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REVIEW:
POWER RANGERS 15th ANNIVERSARY DINO THUNDER RED RANGER
By Thomas Wheeler


One of the things that I always tend to say when reviewing any given year's crop of Power Rangers action figures is -- there's always a sixth Ranger. But there's something else that's always true as well...

There's always a Red Ranger.

Whatever other colors the core group of Power Rangers may adopt for their uniforms, which have generally tended to be four of the following: Blue, Black, Green, White, Yellow, and Pink, there's always a Red Ranger. And he's also generally the team's leader.

Does it surprise anyone that we're commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Power Rangers? It's not often that a pop culture concept manages to have this sort of endurance. Although often considered rather campy and silly compared to pop culture/toy concepts of similar longevity, such as G.I.Joe or Transformers, there is simply no denying the fact that the Power Rangers has found a place in pop culture, and doesn't look to be going anywhere anytime soon. It's also found a pretty steadfast place in the toy aisles.

One of the secrets, if it can even be called that, to the longevity of the Power Rangers, has been the fact that after the original concept, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers", had run for several years, the producers of the show started overhauling the concept every year. Although the basic character premise -- five young people dressed in colorful costumes, each costume reflecting a predominant color with a pattern shared by the entire group -- remained the same, as did the martial-arts- ish stunt work, the background stories tended to change rather dramatically.

This allowed Bandai, the toymaker, to essentially create an entirely new line of toys every year, and yet that entirely new line of toys was nevertheless based, at its core, on a proven name and basic theme.

The main part, toywise, of this 15th Anniversary celebration of Power Rangers, has been the release of a special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers. Larger than the approximate 5" scale common to most Power Rangers lines over the years, although size has varied somewhat, these 15th Anniversary Red Rangers are over 6-1/2" in height. And there's one for every major Power Rangers concept that has ever existed, right up to 2007's "Operation Overdrive".

It is my intention, as I am able to acquire these excellent action figures, to review each one, as well as provide a background into the Power Rangers concept from which he is a part of. For this review, I'd like to review the Red Ranger from POWER RANGERS DINO THUNDER!

Dino Thunder was the Power Rangers incarnation for 2004. Much like its predecessor, Ninja Storm, it didn't take itself quite as seriously as some of the other Rangers' series (if any of them can be said to take themselves all that seriously!)

Although there is usually some sort of "bridge" between concept changeovers to try to maintain some semblance of continuity, this proved difficult between Ninja Storm and Dino Thunder. According to the Wikipedia article for Dino Thunder, fans tended to believe that Ninja Storm existed in a different "reality" than most of the other series, due to the lack of a team-up between Ninja Storm and its predecessor, Wild Force. This was partly due to the actors refusing to appear since much of the production crew had been laid off as well as the change in hands of the Power Rangers franchise from Saban to Disney and filming locations from California to New Zealand. Executive producer Douglas Sloan also received heavy criticism for not tying Ninja Storm in with the original universe.

However, the matter was eventually resolved. To tie up all of the loose Ninja Storm ends, and to try to bring in a larger audience, Sloan brought back Jason David Frank and his original character from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers through Power Rangers: Turbo, Tommy Oliver, a legendary Power Ranger, as a mentor for the new team as well as a fellow Power Ranger. Through the episodes "Legacy of Power", a look back on all of the previous Power Rangers series; "Back in Black", giving Tommy new Power Ranger powers; and "Thunder Storm", a team-up arc between Dino Thunder and Ninja Storm, all previous series were included in the original Power Rangers universe.

Regarding the storyline for Dino Thunder itself, the series involved a soccer player, a computer expert, a singer, an artist, and a teacher with a long history of such situations join forces to become Power Rangers and help save the Earth from mutant dinosauric beings that wish to eradicate all human life and return Earth to the age of dinosaurs.

In this series, Tommy Oliver returned as a paleontology professor in Reefside, California. When he is assigned three detention students, Conner, Ethan, and Kira, they end up finding the Dino Gems, paving the way for them to become the Dino Rangers. Conner gains the power of the Tyrannozord, as well as super-speed; Ethan gains the power of the Tricerazord, as well as the ability to make his skin invulnerable; Kira gains the power of the Pterazord, as well as a sonic scream. Tommy (known often as Dr. O) himself joins the team as the Black Dino Ranger, and they are also later joined by Trent Mercer as the White Dino Ranger, with the powers of invisibility and camouflage, respectively. Trent Mercer must deal with the inner struggle of good and evil, as he gained his powers from a raw Dino Gem in Mesogog's lab, with the powers originally intended to be Mesogog's.

