If you don’t know already, I am a HUGE fan of the Dragon Ball franchise, especially Dragon Ball Z! That said, the last decade of constant video games, re releases and whatever the hell else Funimation and Toei were doing to squeeze out every last cent they can just ended up alienating me as a fan and I never thought the series was ever going to return to its former glory. That was okay though! The legacy this series left behind more than makes up for the constant selling out. Still, Akira Toriyama has starting coming back to the franchise; starting with Battle of Gods and more recently the new series Dragon Ball Super! After all this time, are we finally going to get the Dragon Ball Z sequel we’ve all been waiting for!? Well I plan to find out! First by reviewing the two movies released since his return and then by starting to recap Dragon Ball Super as it comes out! PLEASE DON’T SUCK!! I DON’T THINK MY NOSTALGIA CAN TAKE IT!! Anyway, let’s get started with Battle of Gods!!
The movie begins with a REALLY cool retelling of the entire series with new animation to show key events throughout Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. THIS IS WHAT DRAGON BALL KAI SHOULD HAVE BEEN!!! No seriously, if ONE franchise can afford to have movie sized animation budgets per episode, it would be a remake of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z! The flashbacks end just after the end of the Buu saga (but before Uub or Pan are around) and we see that Old Kai (AKA Hitler Kai) senses a disturbance in the force. He starts to inform the other Kais… for some reason. Honestly, do they have any real significance anymore? That’s what I REALLY didn’t like about the Buu Saga. The show was constantly throwing in new characters of UNBELIEVABLE POWER who would get their asses kicked two episodes later and become background characters for the rest of the arc. For crying out loud, Grand Kai got like one appearance before being subsumed by Supreme Kai! Anyway, King Kai is receiving his message about whatever the hell the other Kai’s are sensing but unfortunately Goku is training on the planet and tries to eavesdrop.
Using his one true power (being overwhelmingly annoying), Goku finally convinces King Kai to spill the beans which is that a god of destruction (Lord Beerus played by Jason Douglas who’s in a CRAZY amount of really cool stuff as a background or minor character) is waking up and will most likely cast Mega Death on the universe or something. Actually, I’m not sure exactly what his deal is. Is he just a powerful alien or does he have some sort of cosmic responsibility? Also, if everyone important is aware of this dude’s insane power, why are we fucking with things like Androids and Buu when the literal embodiment of Armageddon (I think) is just taking a cat nap!? He he. Get it? Cat nap? It’s funny because Beerus is a cat. A cat that’s just waking up from his slumber and has FUCKING EXPLOSIONS AS HIS ALARM CLOCK. Dude. That is FUCKING METAL!!!
His man servant is Whis played by Ian Sinclair who plays Shu from Princess Jellyfish, and if you know me then you know I ABSOLUTELY LOVE PRINCESS JELLYFISH!! HE SOUNDS JUST LIKE SHU TOO!! The movie does a great job here setting up their relationship and making the both of them very likable characters. Beerus is kinda silly and isn’t much of an egomaniacal jackass (at least compared with some of the other villains in the show) and Whis is the perfect straight man for his master’s antics.
During Beerus’s morning ritual, we find out that he was in fact the one pulling the strings behind Frieza’s destruction of Planet Vegeta because of COURSE everything has to go back to that!! Okay, side note. WHY THE FUCK ARE THEY BRINGING FREEZA BACK FOR LIKE THE SIXTH TIME!? I DO NOT CARE ANYMORE!! STOP IT!! The discussion of Frieza leads Whis to educate Beerus (and anyone in the audience who hasn’t been watching this show religiously since they were six years old) on Goku’s accomplishments and the power of the remaining Saiyans. This is where things get a bit weird we find out what Beerus’s main motivation is for being the villain of this story. It’s not to avenge Frieza or because good guys are the antithesis of his ethos or whatever. It’s because he had a dream about a Super Saiyan God and wants to see one himself. Okay…
Well I guess it makes as much sense as World’s Strongest where the bad guys were looking for a body to stick a brain in or Broly who was just a dick. Whis’s magic stick thingy located Goku on King Kai’s planet so the two of them start flying through time and space to begin their search for a Super Saiyan God. It seems that there’s ONE person who’s faster than Beerus and that’s the editor because we cut immediately to planet earth where OH GOD NO!!! NOT THE CG!!!!
