Article By: Alex J. Rosolowsky
Power Rangers premieres generally consist of one of three premises, which can be summed up as follows: Evil arrives on Earth and some odd number of young people are recruited to become Power Rangers, Rangers lose their powers and have to obtain new ones, or an established team of Rangers has to add an additional team member or team members to unlock some form of power-up that’ll stop Big Bad from conquering Earth/the galaxy/the universe. Naturally, you can imagine my surprise, and great pleasure when Power Rangers Samurai followed none of these basic concepts.
Instead of relying on one of the above Ranger cliches, The Team Unites acts as a regular, ordinary episode of the series. The Rangers are already a team, the villains are already trying to take over the planet, and the Rangers know what Morphers and Megazords are, and more importantly, how to summon them. To me, this is definitely a major strong point, if only for the fact that it hasn’t been done before. The Team Unites feels like an actual pilot, that is, it feels like an episode that’s indicative of what a normal episode of Power Rangers Samurai will look like, rather then an episode that’s indicative of what previous and future premieres will look like. One major benefit of the way that The Team Unites is structured, is that it effectively allows all questions about the series to be answered as the show progresses, including how the Rangers met, who the villains are, and just why they want to conquer Earth besides the obvious fact that they’re villains. Of course, the major downside to the way that The Team Unites is structured is the fact that it answers absolutely nothing about the series; if you missed the quick intro (which actually does summarize some of the more basic plot questions) before the actual episode, you’re effectively being thrown face-first into Power Rangers Samurai, and possibly the Power Rangers universe itself. Since the intro is effectively a Nickelodeon promo, rather then part of the actual episode, it probably won’t be included on international versions of The Team Unites, which could definitely lead to even older fans wondering just what’s going on when they watch this episode for the first time.
Moving away from The Team Unites‘ unique plot and onto technical details, I’m reminded of what Bart Simpson wrote on the blackboard for the first HD episode of The Simpsons: HD is worth every penny! Simply put, shows like Power Rangers are the reason HDTV exists; they’re action-packed, bright, colorful, and in your face. Viewers who aren’t watching this show in HD are doing themselves a disservice; every time the show took a commercial break I had to remind myself “yes, this is Power Rangers, and yes, you really did just see that in HD.”
Not only is Power Rangers Samurai cablecast in HD though, it’s also shot on RED ONE digital cinema cameras, the same cameras used for shows like Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and movies such as The Social Network. Saban’s RED ONE cameras are also equipped with RED’s Mysterium-X (A.K.A. M-X/MX) sensor upgrades that offer improved picture quality over the regular RED ONE image sensors; to quote The A–Team movie, “overkill is underrated.” The quality difference between the 16mm film cameras that were used for 17 seasons and the RED ONE cameras is like the difference between the Model-A Ford and the 2011 Ford Fusion; there’s just no comparing the two. Of course, Power Rangers RPM showed us that you can shoot an awesome series even with archaic cameras, and no matter how good a camera may be, at the end of the day it’s only as good as the person whose wielding it.
That brings me to my point about cinematography. Before Power Rangers Samurai premiered, fans were already comparing the cinematography of Power Rangers RPM and Power Rangers Samurai, which was in effect prejudging Samurai, and a really, really unfair comparison. Having now seen a full episode of Power Rangers Samurai the comparison can be made a bit more fairly. While Power Rangers RPM and Power Rangers Samurai utilize very different styles of cinematography, it is my opinion that the aforementioned cinematography fits each series appropriately, and is excellent on both shows, even though the two styles are as different as night and day.
The editing in The Team Unites is also top-notch, and feels incredibly polished and professional, a quality that many of the more recent seasons produced by Disney lacked. One thing that’s returned with Power Rangers Samurai is a technique known as a “cold opening,” which is basically when a show begins with a teaser, and then runs the opening credits, (as opposed to running the opening credits first.) The last Power Rangers series to use a cold opening was also the last season produced by Saban exactly ten years ago, Power Rangers Time Force; when Disney took over production with Power Rangers Wild Force, they returned to showing the credits before a single frame of footage from any given episode. The teaser for The Team Unites should not be confused with the “series intro” promo, which was shown in standard definition (even on Nickelodeon’s HD feed,) before the actual teaser for The Team Unites; the teaser is actually part of the episode, but the “intro” promo is not.
The last aspect of Power Rangers Samurai that I have to comment on is the opening theme song, and opening and episode specific credits. As everyone probably knows by now, the theme song is a remix of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers theme. I have to admit that I absolutely love the Samurai remix. The voice overs of each actor calling their character’s name when their title card appears was a nice throwback to the original morphing sequence from the Mighty Morphin’ era, and the additional “Samurai Forever” voice over was definitely a nice touch. In addition to the music itself though, the opening credits are worth touching on as well. For starters, the musician behind the new theme, Noam Kaniel, is given a title card in the opening credits. Sally Campbell (Power Rangers S.P.D., Mystic Force, Jungle Fury, and RPM,) is once again credited as “Producer,” with Elie Dekel and Brian Casentini now credited as “Co–Producers,” and Johnathan Tzachor credited as “Executive Producer” for the first time since 2002’s Power Rangers Wild Force, the first season to be produced by Disney, and the final season to be produced under the MMPR Productions Inc. production company. In addition to adding a title card for the show’s musician, a brand-spanking-new title card has been added for the show creators, which reads “created by Haim Saban & Toei Company Ltd.” Although most people don’t know this, when an ampersand (as opposed to the word “and”) is used on a title card in TV production, it’s used to indicate a team, meaning that Saban and Toei view themselves as team. I have to admit, it’s nice to see Toei Company Ltd. finally acknowledged in the opening credits after being relegated to the final title card of the ending credits for 17 seasons where their name was frequently abbreviated “Toei Co. Ltd.” since there usually wasn’t enough space to spell it out. In addition to the new title cards for the opening credits, the episode–specific credits have also been given a new title card where the Japanese writers are now credited as well with the words “Japanese episode written by,” followed by their names. Again, it’s nice to see the people behind Sentai finally being acknowledged for their contribution to the show as well.
All in all I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with The Team Unites, and with Power Rangers Samurai so far, of course we’re only one episode into a 40 (or possibly 40+) episode season, so there’s plenty of time for things to change, but as a whole, I like what I’m seeing, I like the story, what little of it has been told so far, and I like the rather unconventional series premiere.
Final Rating: 5 out of 5
How The Power Rangers Samurai Times rates episodes:
Episodes are rated on a scale of 1–5 with one being the lowest rating, and five being the highest rating, no decimal points, no fractions, no negative numbers. If multiple contributors review an episode, their individual ratings will be posted followed by the final rating, which will be an average of the aforementioned individual ratings. (Obviously averages may contain decimal points.)