played and The Shaggy Dog, Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows, "Power Rangers S.P.D." Volumes 4 and 5, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga, Tarzan: (Deceptive) Special Edition, Kronk's New Groove, and "Power Rangers S.P.D." on the tele. Volumes 4 and 5 promote the Movie Surfers' pieces on The Wild and The Shaggy Dog, the entire batch of "S.P.D." DVDs (Volumes 1 through 5), the Disney Channel pairing of "That's So Raven": Raven's House Party and The Proud Family Movie, Valiant, Toy Story 2: Special Edition, and once again, Bionicle 3, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga, and "S.P.D." on Toon Disney's Jetix.

Each disc plays not unlike a feature film. That is, there is but one set of opening credits at the beginning, no end credits until the very end, and episode titles and writing/directing credits are kept subtle and do not detour the pace. For the most part, that's fine since a continuity and chronology appears to be upheld. At the same time, those wanting to recreate the TV experience via single episode viewings are out of luck.

Gimme an S... Here's one six-pack you don't want to share a sidewalk with, assuming that you're not Chuck Norris.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It baffles the mind how something as horrid as "Power Rangers S.P.D." could flourish enough to merit the volume of merchandise and DVDs it did. Putting such thoughts aside, these episode compilations should be offered as an alternative to more comprehensive treatment. While they're a better deal than some TV show compilations, you're still paying about three times more per episode than you would on a standard season set. The five "S.P.D." discs together carry a suggested retail price of $100 and don't even present the whole series. Such a method seems to count on customers not collecting them all, but the show's most ardent fans are unlikely to go this route and suffer for it.

As it is, the show is horrible and anyone buying multiple volumes of this rubbish deserves what they get. If it's not already crystal clear, "S.P.D." is definitely not a show worth going out of your way to catch. In fact, it is bad enough to take efforts to avoid, if need be. "S.P.D." is too atrocious a program to wish upon our children, especially when compared to other higher quality entertainment that's concurrently being made available. The DVD presentation is better than expected, but those efforts are lost on such dismal content.

Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 3: Wired from Amazon.com ......... Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 4: Boom from Amazon.com ......... Buy Power Rangers S.P.D. Volume 5: Zapped from Amazon.com
More on Volume 3 / More on Volume 4 / More on Volume 5

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Reviewed April 20, 2006.