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Review: “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F'” – New Uses For Old Toys

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection FDecades ago, the fate of the Saiyans, ruthless planet-conquering mercenaries, was sealed. Their employer, the maleveolent Lord Frieza, had learned that their survival would lead to his ultimate downfall, and wiped out their planet and its entire population. A few survivors would work under him for a time, most notably Prince Vegeta of the Saiyans; one errant child Goku also escaped to Earth as an infant.

Time passed, and Frieza’s control over the galaxy grew, as did Vegeta’s hatred of Frieza, while Goku’s developed into the ultimate savior of Earth. When all the forces clashed on idyllic planet Namek, the homeworld of the Namekians, friends and foes both fell  in the wake of the battle between Goku and Frieza, including Vegeta and the planet itself. Goku survived, having accessed a new power, but was far away from his revived friends and allies (including a resurrected Vegeta).

Modern technology brought the ultimate form of Frieza back to life, but as a cybernetic hodgepodge. Aided by his father and an army, they invaded Earth, only to be summarily dispatched, diced, and destroyed by a teenage boy from the future nobody knew of.

Life went on and the Z Warriors fought in many other battles; most recently, after defeating the dimensional-shattering glutton known as Majin Buu, our heroes had a run-in with the God of Destruction, Beerus, and his time-shifting aide, Whis. The pair proved to be like many of Goku’s allies: initially presented as enemies, but soon unlikely (and occasionally just unhelpful) bystanders.

Dragon Ball is enjoying a significant resurgence across most media nowadays. You have some solid video games released or upcoming, a new television series, Dragon Ball Super, has premiered on Japanese television (bafflingly, there’s been no official word of a simulcast or any sort of legal appearance in America), and a theatrical film released in America less than a year ago paved the way for new stories in the Dragon Ball Z timeline. Even Akira Toriyama (creator)’s reportedly-final drawn work, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, recently received an English-language release.

For those who want to figure out the timeline, here’s where we are going into things:

Dragon Ball (the original animated series) still happened.
Most of Dragon Ball Z (the secondary animated series) still happened, up until the defeat of Buu.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods happened, and this is direct follow-up to it.

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection FHere’s where things get weird. The final half-dozen or so episodes of Dragon Ball Z skip some years. Children grow into teenagers, teenagers grow into adults with a young child, and, theoretically, some years of peace pass. This does not seem to be invalidated, but this timeskip gives Toriyama and company an ingenious built-in era to add new stories without aging everybody.

Dragon Ball Super is set in this time period alongside these movies, but the first few episodes of the series (culling from Japanese-only airings) seem to be adding new stories and bits while remaking the previous movie, Battle of Gods, and would logically flow into Resurrection ‘F’. Time will tell if this is a misdirect, but the actions of these movies seem to not be evident as of the first episode.

Following this era is the timeskip end of Dragon Ball Z and (until we’re told otherwise) Dragon Ball GT, a sequel series that goes further into the future. Despite largely being based off plots and designs by Toriyama, his general exclusion from the series makes many consider it not part of the story proper, but some nuggets of entertainment may be gleaned by those who come to it with open eyes.

Why bring up all this? After 30 years, there’s a plethora of Dragon Ball storylines to build on, reference, and refute. It’s nearly impossible to go into this movie without some inkling of what’s going on, but due to the iconic nature of the series and characters, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone in a movie theater seeing this on a whim and without the desire to see the return of one of the franchise’ greatest threats.

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection FAs Goku and Vegeta train with Whis, having tasted what true power remains in a world where they’ve defeated apocalyptic dimension-breakers, remnants of Frieza’s empire work together to resurrect their leader. Teaming up with Emperor Pilaf, Mai, and Shou, three would-be world conquerors from Goku’s childhood days, they collect the wish-granting Dragon Balls and bring back their despot… or, at least, chunks of him. Using their newly-advanced technology, they regrow his body and pass the baton back. Frieza has returned from the horrific visions of Earth’s Hell he suffered (read: fairies and plush animals and flowers), and has one goal in mind: defeat Goku, his first true and significant destroyer (while he technically survived that battle and died at the hands of another, it’s hard to get revenge on a time-traveler who has skipped out of your era). Learning that Goku has defeated Majin Buu and fought Beerus, the two creatures Frieza himself was warned never to challenge, Frieza is reinvigorated. If he can train (something he’s never done, apparently), he’ll power-up enough to enact his revenge.

