Dragon! Dragon! Rock the Dragon!
by: Anthony Zangrillo
In the follow-up to last year’s Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods, the Z-Warriors return to fight an old foe in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F.’ Frieza, one of the most iconic villains of all time, is back and as cruel as ever. To up the ante, Goku and Vegeta showcase a new God form Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (say that five times fast). While flawed, Resurrection ‘F’ proves that the new wave of DBZ films have taken the series back to its fun, yet intense roots. The animated fights are breathtaking, and the film furthers Goku and Vegeta’s character arcs. Indeed, this streamlined story solidifies the resurgence of this beloved anime.
Following Goku’s defeat at the hands of Beerus, the God of Destruction, Goku and Vegeta undergo intense training sessions with Beerus’s mighty attendant, Whis. During this time, the Freeza Force reemerges from the depths of space to steal the Dragon Balls and summon the mighty Shenron to revive the sadistic Frieza. After piecing together Frieza’s manacled body, Frieza remains intent on exacting his revenge. For the first time in his life, Frieza actually trains to gain enough strength to finally eliminate the Saiyan race and the planet Earth. Frieza and his goons descend upon the Earth, forcing the lower echelon of Z-fighters to defend their homeworld. After obliterating all of Frieza’s loyal followers, the real fight begins as Goku challenges Frieza to the rematch of the century. Even though Goku has nearly mastered his new God powers, Frieza boasts a new “Golden” form leading to a showdown for the ages.
Akira Toriyama, series creator, remains receptive to audience feedback from his last project Battle of the Gods. While fans savored the return of a light-hearted tone before the flames of battle ignited, some derided these “campy” aspects of the film. For example, Battle of the Gods included the return of the cringe worthy Emperor Pilaf and Vegeta’s wacky dance performance. To remedy this situation, Resurrection ‘F’ includes Pilaf and his gang in a minor cameo role, and Vegeta never breaks his noble “Prince of all Saiyans” personality. Still, humor remains in the film, such as Krillin’s first appearance as a cop, Beerus and Whis’s love of Earthly confectionary treats, and the cowardly Jaco the Galatic Patrolman. Additionally, Frieza brings his insane, dark comedy tone in a vicious and pompous style. In fact, the introduction to this fierce alien features a fan-made “death metal” ballad further solidifying the sadistic leader’s intentions.
Resurrection ‘F’ shines in its commitment to evolving Goku and Vegeta. Throughout the series, Goku and Vegeta have expressed different, yet debilitating flaws, representative of the Saiyan race. Goku’s good-natured, yet naïve personality has doomed the Earth several times, while Vegeta’s egotistical pride limits him from conquering his Saiyan archrival. This film confronts these character flaws immediately, and the film methodically foreshadows the problems created by these traits. While some may complain about the calculated nature of the plot, I appreciated the protagonists’ depth of personality after suffering through the one-dimensional and boring writing of the Dragon Ball GT saga (a work with no involvement from Toriyama).
While Resurrection ‘F’ is noticeably shorter than Battle of the Gods, it never reaches the lows of previous entries in the DBZ movie universe. In fact, this film even manages to feature some of the lower tier defenders of Earth. Utilizing new animation techniques, Gohan, Krillin, Piccolo, Tien, Jaco, and even Master Roshi make short work of an entire army of Freeza Force soldiers. In the years of peace, all of these warriors have diminished significantly. For example, Gohan sports a nerdy tracksuit, and he is uncertain if he can still utilize his Super Saiyan form. Even though the soldiers prove to be no match for the heroes, Frieza unveils his immense power in a shocking and cruel display that paralyzes the Z-Fighters with fear. Shortly thereafter, Goku and Vegeta arrive on the battlefield to let the real conflict begin. While most of the fight showcases Goku and Frieza, Vegeta manages to steal the show with a fierce and impressive display of his jump in power.
The new age of Dragon Ball embraces change, and the show thrives in taking risks in story progression. It was a shock for Goku to be completely outmatched by Beerus in Battle of the Gods. Rezurrection ‘F’ attempts to achieve the same reaction from their audience. In a return to form, the progression of the battle is both mental and physical. The combat addicted Saiyans squabble amongst each other for the opportunity to fight their resurrected enemy. Unfortunately, this portrays Frieza as a weak and petty opponent (a sin GT has never been able to recover from). However, Frieza’s desperate and cunning personality enables him to match the vastly, over-powered “monkeys.” Still, the true stakes and dire circumstances of the fight feel absent for most of the conflict, rising to an unprecedented level in the final moments. Despite this gripe, both Goku and Vegeta each have moments to shine in masterfully made fight sequences. The new blue Super Saiyan form clashes perfectly with Frieza’s golden persona. Furthermore, the perspective shots really place the viewer in the heat of the action propelling the fights to new levels of intensity. However, the waning moments of the film will have audiences sigh at a clichéd plot device that the Z-fighters utilize in order to save the day.
Overall, fans of the franchise will enjoy another epic battle between the Saiyans and the despotic Frieza. At the same time, seeds of a larger Dragon Ball narrative are planted in this film, allowing fans to speculate on the future of this legendary anime. Dragon Ball is back and here to stay!!!