Sunday, 12 October 2014

Movie Review: Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods (English Dub) (2014)

My personal experience with Dragon Ball Z, admittedly, mostly comes from Team Four Star’s abridged series on YouTube. However, I did watch quite a bit of it when I was a kid, particularly during the Majin Buu/Super Buu arc (That Fantastic Voyage crap with Goku and Vegeta sticks out especially in my memory). Then again, DBZ is one of those shows like Pok√©mon and Digimon (and possibly Yu-Gi-Oh!) that are even people who don’t follow anime are aware of, so this is probably the case for most people.

That said, maybe my being more familiar with the abridged series than the official one was a good thing because… is the show always this goofy? I mean, god of destruction has temper tantrum because he didn't get any pudding at a birthday party, so he decides to destroy the world? This isn't quite Hen Semi ‘Groping by association’ levels of weirdly hilarious, but it’s damn close. I don’t remember the proper show being as ridiculous as this, but then again, it has been a while.

Here’s a quick plot synopsis, after which I’ll discuss it more in depth, which means spoilers. Then again this is Dragon Ball Z; Plot is the garnish on the steak that is the action scenes. Beerus, a god of destruction, has awoken from his slumber where he had a vision of a ‘Super Saiyan God’ that would be able to defeat him in battle. After hearing of how Goku managed to defeat Frieza during his absence, he suspects that he may be the God he dreamt of and leaves with his assistant Whis to confront him.

Without a doubt, this dips its toes more into comedy than just straight action, and it does so quite well. Whether it’s straight-up slapstick (almost literally, given how many get slapped in the face here) or good old fashioned anime-style weirdness like the aforementioned pudding debacle, the film handles its comedy well with the voice acting doing a great job delivering the jokes. This does make it feel more like a gag anime than a proper movie, which is odd given how this is the first theatrically released DBZ movie in over a decade, but I’m not going to knock it just because I wasn’t expecting it. Especially when it gave me so many damn belly laughs throughout. When you have a movie where Vegeta is dancing on stage and singing about bingo, it’s a command to laugh that must be followed. As for the action, it thankfully isn't all ‘charging up energy attack for ten straight minutes’ and focuses more on the flashy martial arts, which all looks decent. The new version of Cha-La-Head-Cha-La they use here is a bit weaksauce, though.

The character designs and overall animation is GT-style, which means that I seriously miss the original look. With that in mind, though, it actually fits in with the more goofy tone. I mean, I highly doubt that Beerus’ hairless cat-inspired design would've worked with the original DBZ style anyway. Beerus does have a nice look to him, reminding me a lot of Bast from Egyptian mythology (The goddess of warfare who had a cat’s head on a human body). Mostly fits, save for the goddess part, but then again Beerus can get a bit prissy sometimes in this movie; Whis, even more so. The Super Saiyan God, though... red hair. That's literally all that's different. LAME.

The CGI work is mixed: On one hand, it does help make this feel like more than just a straight-to-DVD affair, with some very nice-looking outer space locales; on the other hand, it definitely clashes with some of the settings and character models, especially in the final fight between Goku and Beerus where CGI rocks start floating. Sore thumbs come to mind.

The plot takes place after the Kid Buu arc, which I’m not too familiar with myself, but they explain enough of the plot lead-up that I didn't feel lost in the story (Which, given how many episodes we’re dealing with here is kind of miraculous). Although, I will admit, they did lost me a bit with the three people who were now stuck as children, but that's easily ignored (I thought so, at any rate). It mostly involves a lot of goofing around on Earth during Bulma's party, with a few sprinklings of old Saiyan legend about the God, but this IS a comedy, so that's fine by me. It follows the typical beats you would expect from DBZ: New enemy appears, fight, need new technique to defeat him, fight, fight and more fight. The resolution, however, is a bit disjointed. Goku, even with the added power of the Super Saiyan God (Yeah, it turned out to be just another power level higher than Super Saiyan 3), still isn’t a match for Beerus. He manages to save Earth from destruction, of course, but he still loses the fight one-on-one. However, because he was such a tough opponent, he decides to leave him be and spare Earth. There’s also something about how he is the god of destruction in this universe and Whis is actually his teacher and even more powerful than him, along with how there are others in other universes that are stronger than even them. All of this is brought out in the last few minutes and feels more like a drive-by setup for future movies than anything else. As for Beerus leaving our heroes on good terms, it’s definitely a bit of an anti-climax, but it’s not as if this is something new for DBZ. A lot of examples of this are shown in Bulma’s party by whom else got invited: Android 18, Majin Buu, and of course Vegeta, all of whom were previously villains on the show. Hell, maybe this could lead to a future movie where Beerus and Goku team up to fight; sounds cool to me. That, and they built up Beerus’ power so much during the running time, the only way this could end otherwise is with a fight that even the makers of Asura’s Wrath would think was over-the-top.

All in all, this is a fun watch. If you’re a fan of DBZ, this is one you’ll probably check without me having to say so, but I definitely recommend it. Possibly more so if you’re a fan of the abridged version as well, given how a lot of the jokes play out (Goku definitely acts a lot more like MasakoX’s interpretation of the character), but nevertheless it’s extremely funny and worth seeing. It’s better than The Fault In Our Stars, as it doesn't have any syrupy schmaltz to hold it back, but it’s not as good as The Maze Runner, as it doesn't have any real depth that can be read into. This puts it in the ‘good-to-very good’ section. FYI I specify 'English Dub' in the title because the original Japanese version showed over in cinemas in 2013, but the dub was screened in 2014, hence its inclusion in the 2014 list.

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