COME ON TOEI!! The games have PERFECTED the cel shaded look, but you still can’t manage to get it right in your big budget movie!? I know it’s kind of hard to see in a still image, but it looks REALLY bad in motion. The event we’re cutting to is Bulma’s twenty ninth birthday (for the fifteenth time and if you say otherwise she’ll cut you) which is basically just an excuse for ALL the great characters of the show to be in one place at the same time. That’s not a BAD thing, but we’ve seen a variation on this premise in pretty much EVERY Dragon Ball movie or special. Oh well, we get to see more Hercule! Wait, they’re calling him Mr. Satan in the dub!? BLASPHEMY!!! HE’S HERCULE DAMN IT!!!
Back on King Kai’s planet, Goku finally realizes his grievous error in missing Bulma’s party therefore ensuring that he will incur her unholy wrath, but he doesn’t have long to ruminate on his eminent demise because someone else is here to make it even MORE eminent. Okay, that’s a bit unfair. Beerus isn’t actually here to kill anyone. He just wants to find out if there’s a Super Saiyan God nearby to… test his skills against? I don’t know. Beerus seems pretty fickle about most things. I guess that comes with the territory, being a God and everything. As he’s unable to find one on this planet, he decides to head to Earth where the remaining Saiyans are located (except for Broly and Tarble) but Goku can’t resist the urge to challenge the guy to a sparring match. Let me give you the play by play recap.
Punch. Thud. The end. Oh, and this for some reason.
King Kai, knowing how absolutely boned they are, has one last desperate move. Trust me. It’s SUPER desperate!
Apparently Vegeta not only has HEARD of this guy, but even SAW his all power ass at one point and has failed to bring it up until now. Was there never a point where he was like “well Freiza is powerful, but watch out for Beerus!” or something like that!? Still, he has a job to do. He must keep Beerus calm and provide a fun and happy environment for him to enjoy his time on Earth so that he won’t destroy it. Clearly this is a doomed plan from the start. Not only that, but Bulma’s had one too many and is about to give Vegeta a stroke on top of possibly condemning all of mankind to an early extinction.
Beerus and Whis actually do have a good time partying with the humans and despite some drunken posturing from Hercule (HE IS NOT MR. SATAN GOD DAMN IT!!!!) everything looks like it’s going to be okay! Well… that is until the Pilaf Gang, out of ALL the out of nowhere tertiary characters you could have thrown in this, show up at the Briefs compound and start snooping for some Dragon Balls. That’s right. They threw in the Pilaf Gang.
This whole subplot annoys the hell out of me. Not only do we get some bullshit explanation about why they’re all chibi-fied now (they SOMEHOW managed to get the Dragon Balls before and wish for their youth), but they take up ten minutes of the movie just dicking around in the building looking for shit and arguing. For crying out loud! You couldn’t have included Launch or that Frankenstein dude, or someone I would actually care about showing up again!? They SOMEHOW manage to find the Dragon Balls in one of the rooms but the female of the group (Mai) only manages to grab one before little Trunks catches them trespassing. They try to escape but end up drawn into the party (Trunks immediately attaches himself to Mai like a leech), and they end up biding their time at the festivities (no one recognizes them) until they have a chance to take the remaining balls. That opportunity presents itself when, I kid you not, the balls are brought out be a prize in a BINGO tournament. WHAT!?!? They’re giving away the all powerful wish granting orbs as PRIZES!? Shouldn’t they be PROTECTING them from falling into the wrong hands or something!?!? Well, I guess no one here is likely to use them for ill intent. It’s mostly just the good guys from the series and they never took advantage of the balls before. OH WAIT!! Hercule AND Master Roshi are there! You can’t tell me that they wouldn’t cause some serious damage!
Yamcha (oh hey! He’s in this!) notices that there are only six balls and it’s soon revealed that the Pilaf gang is the one who stole it. In a desperate move, Mai grabs Trunks and puts a gun to his head while Pilaf tries desperately to negotiate a ransom.
