Once & Always felt like a nice little throwback to classic Power Rangers.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on April 26, 2023
Rating 3 /5
Once & Always is the Power Rangers movie aimed at millennials who traded in their Ninja Turtles for Power Ranges action figures in the mid-1990s. For those who grew up watching the Rangers battle the goofy putty monsters and use their giant robot to slaughter more enormous monsters, there will undoubtedly be some nostalgic sweetness for that crowd. Being a part of this demographic, I engaged with such a special, despite acting as little more than a reunion for the classic cast.
Having not watched Power Rangers since the 1990s, buying into the idea that the characters never stopped being Power Rangers was challenging. The film opens with the heroic ensemble fighting their old nemesis, Rita Repulsa, now in a robot form due to some wacky science involving the Rangers’ late-leader Zordon. This time, however, the Rangers don’t win. Rita manages to kill Trini, the Yellow Ranger, and the group is forced to handle this unexpected death. Billy (David Yost) and Zack (Walter Emanuel Jones) now have to deliver the bad news to Trini’s daughter, Minh, and debate whether or not she should become a Power Ranger with her thirst for revenge. Also, since every returning Ranger present in this special is over thirty, they could use some teenagers again.
As dark as the premise sounds, everything about this particular proceeds down the same route as the original series. This includes campy acting, fantastical techno-babble, iconic locations that never seemed to escape the 1990s, and plenty of action, complete with VFX that reflected the miniature look of the Megazord in the 90s show. The staging alone is an admirable effort that even the most long-dormant millennial watcher will be able to spot the little details. If a special like this is meant to be a nostalgic trip, the filmmakers knocked this entry out of the park.
That said, the special still succumbs to the common problems that always crop up with reunion specials. My mind drew to the many Doctor Who reunions/crossovers that tried to work around issues to make an anniversary come together. Trini’s death in the special reflects the real-life death of the original actor, Thuy Trang, who died in a car crash 2001. The three other Rangers actors do not appear unmasked in this movie for a few reasons. Austin St. John, the original Red Ranger, was indicted for fraud which he later admitted to with the CARES Act. Amy Jo Johnson, the original Pink Ranger, had a contractual dispute about how much she’d paid for this special. Jason David Frank, the original Green Ranger, had a bad experience with Power Rangers and refused to appear, making his suicide in late 2022 even more bitter. So if you’re wondering why the rest of the cast isn’t present, including the ones alive, it’s the same problem with any reunion.
Once & Always felt like a nice little throwback to classic Power Rangers. For an Anniversary special with controversy in getting the gang back together, it does its best to replicate the tone and excitement of the original series. It’s still just as absurd, action-packed, and cheesy as ever. Watching this felt like being a kid again in the best ways, where the most important topics on the playground were who would end up being the White Ranger and what happened in the latest Power Rangers movie. Not all of it works, especially the additional cameos, which won’t make much sense for anybody who didn’t watch Rangers past season two. But for aiming so hard to replicate the original, this classic dose of Power Rangers silliness has some charm, making the original theme song as wondrous for the ears as it was in 1993.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.