Dragon Ball seems to be on top of the world with a successful limited engagement release of Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F' by earning a spot in the top ten anime releases of all time. I had a chance to catch a screening at my local theater, the Starlight Dos Lagos 15, which had multiples screenings. In fact, Dragon Ball was so successful that it has started a bit of an anime revolution with my local theater now releasing Boruto : Naruto the Movie and Attack on Titan. So, what is it about Resurrection F' that has so many anime fans flocking to their local theaters? Chances are that if you're reading this article that you already know a thing or two about the series, but lets trace back the reason for the films success. Ignoring the franchises history would be like ignoring all of the films that lead up to Marvels Avengers films. If you already know all of this and want to read the main review then skip on down.
A Brief History
We need to go back a few years, more like a few decades. The series is based off Akira Toriyama's hit manga (Japanese comic book) which debuted in 1984. Loosely based on Journey to the West, Dragon Ball featured Son Goku, a Saiyan sent to earth, on his quest to collect all of the wish granting dragon balls along with Bulma and his other friends. The series featured action and plenty of humor ,so is easy to see why it wound up on television. It took two years for the anime adaption to hit the air on February 26, 1986. While the series was loved and considered popular it didn't really become a mega hit until the debut of the sequel series Dragon Ball Z. The show established genre trends in anime that are still being followed today. Constant power ups and transformation's with names like Super Saiyan filled the show.
It's quite literally genre defining
It's quite literally genre defining with countless modern mangaka (Japanese comic book author/artist) having grown up reading and watching Dragon Ball Z and being inspired by what they saw. So, what made Dragon Ball Z different? It featured martial arts action on a scale that had never been seen in television animation up to that point. The fights seemed to escalate in scale in importance. Each fight pit the show's heroes against impossible odds with impossibly strong villains that seemed invincible. Characters died which highlighted how high the stakes were. Even the main character wasn't immune to this. Luckily, the dragon balls offered a remedy to this problem. The series ran from 1989 -1996 and saw the exit of the series creator Akira Toriyama.
Having a mega hit on their hands, Toei didn't want to let the successful series end and aired Dragon Ball GT. The series is a stain on the history of Dragon Ball and mostly considered terrible. I will admit that I am a fan of the Super Saiyan 4 transformation in the show. The series suffered from low ratings and only ran from 1996-1997. It should also be noted that Dragon Ball GT is not considered proper story canon and everything that happens is a weird what if story. This all explains why the series is successful in Japan, but what about overseas?
Say "anime" and chances are that Dragon Ball Z is what pops into many peoples minds
Dragon Ball Z saw several releases in North America, but it wasn't until it debuted on Toonami (an animated programming block on Cartoon Network) that it became a mega hit. It gave young audiences something they had never seen before. Viewers quickly became fans. Animated shows aimed at younger audiences mostly consisted of tame scenarios and if they had action , would consist of low stakes scenarios where no one would got hurt. Dragon Ball Z also serves as an entire generations first exposure to anime in general. Say "anime" and chances are that Dragon Ball Z is what pops into many peoples minds. This lead to Hollywood deciding that it was time to adapt the series to live action with Dragon Ball Evolution and the fans cried. Not tears of joy, but agony. The film was such a disaster that even the series creator has distanced himself from the Hollywood adaption. It was also a financial disaster with it earning $9.3 million domestically and a $2,181 per screen average.
It's no surprise that the effort to restore the reputation of the series after Dragon Ball Gt and Dragon Ball Evolution lingered in Toriyama's mind. This manifested in the creation of Dragon Ball Battle of the Gods. It wasn't a live action film or a throw away film. It promised to give fans a new story that was canon according the series creator in its intended 2D animated form. At the time, it wasn't known that the film would be the first step in bringing the series back. Fans still believed that that film took place between Dragon Ball Z and GT. The film was successful and earned more than $50 million globally. It was also generally liked by fans of the series since. The follow up film was quickly announced with the title Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F' . The 'F" standing for Frieza, one of the most memorable villains in the shows history as well the character to who drove Goku to surpass his limits and transform into a Super Saiyan. Then Toei announced that there would be a new television series titles Dragon Ball Super and would ignore GT entirely. Fans cried tears of joy which has since become pain given the recent batch of screen grabs showing how janky the animation can be at times. So, this ends the history lesson and we can move on to the actual review.
Dragon Ball Resurrection F is intended solely for fans of the series. If I were to judge it as a film intended for general audiences then it would get an incredibly low score. This is because Resurrection F spends little to no time with backstory or explaining why anything is happening. It's a sequel to a film that already had minimal backstory because it relies on the audience having seen the TV show. Lets take Marvels the Avengers as an example. It's a film that is built on previous works, but doesn't require the audience to have seen every movie that lead up to the film. Characters are introduced and we get short moments that shows the audience what motivates each character and we get a complete experience without the absolute need to watch what came before. Watching any of the lead in films gives viewers more knowledge and enhances the experience , but The Avengers doesn't rely on audiences having seen everything. Resurrection F is a continuation of a very long series and every character was fleshed out decades ago. So it then becomes impossible to judge this movie by normal standards. Instead, I will be looking at it as a the intended audience and rate it based on it being a Dragon Ball movie.