Mesogog, the main villain of the series, is in fact, Trent's adopted father Anton Mercer, who in a faulty lab experiment began to mutate into Mesogog, a dinosaur-like being. Trent later sides with good and saves his father from the mutation. During the course of the series, the team adds to its arsenal Zords based on the Pachycephalosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Ankylosaurus, Dimetrodon, and Stegosaurus, the last of which combines with Trent's Zord, a Tupuxuara to form the Dino Stegozord. Tommy pilots the Brachiosaurus Zord, the carrier for all the other Zords.

At the very least, one has to assume that this series helped youngsters with their pronunciation of various dinosaur species.

At the end of the series, Conner, Kira, Ethan, Tommy, and Trent finish off Mesogog with their raw Dino Gem power, but the gems are burned out in the process.

Although comic books for Power Rangers have been virtually nonexistant, certainly in the United States, a monthly comic strip based on the series appeared in every issue of "Jetix Magazine" in the UK. Jetix Magazine is the official magazine of JETIX, the channel that shows Dino Thunder in the UK, and is a name which also appears associated with the Power Rangers in the United States.

As to the Red Ranger for Dino Thunder, his name was Conner McKnight. a soccer player and one of Dr. Oliver's students. The power he got from the Red Dino Gem was super speed. He later gains the powers of the Triassic Ranger. He was portrayed by James Napier.

The Triassic Ranger was not exactly a sixth Ranger, but was a far more ornate version of the Red Ranger. It's worth mentioning that this form of the Red/Triassic Ranger does appear as one of the figures in the 15th Anniversary boxed sets of Red Rangers, which are a series of non- poseable statues about 5" in height. I haven't been collecting them. Interestingly enough, though, it's actually the Triassic Ranger that is pictured in a photograph on the back of the package for the individual 15th Anniversary Red Ranger action figures -- this particular series.

The figure is, for the most part, excellent. What Bandai has done for this special series of 15th Anniversary Red Rangers is they have created a basic body type, and an excellent one, that can reasonably accommodate any of the intricate uniform decoration patterns of any of the Power Rangers concept. Of course, a unique head -- or perhaps the correct term should be helmet -- sculpt is created for each Red Ranger.

The articulation is excellent. The Power Ranger is poseable at the head, arms, glove tops, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Additionally, there is a mid-torso articulation point that is so well designed you almost don't see it until you have the figure out of its package. This can be a particularly tricky articulation point to add to an action figure. Sometimes it can be worked very well into the basic design of the figure. The best example I can think of here is Star Wars Clone Troopers, where it can blend with the armor. It works fairly well on figures like Marvel Legends, where there is no great effort to conceal the articulation points. But I've seen it on some figures where it doesn't look very good at all.

On the Red Ranger here, it works and looks a lot better than it has any business, really, and kudos to Bandai for the design work.

There is one articulation aspect that should have been included, but wasn't. That would have been an upper-arm swivel. This does have the unfortunate effect of rather considerably curtailing the poseability of the arms on an otherwise supremely well-articulated action figure.

Dino Thunder was the first Power Rangers concept since the original Mighty Morphin to seriously feature dinosaur-themed Rangers and Zords, and the costume designs went all out on this. Of course this included the Red Ranger. The figure's helmet has two small dinosaur-like eyes, while the actual eye visor for the Ranger is a very jagged mouth design on the helmet. There is a large black and gold emblem on the chest and looks like a dinosaur's footprint. There are jagged white diamond patterns that run from the shoulders to the wrists on both arms, and down both legs from the hips to the boots.

The Red Ranger also has a gold belt, boot tops, and wrist bands. There is also a small device design imprinted on the left wrist of the figure. This represents his Dino Morpher. The Dino Morphers are used by the Red, Blue and Yellow Dino Rangers. Each one is powered by a Dino Gem and adorned with a "Dino Plate" modelled after each Ranger's respective creature. To morph, the Rangers simply flip the Dino Plate and call out "Dino Thunder, Power Up!".

Overall, this is really a spectacular figure, and part of a truly fascinating series. Despite a relatively common scale over the years, not all Power Rangers figures are really compatible across different concepts. This 15th Anniversary Red Ranger series is truly the first time that the main characters from all of the different Power Rangers concepts have been produced in a compatible format.

Honestly, I hope that Bandai finds some way to continue this particular series, as the Power Rangers concepts continue in the years ahead. Doubtless there will be more Red Rangers. As I write this in mid- November, I'm starting to see some of the toys from the next Power Rangers incarnation, JUNGLE FURY, hit the stores. And I'd like to think we wouldn't have to wait until the 20th Anniversary to get the Red Ranger from that, and future concepts, in this format.

Meanwhile, the 15th Anniversary POWER RANGERS DINO THUNDER RED RANGER, as well as all of his counterparts, definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!