Review: Power Rangers Samurai – The Ultimate Duel / PG / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Alex Heartman, Erika Fong, Hector David, Jr / Release Date: Out Now
Finally, after two decades they’re free; time to conquer earth! In the same year in which the original Rangers show celebrates its twentieth anniversary, the DVD release of Power Rangers Samurai: The Ultimate Duel looks to further solidify the franchise’s place in pop culture. Spoiler warning; it’s not exactly a smooth ride.
The DVD is a collection of three episodes from the second season of Samurai, building up to and then dealing with Jayden the Red Ranger’s ultimate showdown with the misunderstood antagonist Deker. Though the episodes move at a blistering speed, enough to keep the attention of any child, the build-up to the final showdown does not feel rushed at all – the narrative is perfectly paced and complemented with a wonderful amount of excitement, humour, and tension. There is also a level of continuity not present in the early Rangers incarnations, an example of the franchise’s willingness to adapt to the developing needs of a more media-savvy generation.
In other regards, however, the episodes are rather disappointing. Though the action is shot to evoke the crisp and vibrant nature of a comic book, the dramatic elements look and feel like a muted telenovela. Whilst the actors perform admirably when wearing the samurai suits, their hammy acting and apathetic demeanour outside of them will make you think you’re watching a high school play. The props are just as inconsistent – where the villains are as crazy and detailed as usual, the Rangers' power discs look like cheap plastic toys, and their samurai swords wobble like the foam they are made of.
It's the same story with the two seasonal extras on the disc: a Halloween episode that channels the cherished Batman: TAS story Almost Got 'Im (though without the satisfying twist ending) and a Christmas clips episode. Both seem to have been thrown onto the disc rather haphazardly as they don’t complement the main feature in any way, the clips episode in particular seeming rather cynical.
That said, the main story makes this collection more than worth a purchase. Though it can be somewhat difficult to watch in a post-Pacific Rim world, the narrative full of simple messages and ethical lessons could serve as a useful teaching tool for any parent. And for those wishing to recapture the child-like wonderment of twenty years ago, there are plenty of chances for that, too.
Extras: Two extra episodes