Now here’s where things get weird. No one seems to give a shit. I know! Not even Bulma is worried about a bullet going through her son’s skull! I mean, I GUESS he could dodge it or whatever, but you have to wonder how detached these people have to be from humanity that they can look at a child with a gun pointed to their head and just laugh it off. Not only that, but mother fucking Gohan (who HAS to be in his twenties by now) starts to make a game of it where he gets into his Great Saiyaman outfit and starts speechifying. Now I LOVE The Great Saiyaman, but I like him when he’s ACTUALLY FIGHTING CRIME!! Instead, he has the girl empty her clip at him so he can show off like a jackass and ends up getting Videl shot in the process. Wait, WHAT!?
The only real purpose this bafflingly stupid scene apparently has is to confirm that Videl is pregnant at this point and hasn’t told Gohan yet. We find this out when the White Mage (Dende) heals Videl’s wound and senses that she’s bleeding out for two. There HAD to have been a better way to get this out there because Gohan playing dress up and pontificating at a gun wielding child is just embarrassing, obnoxious, and has started to get me to turn against this movie. It’s a shame because up until the Pilaf gang showed up, it was heading down a strong road. A good villain with various layers to him (he’s not out and out evil, but his detachment makes him dangerous) and some snappy writing on behalf of the script and the VERY strong translation. It’s too bad that the second act is getting dragged down in unfunny shenanigans. Even Beerus is getting pissed at all the foolishness going on before him and is about to destroy the planet because of it when Vegeta does the one thing he can to stop the madness. DANCE!!
See, now THIS scene shows exactly why the previous scene didn’t work. In that scene, where everyone was having a great time watching some kid wave a gun around, there’s no reasonable reaction to it so any comedic potential is lost and the audience (at least in my case) will feel discomfort about the situation. Contrast that with Vegeta who KNOWS what he’s doing is ridiculous as he dances his ass off which places the discomfort on HIM instead of the audience, giving us something we can laugh about. Also, he didn’t get a pregnant woman shot so there’s that at least. Surprisingly, Vegeta’s audition for Lord of the Dance does indeed stop Beerus from destroying the world. Sure it’s mostly out of sheer befuddlement rather than being impressed by his dance skills, but for now things aren’t going to go all apocalyptic at the party. That is until the doom bringer discovers that Majin Buu took all the pudding! Oh HELL no!! Needless to say that a hissy fit between two all-powerful beings (with the manners of four year olds) doesn’t end very well.
Seriously, isn’t this the reason we should have gotten rid of the two tons of bubble gum fun instead of keeping him as Hercule’s roomie? Anyway, despite being the scourge of the universe for thousands of years, Buu doesn’t stand a chance against Beerus and gets his ass decisively handed to him. Now at this point, any sane person would try to deescalate the situation, right? Nope.
No seriously, what the hell are the android, Mr. Solar Flare, and the giant Yoshi gonna do about it? Spoiler alert: NOTHING!! The cat takes each of them out with a flick of his wrist and only manage to make matters even worse. Vegeta, being the responsible one yet again, convinces Beerus to at least take his rampage away from the party and does what he can to hold him off. He only lasts about fifteen seconds, but at least he tried! Who else is up on the chopping block? Well Gohan tried the full nelson technique he learned from his father, but even that doesn’t stand a chance against Beerus. Also, Gotenks shows up for half a second to get his scrawny ass spanked by the God of Destruction.
Not much hope for humanity now I guess. Beerus vows to destroy the Earth (over the pudding cup of course) and readies a blast to take out Vegeta once and for all. That’s when mother fucking Bulma goes all up in Beerus’s grill and starts chewing him out for being an asshole! HELL YEAH!! Too bad Beerus doesn’t take kindly to such treatment and gives her a sold smack across the face! FUCK YOU DUDE!! Vegeta’s train of thought is similar to mine in that the sight of his wife getting pimp slapped awakes something inside him and he has the power to face Beerus once again!! For about forty five seconds.
