August 10, 2015

BBW: Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’

Guess who's back... back again.

Guess who’s back… back again.

Title: Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’
Director: Tadayoshi Yamamuro
Writers: Akira Toriyama
Distributed By: (Japan) Toei Company, (North America) 20th Century Fox
Starring: (Japan) Masako Nozawa, Ryō Horikawa, Ryūsei Nakao, Mayumi Tanaka, Toshio Furukawa, Masaharu Satō, Natsuki Hanae, Naoko Watanabe Kōichi Yamadera, Masakazu Morita / (North America) Sean Schemmel, Christopher R. Sabat, Chris Ayers, Sonny Strait, Mike McFarland, Todd Haberkorn, Monica Rial, Jason Douglas, Ian Sinclair
Release Date: April 18, 2015 (Japan) August 4, 2015 (North America)

[Editor’s note: Thanks, Aaron, for filling in! Please stop by on Friday for a return to manga with a special interview!]

Here we are with another exciting installment of BENTO BAKO WEEKLY! This week, I’m going to be filling in for the awesome Kristin. Last week Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ was released in theaters for a limited theatrical run (August 4th-12th), a follow-up to Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, and prequel (for lack of a better term) to the new Dragon Ball anime series starting this year, Dragon Ball Super. This release is the latest in the series of animated films inspired by the very successful manga Dragon Ball.

What works? Teamwork!

What works? Teamwork! (For you TFS fans out there.)

A few things make this particular release pretty noteworthy.  For starters, even though the shows and movies were based on Akira Toriyama’s manga, and he wrote the story for the last movie, this is the first movie for which ALL of the story and screenwriting credits go to Toriyama. Furthermore, this is the first Dragon Ball release of any kind to be presented in 3D! Despite whatever you may feel about 3D as a gimmick, the first ever 3D Dragon Ball release is an important milestone and signifies the studio’s level of faith in the production.

Following the tone of the last film, and providing ample proof of Toriyama’s lighter touch, this movie keeps the series’ light-hearted nature, though things are a little darker considering the stakes and the returning villain involved. So, if the big draw of Frieza isn’t enough for you DBZ fans, the lighter approach to storytelling might cause you to avoid this movie. But don’t let the lighter tone dissuade you from giving this movie a chance, as you might be pleasantly surprised.

Someone is pissed!

Someone is pissed!

The “big bad” of the series is certainly Frieza, one of the only canon villains to make more than one appearance (and not switch to the hero side in the process). In that sense, you could argue that he is to main character Goku what Professor Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes. Resurrection ‘F’ sees the fan-favorite villain brought back to do battle for a third time. The film starts by reacquainting the audience with characters and what they’ve been up to, as we find out that Frieza’s devout followers have devised a plan to bring him back. Luckily, our heroes, Goku and Vegeta, have been training with Whis, the seemingly all-powerful being introduced in the previous film.

Now that the plot is set up let’s address how it just happens to be one of this movie’s biggest failings. If you go back and watch most of the DBZ movies, they tend to follow the same formula: heroes going about their lives, villain uses the dragon balls for some evil scheme, then villain tries to take over the world or get murderous revenge for some past transgression. THIS movie is THAT plot, point by point.  Now bear in mind, it is basically one of very few flaws this movie has.

Vegeta gets his moment... kinda sorta

Vegeta gets his moment…kinda sorta.

One other flaw would be the pay-off/conclusion. The way the film is set up, the supporting character of Vegeta should have had a more central focus, which he starts to get toward the very end of the film, and then suddenly his character focus is dropped in the most abrupt way possible. And when all is said and done the ending is definitely hurt by the way Vegeta is removed from focus and everything centers around Goku again. In fact, the two of them even share a bit of dialogue about how unfair it is. But cheekily pointing out the flaw in your story doesn’t excuse said flaw.

So a fight guaranteed to drag on forever or end far too soon... how about both

So a fight guaranteed to drag on forever or end far too soon…how about both.

My final complaint, and smallest one at that, is in regard to a specific musical cue used during the titular resurrection of Frieza, which requires explaining: A few years ago, a Japanese punk rock/metal band released a Frieza tribute song that apparently became rather popular, and seemingly enjoyed ironically in America by fans for how absurd the thing was, as it found its way into a popular internet parody. Well, this song also found its way into the movie. It just takes an important moment that should have been dramatic and epic, and makes it all unnecessarily silly. It’s the equivalent of having the Juggernaut say “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” in X-Men 3: The Last Stand because it was popularized by an internet joke.

Other than those three grievances – formulaic plot, a reshifting focus weakening the impact of the ending, and an odd music choice – the movie is practically flawless. It truly is a treat for fans of the series and newcomers alike. It’s got action, melodrama, a healthy dose of humor, and strong characterization; all the things that make Dragon Ball great.

Our other heroes matter again!

Our other heroes matter again!

The last movie had only one real problem, where it was crammed full of “silent cameos,” i.e. where a character would appear onscreen and then do nothing whatsoever. Basically every character in the last film, who wasn’t Goku, was ultimately useless in every way. I’m happy to say that this movie is a complete 180! One of the biggest complaints I have about Dragon Ball Z is just how quickly major characters from the original Dragon Ball became completely irrelevant. Basically, all of the older supporting cast was transformed from useful characters into red-shirts who were only there to get beaten or killed to show us how dire the situation was. This movie offers a return to the good ol’ days, where those characters mattered. Before the big showdown, several fan-favorites provide help in the big battle, all getting great moments to shine. It’s absolutely wonderful to see such a respectful use of such long-standing characters again.

First time Master Roshi was awesome in YEARS!

First time Master Roshi was awesome in YEARS!

One of the other strengths of this film is its high level of characterization. Whether characters are on screen for a minute or nearly the whole film, whether recurring or brand new, none of them fall flat, and all of them are instantly recognizable and instantly enjoyable. In a complete reversal from previous DBZ movies, even the unimportant henchmen are given strong characterization this time around.

Goku's down! Tag in Vegeta!

Goku’s down! Tag in Vegeta!

The action isn’t as spectacular this time around as it was in the last film. Maybe it’s just an issue with Frieza, considering that his first showdown was more standing around, talking and screaming than actual fighting, and his second showdown had a ton of buildup for a fight that lasted all of a minute. But the actual fighting action between Frieza, Goku, and Vegeta simply isn’t as dynamic or captivating as the action with Beerus in the last film. No more dramatic, fluid, and frenetic camera movements for this installment, but despite this minor step down, the fight still delivers the goods, and the big brawl with all the supporting characters that takes place prior is absolutely top-notch.

Frieza's shiny new body! ... Cooler did it!

Frieza’s new shiny metal body! … Cooler did it!

The flaws this movie has are few and far between, and the strengths of this movie are enough that the flaws hardly matter. Strong characterization, excellent usage of fan-favorites, great humor, and pretty damn good action all make this a strong entry in the DBZ franchise. If we fans are lucky to get any more movies, I hope they’re as good as this one, and with the new show starting up, I have high hopes for the future of the series! Be sure to check this movie out as soon as you can! I for one can’t wait to buy it on Blu-ray later this year! Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ earns a solid 8 out of 10.

Aaron Nicewonger



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