Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ Review

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Posted August 7, 2015 by Kenneth Rodriguez in Movies

A/N: This film was viewed dubbed into English during its North American release.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

 
Frieza is back, and scary

Frieza is back, and scary

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is a visually marvelous and entertaining installment in the legendary Anime franchise, but its plot is frustrating and deeply flawed, missing many opportunities to switch up the status quo for its inevitable sequels. 2014’s Battle of Gods was the first canonical exploration of post-Dragon Ball Z life for series creator Akira Toriyama’s storied Goku and friends (Toei Animation-produced Dragon Ball GT ‘s validity in the series timeline is currently unknown, and only had minimal involvement from Toriyama). It was a fun romp that introduced endearing new characters God of Destruction Beerus and his omnipotent (and stronger) assistant Whis while expanding the scope of the series to potentially 11 more universes. This film (written by Toriyama) picks up about a year after, depicting peace on Earth while Goku and Vegeta train with Whis to reach levels more on par with Beerus (whom, in a great change of pace, Goku couldn’t actually beat in BoG). While all seems well on Earth, trouble is brewing across the galaxy as plans to revive series favorite villain Frieza come to fruition. The interim leader of his galactic empire Sorbet has been having trouble keeping hold on their conquered planets without him, and has been on a mission to find Dragonballs to complete their revival plan. But without any luck in finding New Namek, they decide it is time to go swallow their fear of Goku and steal Earth’s set for themselves. Fortunately, returning Dragon Ball favorites Emperor Pilaf and gang (still kid sized, and one of the best parts of BoG) have been collecting the balls and are already at 6, just in time for Sorbet to strike a “deal” (read: intimidate) with them to use the Dragonballs for their own purposes. After some fun moments, they collect all 7 and succeed in resurrecting Frieza from his spot in Earth’s Hell (the depiction of which is too good to spoil).

Frieza's huge army

Frieza’s huge army

After some time in a regrowth chamber to put his revived pieces back together (after Future Trunks eviscerated his body), Frieza is out for revenge against Goku and Trunks for his death. Sorbet warns him he should not be too hasty, as Goku has become even stronger since they last fought, even defeating Majiin Buu, which stops Frieza’s boasting and actually convinces him of Goku’s progress as a fighter. Instead of marching directly to Earth, Frieza decides to do something he has never needed to before, actually train his skills to a peak and get to Goku’s level (considering how strong Frieza is, it’s an impressive character development that he has never trained a day in his life, and brings his arrogance into more perspective). These scenes with Frieza are interspersed with fun scenes of peace on Earth: Krillin in his day job, Piccolo playing Uncle to Gohan and Videl’s child Pan, before the harmony is broken by a new character. Jaco, The Galactic Patrolman ,one of Toriyama’s more recent creations (the manga is set in the early days of the DBZ universe where 5 year old Bulma fixes the space-cop’s broken ship), comes back to warn Bulma of Frieza’s return. This warning is just enough for Bulma to get Krillin, Master Roshi (making a return to his “pumped-up” persona), Tien, Piccolo, and Gohan ready for battle before Frieza actually arrives and sets up the best scenes in the film. Frieza shows up to earth with his entire fighting force (an alarmingly huge number not usually seen in DBZ fights) and is ready to destroy the planet unless Goku shows up, and because he and Vegeta are otherwise occupied training in the far reaches of Space with Whis, this presents a problem.

These guys get their chance to shine!

These guys get their chance to shine!

The former Z-fighters decide to hold off the giant army while Goku is reached, as they can tell Frieza is at a whole new power-level than before, and we are treated to some of the best animated fight choreography to ever grace the silver screen. Everyone reminds us why we loved them so much before “power-creep” made them largely irrelevant to Goku, Vegeta, and the overwhelmingly intense villains like Cell and Buu. They use brains and brawn to take out hundreds of soldiers each, while fighting as a unit and having each other’s backs. They all get a chance to shine and give several fist-pump moments to the audience as they destroy the entire army, and even a sense of dread that sets up the stakes when, as powerful as they were just demonstrated to be, they know they can’t do anything against Frieza. As much as I loved this sequence, this is where the first major issue with the plot comes in: the paper-thin excuse for the more powerful characters’ absence from this fight, Gotenks and Buu (who arguably could’ve wiped the army out by themselves), is just “we don’t want to involve them”? Android 18, and heck even Videl and Yamcha (he’s a fan-favorite and what a diss he gets) are ignored as well because it is “too dangerous” to have them involved, but they are all very capable fighters who you would want in the self-described “all-hands on deck” type of world ending situation Frieza presents( not to mention they had no issue with the danger of the situation against the literal GOD OF DESTRUCTION all those characters helped fight in the last film.) The true explanation is more than likely real-world concerns like availability of the Japanese voice actors (and therefore inability to include them in the animation the English dub is based on), but still it seems incredibly lazy to not provide any kind of believable excuse for their absence.

