Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always Review - A Power Rangers Event Not to be Missed

A 30th Anniversary milestone is worthy of celebration in any franchise, but that milestone holds an even greater weight and importance in the world of Power Rangers. Anniversary celebrations are treated as true events, and as soon as Hasbro and Netflix revealed the 30th Anniversary special Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always and the returning original cast, the hype level for the event went through the roof. Now Once & Always is finally here, and if you were hoping for a 30th Anniversary special that captured the nostalgic vibes of the original series with a modern and more mature sensibility, your wish has been granted.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is set in the modern day and features the return of several longtime favorites, including David Yost (Billy Cranston), Walter Jones (Zack Taylor), Catherine Sutherland (Katherine Hillard), Steve Cardenas (Rocky DeSantos), Karan Ashley (Aisha Campbell), and Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam Park). It also features the return of two legendary voices in Barbara Goodson (Rita Repulsa) and Richard Steven Horvitz (Alpha 5), and then welcomes a new addition to the franchise in Charlie Kersh (Mingh Kwan). The returning cast and Kersh's addition are a huge part of making Once & Always work, as the form both sides of the legacy equation that moves the narrative forward and carry the majority of the emotional development throughout.

(Photo: Hasbro / Netflix)

At the heart of Once & Always is Trini Kwan, who was played by the late Thuy Trang. Trang tragically passed away in 2001. The character of Trini has continued to live on in the franchise, but that changes in Once & Always, and as a result the special becomes a tribute and honoring of Trang and Trini's legacy in the franchise while simultaneously opening up new horizons for that legacy to shine. The weight of that storyline is carried mostly by Kersh, Taylor, and Yost, though Taylor's work is easily the most impressive in this regard.

While the fights are nostalgia in their purest form, it's the more difficult conversations that give the special its teeth, allowing the more mature storytelling to shine through. One such conversation happens early on and effectively sets the tone for what's to come, and Yost and Taylor effectively convey the differences in opinion regarding Zordon's approach and how that might need to be adapted in the modern world. Later Minh and Billy have another conversation that hits with the impact of a freight train, and it's Kersh's performance that sells it and allows it to land with real impact.

That said, Jones really shines throughout the entire special. His work with Kersh grounds everything else and always comes across as genuine, even if you disagree with Zack's stance and opinion in any given situation. Zack being the guardian figure also allows Billy to stay closer to his original character's personality and approach to things, though he's also come a long way from the character we remember.

(Photo: Netflix)

As for the other returning characters, they all bring something to the table, though because of the core story at play, they all don't get as much real estate to work in. Cardenas is a constant bright spot throughout the special, and his lighthearted and charming demeanor is the perfect contrast to some heavier scenes. On the villain's side, Barbara Goodson's return is a godsend, as her voice alone immediately transports you back to the world you loved. She's been given some teeth as well though, and Goodson's tone is perfectly suited for a villain that is finally as lethal as her reputation suggests, something we haven't seen in the show previously (though the comics have created this aura quite effectively).

Hillard has an important part to play in terms of story and story connections, but she isn't utilized quite as much as some will probably hope. Likewise, Ashley and Bosch are welcome additions and connect other elements that Ranger fans will love to see represented, but they are only used in a few scenes. Those scenes are effective mind you, but it's still only a small appearance overall.

Kersh really starts to have some fun with the role when the bigger Ranger pieces are in play, and these sequences are delightful, as is the final battle that hits all the beats and should leave Power Rangers fans delighted. The special is also paced well, with the characters and lower-level fights getting the majority of the screen time compared to the Zord. That's a good thing in more ways than one, as while there are slick moments involving that battle, there are also some moments that could've used more polish. However, any scene with the RadBug? Stupendous, and yes, I said stupendous. The RadBug rules.

The battles also benefit from some destructive force. We get Putties exploding from Blaster fire, Power Swords delivering big final blows, and several other moments that showcase the weapons as actual weapons. This adds a bit of edge to the fights, something fans will definitely appreciate.

While the more mature tone is welcome, there are moments where the acting or dialogue comes across awkwardly, taking you out of an emotional moment after a line just falls flat or seems out of place. The joke-filled battle banter is still intact, and most of it will be just fine with fans. It also helps that the show is self-aware about it, though there are some jokes that you can't help but shake your head on. As for how the show addresses the cast that didn't end up being a part of it (like Austin St. John and Amy Jo Johnson), it gets it out of the way pretty early and is equal parts effective and amusing.

Overall Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always delivers the best sort of nostalgia trip, one that brings together all the things you loved about the original series and blends in modern elements and a central story that means something to the fanbase and the franchise. It's not perfect, but those who jump in will find a special that will immensely entertain while also paying tribute to icons of the franchise, and no Ranger fan should miss out.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always will hit Netflix on April 19th.