Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and all the images you see in this review are owned by Toei Company, 20th Century Fox, and Funimation
Directed by Tadayoshi Yamamuro
We’re finally back with a review of the second movie in the Dragon Ball revival franchise! With the success of Battle of Gods more or less leading to a Dragon Ball renaissance (I bet Toriyamas’s getting some SERIOUS Zeni out of this), they decided to make one more movie to set us up for the release of Dragon Ball Super! Well… at least they did it that way in Japan. SERIOUSLY FUNIMATION!? No word on Dragon Ball Super in the US yet? Well at least the released the second movie here, but it is any good? Does going back to the DBZ well to drag this villain out of retirement end up making a fun throwback to the glory days of this mighty series, or a self-satisfied victory lap for the endless mountains of cash Toei is about to rake in with their number one franchise back? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the remnants of Frieza’s (or was it his Dad’s?) intergalactic empire trying to maintain their stranglehold on the galaxy. Without any of their former leaders however, things are beginning to look grim as their forces continue to dwindle and the people they attempt to enslave are more and more successful in their organized resistance. Some little blue mother fucker (Sorbet because why the hell not) is now the leader and has finally decided that the only way to restore the empire to its former glory is to bring Frieza back to life. How you may ask? With Dragon Balls of course!!
With the help of the Pilaf gang (because they were SO desperately needed again), the blue mother fucker gets the Dragon Balls, brings Frieza back to life (sort of, but we’ll get back to that soon enough), and re-installs their former Dictator to his throne. What dastardly plans does he have for the Earth and those who defeated him so long ago!? Blow it the fuck up of course! However, he is still no match for Goku in his current form (he’s informed that the dude kicked Buu’s ass and lived after a fight with Beerus) so he starts to train up to match his strength and meet once again in the field of battle! When the invasion of Earth does indeed happen though, Goku (and Vegeta for that matter) are nowhere to be seen!! WHERE DID THEY GO!? Well they’re actually training with Whis on Beerus’s planet which is pretty damn far away, so they have no way of knowing what the hell is going on back home. This leaves it up to the Z Warrior B team to keep Frieza and his nigh unlimited supply of goons in check while Bulma tries to get in touch with the Saiyan bad asses that are on the other side of the galaxy… or universe… or whatever. Can our secondary heroes hold out long enough for the message to reach them? Even if they do, can our primary heroes stop this new and improved Frieza from exacting his revenge!?
I seriously enjoyed the hell out of this movie, but it does have some significant flaws that hold it back from being fantastic. To be fair though, Battle of Gods was pretty much the same way, and I’m still not sure which one I liked better. This movie does do something that’s truly remarkable however, and I think it’s going to be a huge source of contention for a lot of die-hard Dragon Ball Z fans despite it being a pretty necessary place for the franchise to go. The magic word of the day is rebalancing. At this point I have no idea what this movie and the previous one’s relationship to Super will be (I hear Super is gonna retell these movies) but if this is an indication of what the series hopes to accomplish, then it’s defiantly trying to take things down a couple of notches. Despite introducing SUPER Super Saiyan gods into the mix, nothing in here feels as over the top and bombastic later seasons of Dragon Ball Z felt, and by bringing back an older villain who was pretty much turned into a joke immediately after his defeat felt like a conscious effort to put a bit of breathing room between these iconic characters and UNLIMITED POWER!!! For some people, it might be a bit jarring to have Frieza be THIS powerful so quickly after coming back to life when you consider that he was dispatched very easily by Trunks who then couldn’t defeat the Androids who got captured by Imperfect Cell so that he could become Perfect Cell which was a being so powerful that its creation was felt all the way on new Namek, but was ultimately defeated by Gohan who Goku ended up outclassing later when the OTHER ultimate power in the universe showed up… do you see what I’m getting at here? I’m acutely aware of how crazy things ended up getting throughout the series, and I can tell you that trying to trim the fat here and calm things down a bit is exactly what is needed. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that everyone here (excluding Beerus and Whis) is about at Perfect Cell levels of power at most. The destruction here is rather restrictive considering how powerful these characters supposedly are if we’re strictly following continuity, and the amount of power Freiza would have had to achieve in the short time he was training (well below the three year head start Goku and the crew had before being utterly outclassed by the Androids) is a bit ludicrous even for DBZ. This is why I think it was intentional here. I was reading about this movie (and hearing the joke that Freiza’s Japanese voice actor made about his power level) when I found out that power levels were always meant to be a joke in this franchise with the idea being that trying to quantify power in such a way was a ludicrous proposition to begin with. That makes so much sense to me and is why I applaud them for not getting too bogged down in that with this movie.
