Judge Erich Asperschlager says the pen is mightier than the ord.
"Here comes the Power Rangers Jungle Fury /
I'm as surprised to find out the Power Rangers are still on the air as I'd be if someone approached me on the street and challenged me to a game of Pogs. But here we are, and here's Power Rangers Jungle Fury: Way of the Master, the second volume of episodes from the show's 16th season. Though much of the story won't make any sense unless you've seen the first volume, Power Rangers Jungle Fury: Into the Jungle, chances are most of what you'll see won't make much sense anyway. But I'll try to explain.
Three teenage warriors have been chosen by a group called Pai Zhua, who derive their martial arts skills from animal spirits, to stop the recently-escaped Dai Shi (Geoff Dolan, Power Rangers Mystic Force), a baddie who can channel the power of the lion, and his sidekick Camille (Holly Shanahan, Outrageous Fortune). These warriors, the red, blue, and yellow Jungle Fury Power Rangers—Casey (Jason Smith, Home and Away), Theo (Aljin Abella, Horace & Tina), and Lily (Anna Hutchison, Legend of the Seeker), respectively—summon their own animal spirits, combining them with the various Pai Zhua animal spirit powers they learn along the way, to battle Dai Shi and a rogues gallery of likewise animal-spirit-channeling underlings. When they're not fighting evil, the Rangers work at the Jungle Karma Pizza parlor, owned by their friend and master R.J. (David de Lautor, What I Like About You).
Before we get to the insanity that is Power Rangers Jungle Fury, let's talk about the mechanized CGI elephant in the room. This is one of those dreaded instances where a television season gets divided into multiple volumes to squeeze as much money out of unwitting parents' pockets as possible. I hate that, especially since the story told over the six episodes on this disc isn't self-contained, and these six episodes are out of thirty-two total for the season.
As you probably guessed, this season takes the Power Rangers rubber-monster-and-spandex-clad-hero martial arts formula and gives everyone animal powers. Not a bad concept, though the genus selection is a mixed bag. While some characters get powers from cool animals like a wolf, leopard, or lion, others get stuck being slime-spewing eels or a pangolin.
The basic arc of Way of the Master is focused on the Rangers and Dai Shi meeting and learning from new masters. On the Rangers' side, they learn from masters of the elephant, bat, and shark (because sharks, of course, live in the jungle). Dai Shi, meanwhile, uses "life talons" taken from a downed foe to resurrect a hawk lord who summons two other bird guys to…Look, it's all pretty nuts. Just know that everyone derives power from some kind of animal, no matter how stupid that animal is, and that your kids can follow this a lot better than you can.
Even with a silly plot and laughable dialogue, at least you've got the fight sequences to look forward to, right? Not so fast. While some of the hand-to-hand stuff is cool, the action scenes consist mostly of people "HEEE-AW"-ing and saying the name of the poorly rendered CGI weapon they're going to use just before they use it.
I can't recommend parents buy this disc. Not only is it a blatant rip-off designed to drag out buying a full season, Jungle Fury is the worst of kids' programming. It's loud, the fighting is gratuitous, the life lessons are cloying, and the whole point of the series appears to be writing in enough variations on characters, weapons, and powers to keep whoever makes the Power Rangers toy line in the pink for a long time to come.
The video is full frame. The audio is in stereo. For what this is, it looks and sounds fine. Way of the Master's only "extra" to speak of is a set of three cards from the Power Rangers collectible card game—yep, more stuff to buy. I got Yellow Cheetah Zord, Blue Jaguar Zord, and Jungle Pride Megazord. Anyone want to trade? There's also a code you can use with the code you get when you buy Into the Jungle that lets you send in for an "exclusive" Red Ranger action figure. I'm sure a lot of the shows I watched when I was a kid were just extended toy commercials, too, but for some reason this just feels wrong.
There are lots of great DVD gift ideas for your kids this holiday season, and plenty of other shows they could be watching, though few are as likely to send them to the emergency room either for seizures or because they tried out some dangerous kung fu stunt they saw on TV as Power Rangers Jungle Fury. Maybe I'm the wrong audience for this stuff, but even if I was a kid I hope I'd think this was lame.
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