Vegeta’s second wind doesn’t last long and so Beerus has no more warriors to momentarily distract him from destroying the planet. CAN NOTHING SAVE THEM!? Surprisingly, yes! No, it’s not Goku (where the hell is he!?!?) but instead it’s Whis who’s still pigging out on Sushi and doesn’t want to leave just yet. Okay… so the movie needs to pad itself? With the inclusion of the Pilaf gang, there STILL wasn’t enough time killed!? Oh well. I guess we’ll play rock paper scissors while we wait. No seriously.
Anything else? No? We’re ready to get the plot back on track? Okay then. Goku shows up before Beerus can make a giant planet destroying bomb and makes a deal with the guy. Give him five minutes to try a crazy idea, and he will get him that Super Saiyan God he’s so worked up about. What’s the plan? Use the Dragon Balls of course! Good thing they were all collected and kept so close by! They summon the dragon, ask him about a Super Saiyan God and sure enough he gives them the answer. Six Saiyans need to hold hands and believe in the power of friendship or whatever and one of them will turn into a Super Saiyan God. BUT WAIT!! With Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Trunks, and Goten, that’s only five!! EXTINCTION IS AT HAND!! No it’s not actually, because apparently the rules include Saiyans in utero so Videl reveals her pregnancy and joins them in the circle.
With their combined forces, they give Goku the massive power boost that will be impossible to top until the next movie. Still, at least this one isn’t a variation on the Ayran Master Race!
And so the epic punch up begins! BAM! POW! All over the CG city with punches and shock waves and grunts! Then they fight in the CG canyon! THEN they fight in the CG Ocean!! THEN IN THE CG CAVES!! Did I mention there’s a lot of CG in these fights? Credit where it’s due; the characters are still 2D animated (for the most part) and look GREAT, but the backgrounds just look fake and are distracting.
The fight isn’t JUST about two unstoppable punching machines hitting each over and over again! They start to unpack Goku’s Messiah complex! Yeah, Beerus is noticing that Goku isn’t really enjoying the fight and deduces that he feels bad about becoming a Super Saiyan God and he even admits that he’s terrified by the prospect of a power level he will never achieve on his own. The fact that he has to RELY on his friends for this strength doesn’t sit well with him which seems like an odd sentiment for Goku of all people to have. Is he actually more prideful than he comes across, or is he just worried about everyone else to the detriment of his own well-being (which is by no means a good thing for those who he wants to protect)? Oh hey look! Beerus is making a funny face!
During the fight, it appears that Goku has reverted back to regular old Super Saiyan, but he’s not losing an inch to Berrus. Maybe he’s become a SUPER Super Saiyan God!? Whatever the reason, they end up punching themselves into orbit and the fight starts to get super blast filed once they are in space. That’s right! THEY FIGHT IN SPACE!! Let it be known that Goku can breathe in outer space!! WE HAVE PROOF NOW!! Beerus is having enough of Goku’s shit and pulls a move right out of his opponent’s playbook. He makes a giant explosive ball of spirit energy (a spirit bomb if you will) and aims it right at Goku. It’s too bad he can’t jump out the way because the Earth is right behind him, so he has to stand there and try to hold it back.
Lord Berrus takes this opportunity to point out that Goku’s God power left him a while ago and he’s been fighting as simply a Super Saiyan since then which shows that he’s actually absorbed a lot of the power he gained from becoming a Super Saiyan God. Oh good. Go back on an interesting character flaw not ten minutes after discovering it! I guess he DOESN’T need to deal with the fact that he needs others’ help every once in a while! Goku takes five minutes to stop the giant blast which unfortunately has sapped a lot of his power and he still has to deal with Beerus who has remained fresh and ready to go. Then, we actually get something interesting that they DON’T immediately go back on. Goku ultimately loses this fight. Beerus ends the battle and allows Goku to live due to the fact that he is the second strongest opponent that he has ever faced. Who’s number one?
So Whis is not only Beerus’s retainer is also his mentor? Sure. Why not. I guess we’ll find out more about their relationship in Dragon Ball Super. Speaking of random plot points, Beerus also decides to throw out some multiverse shit into this series! SERIOUSLY!? Apparently there are twelve universes in total and each one has a destroyer like Beerus. Some are even stronger than him!