Really though, that’s just a small portion of the movie. If you’re not going in believing in the premise, then there’s really nothing this movie can do for you at that point. How does it work outside of that one aspect? The story is much better than I would have expected with Frieza’s reappearance working within the continuity established from the original series. There are little touches here and there that I like such as Frieza actually knowing who Beerus and Majin Buu are which really goes a long way to making this world feel complete. I like that Majin Buu didn’t just pop up out of nowhere and that someone like Beerus would be known by important individuals in this universe. It sort of goes along with the whole rebalancing thing where someone who was as insignificant as Frieza ended up being was not just a small isolated section of this story, but has ties to the other stuff that happened here. The rest of the story isn’t all that complicated and is really just there as an excuse for two extended fight sequences, but it does serve its job overall and doesn’t feel underdeveloped. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it was poorly done, though there is a rule change here that makes no sense at all. When Frieza is brought back from the dead, he returns in the various pieces that Trunks sliced him up in, but those pieces are indeed alive and are used to regenerate his body. As far as I can recall, this was never a rule when they brought others back with the Dragon Balls in the past. If that was the case, how the hell did they bring back Chauzu and Krillin!? Shouldn’t they be brought back as a moving pile of giblets!? Well I guess the Dragon Balls have ALWAYS been a bit fickle about the rules. I still can’t figure out how the hell Krillin was brought back to life on Earth when he died on Namek when that was the whole problem for bringing Goku back if he died after Namek exploded. Has anyone figured that out? As I said before, it’s indeed much more focused than Battle of Gods with a significantly smaller cast and no random asides (like the Rock Paper Scissors match) that just feels like they’re there to kill time. The action as well is impeccably choreographed with the fight between the B team Z Fighters and the Frieza Flunkies showing a wide variety of techniques and character moments to make it worth sitting through even though it really just the opening act for the main event. Once Goku and Vegeta enter the scene though, it’s a straight up blast with plenty of punches, explosions, and smack talking to fill the necessary quota for Dragon Ball Z’s standards of excellence. It doesn’t get much more complex than that, but we’re talking about some of the most recognizable characters for Millennials who’s backstories are known by heart to so many of them. I wouldn’t say that we shouldn’t expect more from a movie, but this is one of those cases where anything more complicated in this story about a punch-up with an old foe might have bogged things down too much.
Moving into the things that don’t work as well, the CGI here is weak and even more so than it was in the last film. They use much more of it here with Frieza’s army of goons almost always being shown as a CGI mob, and while I suppose this was necessary to get the sense of scale they were after, they should have done a better job here. Then again, the budget on this was insanely small compared to the animated films we make here in the US, and everything else looks very impressive overall.
