Friday, April 25, 2014

March of the Ponies: Power Rangers vs. MLP (Magical Mystery Cure review)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4 (to date)]

The long run of pony episodes have led to what, at one point, had to have been considered the series finale.

I feel like if it had been, I could be more lenient with it. It wouldn't have made the episode good, mind you, but at least if they had gone that route I could give them credit for rounding out their series with a big ending.

Instead, I have to compare "Magical Mystery Cure," and yes I get it's a reference to The Beatles' EP from the 1960s, unfavorably to a show that I really can't believe can be considered a parallel to My Little Pony: the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Yeah, believe it or not, the two have a lot of similarities.

Both follow a format with a few big continuity episodes and a bunch of character developing episodes. Both feature a main cast that steps up for the forces of good. And both feature a cast of six that are supposed to represent a certain characteristic.

Many forget this, but those power coins were granted for specific reasons:

Tyrannosaurus (Red) - Strength
Triceratops (Blue) - Wisdom
Mastodon (Black) - Horrible racial oversight Bravery
Sabre-toothed Tiger (Yellow) - Agility
Pterodactyl (Pink) - Grace
Dragon (Green) - Honor? (It was largely forgotten in "Green With Evil," but that was my interpretation of Tommy's powers in "Ninja Quest.")

Like the Elements of Harmony, five power coins were originally displayed before the sixth was revealed later. Likewise, the Dragon coin appears to be the strongest individually, but it is incapable of victory without the other five.

To me, an underlying theme in both MMPR and MLP has been the theme of balance. Regardless of power, it took the whole unit to win. The rangers needed the Megazord at minimum to win, and one missing ranger prevented that. Same goes for the Elements of Harmony's rainbow beam of doom.

There was always a mutual dependence between the Element of Magic and the other five. The other five were needed to reveal the sixth element, and while the five elements needed the Element of Magic to activate, the wave came from them. The offensive capabilities of the elements depended entirely on the five elements creating the wave for the Element of Magic to channel and fire.

In a similar fashion, while the Dragonzord was the strongest Dinozord, it couldn't win a fight without other zords attaching to it, either 3 of them for Dragonzord Battle Mode or all 5 for the Dragon Megazord.

At this point you may notice that Twilight Sparkle and Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, are parallels, which is why I liken Magical Mystery Cure to "White Light," the two-part episode where Tommy became the White Ranger.

My video does a far better job of explaining the flaws of this episode (it's currently being reworked and will be up again shortly), but I will give a quick rundown as to how Twilight's ascension to a princess was handled far, far worse than an MMPR series that seemed to change its plans on the fly on multiple occasions (Peace conference? Really?).

Both episodes had an end goal that would drastically alter the dynamic of the show. After this episode, Twilight would formally outrank the other Elements and would have the combined powers of a unicorn and pegasus, throwing off the 2 Earth, 2 Pegasus, 2 Unicorn dynamic the show held for three years.

Likewise, after the two-parter, Tommy was moved into a leader position that he'd carry uncontested once Jason left for his, ahem, peace conference less than 10 episodes later. The show would become more Tommy-centric than at any point in the previous seasons, and half the rangers bordered on being non-entities for much of the next season and a half.

Besides that point, it was a visual shift. Twilight was gaining wings and Tommy was changing costumes. In both cases, this moment would be a significant change in the series.

How'd MMPR handle it? They played up the need for a sixth ranger. They showed how difficult dealing with Lord Zedd was with only five rangers and acknowledged that a sixth ranger helping would be welcome.

The scene with the White Ranger was played up like he was a God-send and his reveal felt justified because it was a character who, in his last appearance, pushed himself to his limits just to get one last chance to help his teammates as the Green Ranger. It was a true reward for someone we knew earned his credits as a true hero.

How did MLP: FIM handle it? They had Twilight accidentally switch everyone's cutie marks, mope for (at least) a full day while the whole town struggled with five ponies in the wrong job, solve the mess she made by not being straightforward with her friends (because she's being an idiot, a key to Meghan McCarthy's writing, and apparently something that carries over into plot-based episodes she oversees like this one), and then somehow get rewarded for her colossal mishandling of a situation by promoting her to princesshood.

Um... what?

Yeah, there was no villain that might have necessitated the power upgrade, nor was there a point where you felt like she had achieved something monumental. She just wasted two thirds of the episode on a low-stakes, nonsense story that (somehow) was the last step in a list of magical feats Twilight needed to attain - a list we NEVER saw or knew existed.

Despite this not making a lick of sense, the last five minutes of the episode are a grand coronation where the writers seem to congratulate themselves on a job well-done. What a load.

Add in seven song sequences, five of which were outright corny and badly written, and the general fact that this was all done in a disjointed episode, and I'm left feeling very empty about what I've seen.

Many would argue they did what they could in 22 minutes, but then, why was it 22 minutes? You really couldn't have cut one of the terrible episodes early in the season to make the finale a two-parter? You couldn't have added a villain to justify this move?

Heck, imagine if Celestia had to give her princesshood to Twilight to win the day. Can you imagine the stories you could tell? Luna mentoring Twilight on raising celestial bodies, Celestia and Luna's sisterhood, Twilight trying to maintain friendships from a city away, Celestia learning that the wings don't make the princess. All of this comes with two new Princess Twilight and wingless Celestia toys that can be marketed.

Power Rangers was able to create whole new toys to market while still making an interesting new dynamic in the show feel important. I can criticize MMPR for a lot of storytelling holes, but making Zord upgrades and new rangers feel like a big deal was not one of them.

My Little Pony could learn a lot about making a competent paradigm-shifting episode going forward by watching a show like Power Rangers.

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