Dragonball Z is another franchise everyone’s heard of. People tend to either love it for its characters and action sequences or think it’s kind of stupid because it’s kind of a mindless action series where people scream to get stronger. Whatever your opinion on the series, Toriyama Akira’s creation has certainly had a profound impact on pop culture. It also has over a dozen films. So, you may be wondering which one I’m looking at today. Well, that would be the most recent film from just last year. Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods.
The narrative begins with the Northern Kai talking to the Supreme Kai, using their long distance communication technique, about the awakening of the God of destruction, Beerus. Goku overhears, being on the Kai’s planet for training because taking care of his family would not be fun and it’s much better to wander off to distant planets where they can’t find him. We cut to Beerus, who’s waking up from his slumber. He and his companion, Wiss, discuss what’s been happening with Frieza and Beerus learns that he was killed by a super saiyan. This reminds him of something he heard from the oracle fish, which is apparently a thing, about a Super Saiyan God. So, he and Wiss go on a mission to find out what that is. They start with Goku, whom Beerus easily defeats in a quick sparring match. Then they head to Earth, the Northern Kai warning Vegeta to not fight or upset Beerus, lest the God decide to destroy the planet.
There are several things the movie does well. It has a great sense of humour. It’s also really interesting to see Vegeta try to appease Beerus, even though you know it’s Dragonball Z and it’s only a matter of time until the fight sequence. I also do like that the ultimate resolution isn’t what you’d expect from the franchise. There’s also one really satisfying fact about the film. It invalidates GT. If you’re not a fan of the franchise, let me give you the short version. GT was a sequel to Dragonball Z that the original writer, Toriyama Akira, had absolutely nothing to do with. Most fans hated it. So, how does Battle of Gods flip this unwanted sequel the proverbial bird? Pilaf, Shu and Mai, three antagonists from the original Dragonball, appear in the film as little kids, having wished for youth at some unspecified time before. In GT the three of them appear as elderly and decrepit, while characters who are now older than them are just middle-aged.
Now, let’s go into the negative aspects. There are really two major narrative problems with the film. The first just doesn’t make much sense. Why does the Northern Kai only warn Vegeta? I get the reason from a comedic perspective. It puts Vegeta in a situation where he has to try to keep this guy calmed down while no one else realises the danger. But from a story perspective, it doesn’t make any bloody sense. Why tell the guy who’s known for his bad temper but not tell any of the people who could exercise a more calming influence? It’s not like Piccolo or Gohan is going to panic because someone ridiculously strong is coming or they’re going to deliberately antagonise him when they know the risk just to see his power.
That brings me to the second problem, which is a bit of a spoiler. I know, I usually try to avoid telling you major plot details, but this one needs to be talked about. Basically, they discover that summoning the “Super Saiyan God” requires five Saiyans putting their energy into a sixth. That leads to a bit of a pinch. They only have five; Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Trunks and Goten. Enter one of the dumbest plot points I’ve ever seen. Videl is pregnant and the baby is going to be a quarter Saiyan, so they’re able to draw upon the… power of the fetus to complete the transformation. You may notice that your brain actually hurts from reading that sentence. Let me assure you, I am not making that up. I know, it’s hard to believe that any franchise would do something that profoundly stupid, but it actually happens.
Since Dragonball Z has a massive cast, I’ll keep the bulk of the discussion to the characters who play an important role in the film Yeah, you see most of the major supporting characters from the series like Yamcha, Krillin, Tenshinhan, Chiaotzu and so on. They get very little dialogue and they don’t do much. If you’re a fan of their characters you’ll probably be happy to see them otherwise you’ll just notice that they’re there.
Vegeta gets some really good character moments in this. Actually, his entire family does. Vegeta, Bulma and Trunks all get some great moments and they interact with each other really strongly. Surprisingly so given that the film is only an hour and a half long. I also really like the Pilaf, Mai & Shu scenes. They were really funny in the original Dragonball and this film sees their triumphant return. Beerus is also a great antagonist. He’s hilarious and just a delight.
The art in this is superb. It has Toriyama’s signature character designs with really detailed backgrounds. I especially loved Beerus’s world. It looks amazing. The fight scenes are what you’d expect with quick movements and flashy attacks. Although, being a movie, they don’t spend nearly as much time with characters powering up or with moves that take a long time to charge. Which is frankly for the best since the fights in the series proper tend to drag because of that kind of thing. The fights in this are a lot smoother.
Everyone in the cast is pretty good. The best performances come from Tsuru Hiromi, Horikawa Ryo and Yamadera Kouichi as Bulma, Vegeta and Beerus respectively. The music is also really good.
There is none. 1/10.
There are some really good things about this film. The comedic moments, the antagonist, the interactions with Vegeta and his family, the non-traditional ending and invalidating GT are all reasons to give it a watch. That being said, there are also some serious problems. The Northern Kai’s decision to warn only Vegeta makes no sense. The fetus helping them power up is oh so mind-numbingly stupid. All of the characters who are in the background but neither say nor do anything important beyond giving Bulma’s party a sense of size. Which is kind of a flimsy justification for their presence. Still, I would recommend it to fans of the Dragonball franchise and I did enjoy watching it over all. As such, my final rating is going to be a 7/10. Tomorrow, Film Festival week continues with something more… futuristic.