Frieza isn’t very interesting as a villain, but he is quite compelling to watch on screen. Despite his simplistic motivations and stubborn refusal to learn from his numerous mistakes, he does have a commanding presence and still maintains that deliciously smug demeanor that made him such a great villain in the first place. You know. Before he was unequivocally humbled twice. That kind of leads into the other thing that bugged me in the movie. Our three main players here (Frieza, Goku, and Vegeta) don’t really have the kind of character moments you would expect from something like this. Frieza is sort of handled right with his thirst for vengeance being his prime motivator, but it still seems odd that he’s still this headstrong after getting killed twice. They do bring that around in the movie so it’s not a huge problem here, but it ends up being one of the reasons why Frieza isn’t very interesting. He doesn’t learn from anything, so his resurgence doesn’t carry much weight to it. If he couldn’t figure out WHY he got pounded into the dirt the last two times, why should we think for a moment that the same outcome won’t happen here? Vegeta spends a lot of the movie not doing much (Goku has the majority of the fight scenes here) and it’s never once brought up that Frieza did in fact kill him in the past. Did they really have no ideas on how to play that off here? Shouldn’t Vegeta have some sort of deep trauma that he has carried around with him since getting killed by the one responsible for the genocide of his people? Nothing? Okay then. He feels a bit underutilized here, which is a shame because of the personal connection he have with this villain. Goku may have been the one to defeat him, but Vegeta worked for this guy for years, secretly hating his guts for the monstrous acts he committed. The fucker used his dying breath to beg Goku to do what he could not, and yet none of that really informs his actions in this movie. Goku though is on a whole other level. While Frieza’s too static and Vegeta is too reserved, Goku just feels off. He’s REALLY cocky in this which I think they were alluding to in the last movie (his hatred of the power he had to get from his friends and wanting to fight with his strength alone), but he just doesn’t feel right here. Goku is the embodiment of the good natured hero who knows when to get serious but is always read to crack a smile and show some mercy. Here, he just comes off as a guy who’s completely full of himself and it’s kind of off putting for a character that’s as idolized as he is. He’s kind of like Superman in that way where he represents more than just a mortal man and is rather a manifestation of the best traits we wish we could have. He differs from Super Man in that he’s constantly struggling to find that strength while Super Man is struggling to use the strength he already has in the right way, but that’s another discussion altogether. It’s not RIDICULOUSLY over the top, but the change here is definitely noticeable. I think they do bring that around though with something that happens towards the end of the movie, but it doesn’t quite wash away the slightly bad taste he leaves in this movie. Speaking of which, while I won’t spoil it here, that thing I just mentioned that kind of brings around his cocky attitude is actually another great example of the movie is pulling back on the power these characters possess. Let’s just say that Frieza’s secret strategy is so simple that it HAD to have worked, and it does bring a bit of vulnerability to a character that’s basically been immortal for a while now. It’s also taken right out of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (if you’ve seen both movies, then you MIGHT just know what I’m talking about) and that’s actually a good thing because that movie is GREAT.
So some of the character moments aren’t done as well as they should have been and there’s some crappy CG throughout. Even with those kinds of issues, it’s still a great movie, right? Well there’s one more thing the movie messes up on and it’s really what bothered me the most (though it does tie into the character issue). The way the end the fight is just… wrong. Without saying too much, Goku is shown explicitly how the battle HAS to end which goes against everything we love about the character. He does indeed give in and does the ONE thing he should never do and it’s just not right. To bring it back to Superman, I had basically the same reaction at the end of Man of Steel for the same reasons (you can probably guess what that is now). It’s disappointing and just feels kind of lazy because Goku shouldn’t be taking the easy way out like this. I guess they wanted to wrap up the story without any lingering threads (and he has a bit more leeway to do this in the movies), but if felt like he had other options here than the one he was basically coerced into taking. Ugh. Anyway, the last thing I want to point out is that there’s a character in here that’s actually not part of the Dragon Ball Z continuity at all, but is instead from a spin off series that Toriyama has been working on that’s tied into Dragon Ball. The dude’s name is Jaco and he’s a space cop. The connection to Dragon Ball appears to be that a here to unknown older sister of Bulma’s called Tights who is not in the movie goes along with him on his inter-galactic adventures. This isn’t really a complaint because the character is actually pretty bad ass in the movie and is more of a public service announcement. I didn’t know who he was going in and wish I had before seeing the movie, so just be aware that.
Despite all my nitpicks, this was definitely worth checking out. I had reservations about bringing back Frieza as a villain (I too once thought that him being a threat now with his measly power was stupid), but the movie ended up proving me wrong and was an enjoyable ride throughout. Despite some issues with the characters and some issues with the animation here and there, there’s really nothing to dislike about this if you really are a huge Dragon Ball Z fan. Other than that issue with the rebalancing (which I can understand even if I don’t agree with it), it’s exactly what I imagine anyone looking to see a Dragon Ball Z film would want out of it. It’s just too bad that this is a limited release and most people won’t have a chance to see it in the theaters where something this bombastic should be seen. Try to catch it while you still can, but Funimation will put it on blu ray soon enough. Hopefully with the MASSIVE success this movie turned out to be (it was in the US top ten box office despite the small number of theaters it ran in), I hope that Toei and Funimation are paying attention here and will put its international audience into much more consideration from here on out with wider releases for their films and a damn confirmation of when Dragon Ball Super is going to come out here! SERIOUSLY!! WHAT THE HELL FUNIMATION!?!?!?
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