Resurrection F is enjoyable. Lets get that out of the way
Resurrection F is enjoyable. Lets get that out of the way. The movie manages to correct a few issues that the previous movie had. It primarily focuses more on the side characters that long time fans love. We get glimpses into the everyday lives of Krillin , Gohan and Bulma. The film also gives the other Z fighters a featured fight to show off fan favorite fighting moves and techniques. The film also expands the new mythology by showing Goku and Vegeta training with the previous movies antagonists Whis and Beerus. It also provides more than a few laughs which is must in a DBZ film.
The biggest draw for the film is the return of the series most recognizable villain, Frieza. It was Frieza that pushed Goku beyond his limits to achieve the legendary status of Super Saiyan. The moment is remembered by fans and often refereed to in the show as well. Frieza was also repsonsible for the destruction of the Saiyan home world and the death of my personal favorite, Krillin. Frieza was eventually defeated and was brought back to life. This seemed like an epic rematch between him and Goku, but was quickly defeated by newcomer Trunks in mere seconds. This robbed Frieza and the audience of the rematch they craved. That's why Resurrection F seems to try and make good on that promise and has become the focus of the film.
The film starts off with Frieza in hell living out his nightmares by being surrounded by adorable creatures singing cute songs. This quickly leads to his former servants using the dragon balls to bring back their leader and restore their grip on the galaxy. Frieza is restored and vows to exact revenge upon Goku. The embarrassment of being defeated causes Freiza to decide to actually train for the first time in his life in order to accomplish his goal.
We go through a pretty large chunk of the first half of the movie without seeing the main character
The film then shifts to catch up mode and we get a picture of what the Z fighters have been up to since their last battle. Piccolo has become the grumpiest and most lovable babysitter ever and Gohan continues to build up his life with Videl. Krillin is shown in his new career and all seems well. You're probably wondering about Goku and Vegeta by now. We go through a pretty large chunk of the first half of the movie without seeing the main character. He isn't missed too much since we get a chance to catch up with everyone else, but his absence is notable.
Audiences also get introduced to Jaco the Galactic Patrolman who was featured in his own manga which connects to the main continuity of the film. It's a bit jarring for those who know nothing about Jaco since he doesn't even get an introduction. He's treated as though he has always been in the series and I overheard many audience members murmur and ask who he was. Though those murmurs were quelled once Jaco started talking and providing comedic relief. Jaco was easily one of the best parts about Resurrection F.
Without going into any spoilers, it's very anticlimactic
So, everything sounds pretty good for the most part , right? Well, the film has a few problems. The main one is the promised fight between Goku and Frieza . Without going into any spoilers, it's very anticlimactic. We had months of buildup and the title promises an epic fight with everything on the line. It then comes as a disappointment when we realize that Frieza isn't too much of a threat. Goku is not pushed beyond his limits and everything that made the original battle amazing is absent in this follow up. In a way, the movie fails its main purpose. It isn't the gripping rematch that fans have been waiting for.
Another eyebrow raise is when Goku gets momentarily taken out and wounded by a simple laser. Seriously. He can take a planet destroying punch or energy blast to the face and get nothing more than a scratch, but shoot a simple laser at him and he's down.
The animation just does not look good in some parts
There is also the animation. The film cost $5 million to make and while it doesn't look Dragon Ball Super bad, it does use cost cutting techniques and its painfully visible. Battle of the Gods used 3D computer generated models for the characters in a few of the sequences, but it was mostly traditional hand drawn animation. Resurrection F relies on having an invasion be the backdrop of a huge fight scene and uses 3D character models supply the bulk of the background characters, It clashes with the visuals of the film, but you dismiss it as a necessary evil. The real issue comes when the 3D models are used for the main charters and for a large chunk of the fights. It looks like a cut scene from one of the PlayStation 3 games. The animation just does not look good in some parts. The previous film made back a pretty large profit and this one did too. Hopefully this is fixed if another film is announced.
The fights also seem to be painfully slow. Yes, audiences view the fights from the fighters eyes so everything is slowed down so we can see the action, but it looks like slow and clumsy street fighting. There's also the inconstant representation of the charters strength. On the team is Master Roshi who is awesome, but incredibly weak when compared to everyone else. The issue is that he seems to be on par with Gohan who should have enough strength to destroy a planet. They later explain that Gohan was holding back and landing non lethal blows. This explanation comes after the fight, but the damage has been done. It doesn't help that his efforts were pointless due to something that happens later in the film.
The film also suffers from pacing issues and not fleshing out the most interesting part of the new mythos. That has to be the interaction with Whis and Beerus. Each one is aware of an apparent Multiverse and Beerus is is the strongest being in the 7th Universe. Whis as his helper somehow seems to be able to overpower Beerus and is in charge of taking care of him. These explanations elude to a greater mystery , but almost no time is given to this in the film. Also, can we finally give Vegeta a real moment to shine? The poor guy deserves a real win.
It seems like I have spent the majority of the time complaining, but in all honesty, the movie was pretty good. If you're a fan of DBZ and want the latest entry that expands on the story then you will enjoy the film. It has punching, laughs and appearances by your favorite Z fighters. Just don't expect the best story telling or the best animation.
Overall , I would rate this a B-