 

Frieza and Goku have their rematch

Frieza and Goku have their rematch

The plot and pacing issues continue as the second half of the film approaches and Goku and Vegeta finally arrive to the battle. During their training with Whis, he has been carefully observing their battle techniques and critiquing what is holding them back from Beerus’ level. Goku is too carefree and lets his guard down due to overconfidence, while Vegeta’s pride and constant angst makes his view too narrow and doesn’t allow for adapting to the battle. This is an interesting point because usually, the series is much more concerned with how many new attacks it can cram in to a fight than actually providing a roadmap for the characters to grow against their flaws. But their training is interrupted and they whisk away to the battle rather unceremoniously. Goku and Frieza have their banter (fun since they haven’t seen each other in ages) and decide to fight almost ritually, like gentleman challenging each other to a duel for sport. They both begin casually sparring at base level, seeming to have fun with it, but it sucks out all of the dramatic tension built up from the previous Z-fighters desperate battle. After admitting they are both holding back, the old rivals finally decide to let loose their entire power in their respective new forms. Goku becomes,.. the blue tinted Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (what a horrible name for an ability, I understand it is a “Super Saiyan” form enriched with the power of the “Super Saiyan God” transformation from BoG, but come on…) while Frieza becomes,… Golden Frieza. I like the very direct assertion that Frieza chose the powered up form to be gold as a jab to the original Super Saiyan form that beat him, and it is formidable indeed.

The ensuing battle is beautifully choreographed and animated, but sadly interspersed with lackluster quality CG animation that really takes away from the top-of-the-line 2D fights. It makes sense from a practical point of view since CG models takes less time to animate, but it feels very lazy to use such low quality renders, especially when games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse recreate the high-octane action of the 2D so well in 3D space.  I paid so much attention to the visuals of the film because apparently that’s all the plot was interested in showing me, there was absolutely no stakes or tension in the battle since Frieza never really gets the upper hand. The pacing is slow and deliberate; almost like the pair are just play-sparring and I would’ve completely checked out if it weren’t for the other character’s comedy asides intercutting the action.

Lackluster 3D

Lackluster 3D

 

And beautiful 2D

And beautiful 2D

I feel bad complaining about such a fun idea, two titans of the DBZ universe having a rematch in their vastly improved forms, but it felt like eating a whole tub of vanilla ice cream, good at first but after 30 minutes it’s just meh. The whole endeavor feels like is building to a resounding climax that never happens, it just fizzles. Not to mention Vegeta getting sidelined for no good reason, swallowing his pride and letting Goku battle on his own. Honestly, DBZ has always been Vegeta’s story of growth and redemption, since Goku has always remained an irresponsible man-child too focused on his selfish need to battle strong fighters to realize he should be prioritizing the lives of innocents first (That is Toriyama’s depiction of him, not the liberties the original English dub took with him); so to have him left out feels like a waste.

Vegeta is at least on par with Goku, for once

Vegeta is at least on par with Goku, for once

While it seems SSGSS Goku may not be a total match for Frieza for a second, eventually Frieza realizes he will lose because didn’t train in his new form enough and his body cannot sustain it, so he utilizes a dirty trick to gain the upper hand (harkening back to Whis’ warning that Goku is too overconfident to finish things when he has the chance). This sidelines Goku and a completely fresh Vegeta takes over (also achieving SSGSS, to roaring applause in the audience since he always seems to be left behind) and destroys Frieza. Just as it he is about to end it, Frieza makes a last ditch effort to gain some revenge and destroys the planet, harkening back to Whis explaining Vegeta is too tightly wound to see all the possible outcomes of his actions. The shock doesn’t last more than 30 seconds though, as Whis pulls out his Deus Ex Machina “Temporal Do-Over” to rewind the last 3 minutes and give Goku the chance to wipe Frieza off the map and steal the kill from Vegeta, before he has his shot at redemption. This new ability basically wipes any tension from the rest of the battles the Z-fighters will ever fight, because who needs Dragon Balls when a magical space deity can just rewind time? The ending comes swiftly after that, with neither Goku or Vegeta  heading Whis’ advice in realizing they should work together to tackle fights that are too big for either individually (if they had, Frieza would’ve been toast a lot easier), conceding any chance of character development and leaving the status quo mostly unchanged. This, combined with the time rewinding just solidifies we shouldn’t expect much pathos or development to happen in the DBZ universe, just some cool fights and comedy. Which I suppose isn’t the worst thing, but with so much artistic vision currently booming in the Anime industry, you would think the writers would let a little of it bleed into one of the pillars the industry was founded upon. The voice acting from the English cast is stellar and even the new voice of Frieza is surprisingly on point, harkening back to the original but giving him an updated flair. The soundtrack works well, mixing some great Japanese Rock (including the 2008 Maximum the Hormone song about Frieza that Toriyama said was an inspiration for the film) and instrumentals

 

The film is crazy fun, like Frieza here

The film is crazy fun, like Frieza here

Overall, while the film’s second half misses every opportunity for innovation in the time-tested formula for a DBZ plot, stubbornly refusing to accept growth in the familiar duo, the first half really delivers. The presentation is mostly astounding and kinetic, but the CG and focus on low-tension fisticuffs really drags out in the second half, missing the epic feel of the first half bouts. This film’s relatively wide release is a milestone event for Japanese Anime films in American cinema (which hasn’t happened since 2011’s Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance). Distributor FUNimation Entertainment has plans to release Attack on Titan, Summer Wars and a few other films, but that is surely contingent on this film doing well enough to justify the effort.  Hopefully the rabidity of the franchise fan base (including myself) can convince FUNimation and anime creators in Japan that the audience is here and ready to see more of their work on the big screen. We are sure to see what the few plot developments of this film have in store for our heroes in the Dragon Ball Super series currently airing on Japanese television, but I for one hope Vegeta finally gets to be the hero.


About the Author

Kenneth Rodriguez

Kenny has been completing his pokedex since Pokemon Yellow, ever ready for his next test, comics in hand. He thinks Mass Effect is the best game series ever,.. period and loves TV and Movies dearly. Follow him on Twitter @k_rod14