Well despite Goku’s valiant efforts, Beerus still has to keep his word and destroy the planet. He drops Goku off with the characters who no longer do shit and starts to destroy the planet. Fortunately for Toei’s bank accounts, he doesn’t actually kill off all these profitable characters and instead destroys a small stack of rocks. Apparently he did destroy the Earth. A tiny bit of it. LOOPHOLE!! So everything worked out okay in the end like you knew it would! Goku is the hero once again, Beerus apologizes for his lousy behavior, and he and Whis blast off to their own planet again so that he can take another nap. And so the movie ends with… no wait. We’ve gotta kill five more minutes. Okay… on Beerus’s planet we see him eat some Wasabi (Whis brought a doggy bag of sushi) and lose his shit which prompts Whis to knock him out, showing us that he really is as powerful as he says he is.
Good thing we had time for that! Anything else? Let’s see… Oh! Bulma has to have another party and Goku has to hang out with Vegeta. Admittedly, this is much better than the random bit with Beerus and Whis (much sharper writing) but it still feels a bit extraneous. The movie is already an hour and forty-five minutes, so you could have shaved a BIT off of this movie! And so the movie ACTUALLY ends with Goku ending up the butt of everyone’s joke and everyone living happily ever after for maybe ten more minutes before SUPER Beerus shows up to kick some more ass! That or God Damn Frezia comes back to life, but what are the chances of THAT happening!?!?
I haven’t seen ALL the Dragon Ball Z movies that are out there but from the ones I HAVE seen, this is definitely one of the better ones. I think what really helps this one along (aside from the great animation due to the modern techniques used here), is its light tone and sharp writing. I remember movies like Super Android 13, Coolor’s Revenge, Broly, etc being VERY overwrought and serious with the occasional funny moments to break up the action sequences. Not that they were BAD at being a series of protracted fight scenes cobbled together by a simplistic plot, but it didn’t take long for that formula to become repetitive and the weak writing to be overshadowed by the stories we got from the actual series. Here though, the dialogue is hilariously on point with some lampshade hanging here and there and enough can’t be said about how great of a dub this is. Dragon Ball Z has always been one of those shows with a great English cast (after it was ripped out of Ocean’s hands but even then we had some memorable moments) and as far as I can tell, almost EVERYONE here is from the original Funimation dub and those who didn’t return are from Kai. It’s clear that these people have had more than enough experience voicing these iconic characters and they bring their A game to the material which is already fantastically translated. It’s too bad that this lighter and snappier tone can also be seen as a downside because when it doesn’t work, it REALLY drags the movie down. The Pilaf gang is completely useless, Gohan’s character is totally obnoxious and acts like an idiotic pushover throughout, and random asides like the rock, paper, scissors match just feel out of place and are there simply to take up time. Other than that, it has that same problem that many other movies based on long running series have which is that it’s basically an entire season of episodes compressed into an hour and a half so there isn’t enough time for a proper story like this to unfold. It works better than most with Beerus being a menacing and interesting villain right off the bat, but the escalation is immediate and unconvincing and the MacGuffin of victory (Super Saiyan God) is obtained too fast to have much meaning. Also, the ending feels dragged out what with Beerus’s experiment with Sushi just kind of taking up time at the end. I’m not sure what it was intended to accomplish, but it just derailed the pacing of the ending of the film. I guess what works best about this though is that it doesn’t feel like a cash-in. The Dragon Ball franchise has been milked for all its worth since Akira Toriyama jumped ship in 1995 (at least that’s when the manga ended) and it’s been pretty gross to watch how low they can sink at points. With this, it feels like a sincere effort to try and revitalize the series, and it doesn’t hurt that Toriyama has a screenplay credit on this. While it isn’t perfect and can’t quite shake all the extra weight that the Buu saga gave the franchise, it’s the best thing we’ve gotten from Dragon Ball since probably Budokai 3.
We’re one movie down, so just one more to go! Tune in next time for Resurrection F!!