Time passes, and Bulma (our hero Goku’s childhood friend who’s grown into a technological genius, mother, and the only person to beat Vegeta into matrimonial submission) has a visitor from outer space: Jaco, the Galactic Patrolman.

If you’ve only watched the animated works of Toriyama, you’re forgiven for not knowing who Jaco is. Release in a one-volume comic in recent months, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman tells the story of the titular hero, a self-aggrandizing superhero and warrior of an intergalactic peacekeeping police force. When his ship crashes on Earth, he ends up needing the help of an unlikely recluse with a time machine to rebuild his transport. By the end of his adventures (and only revealed in the final chapter), the reader finds out that Jaco was sent to intercept and destroy the ship that was carrying Goku to Earth, and that the only reason Jaco made it off the planet (and therefore, out of the franchise for 30-something years of continuity) was thanks to the technical skills of Tights, Bulma’s never-before-mentioned older sister, alongside a young Bulma herself, who was about to set off on a journey to find the rumored Dragon Balls.

TL;DR: Jaco the Galactic Patrolman is a prequel to Dragon Ball.

Jaco is the first significant new character of the movie, since the generic subordinates of Frieza accomplish nothing in the plot other than moving the pieces before getting out of the way. Jaco is a greatly-entertaining character in his own right, and his inclusion in the intro for Dragon Ball Super and in this movie are encouraging that he’ll slowly become one of the recurring support characters of the series. Jaco avoids things out of pure lazinesss, skipping out on battles because of the extra paperwork that would be involved, but thinks of himself as such a great hero he takes the time to pose in battle.

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection FJaco arrives to tell the Earthlings that Frieza’s coming back… in about an hour. Humanity has to scramble to at least put up a front line of defense before Goku and Vegeta, the true heavyweights, can come in and save the day. One one hand, Krillin has enough time to go home, change, shave his head and disparage his wife (Android #18, who is even acknowledged as more-powerful, is encouraged to stay at home to protect their kid. She comments on how cool Krillin is, and it’s about as offensively and unintentionally misogynistic as you’d think it is), but Gohan manages to only show up in a track suit because he couldn’t find his fighting uniform… despite the fact that Piccolo, who also arrives, has shown the ability to create uniforms out of thin air. The tricloptic warrior Tien shows up, alongside the master of many of the characters, Master Roshi. These are the heroes in a pinch, which is a bit embarrassing (despite all these characters being significant at various points, all have been relegated to sidelines) from it’s dearth and it’s complete inanity. If you’re fighting an army of hundreds, if not a thousand plus, just get everyone you can in the battle. It’d make for an (more) entertaining set piece, but we all know the true fight won’t start until Goku and Vegeta take on Frieza.

From here on, the plot would be nothing but spoilers, but here’s some important beats to understand:

Yes, Goku and Vegeta both have a new form, known as “Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan” in the marketing materials/action figures/etc., but it’s not explicitly named nor even explained how it’s attained. Goku gives some handwave about how he was able to tap into the Super Saiyan God form (from the last movie), but made it into something his own. Vegeta going into it is complete left-field. The only significant change gives the heroes blue hair. They already had new costumes going into this movie, but blue hair is the only indicator that they’ve “powered up;” there’s no particularly new moves, abilities, or more that would give an indicator of it’s strength.

Frieza has a new form, which he self-declares as “Golden Frieza,” which is a slight redesign of the lines of his body and exchanges white for gold. See the same as above for Goku and Vegeta; we’re told it’s new and special, but have no proof.

There is a slight misdirect in their fights, which leads to a moment that’s written on the wall, if you’ve been paying attention to the dialogue of characters early on. Also, a character is nearly taken out in a laughably-bad manner; if you’ve got the ability to destroy planets and take on super-powered energy blasts, a raygun should prove forgettable, not fatal.

Dragon Ball Z Resurrection FThe movie is completely enjoyable for fans of the franchise, as it does bring back a favorite villain in a new battle, along with some favorite side-characters while advancing the plot. Even if it takes a moment to sweep up the trash of the past, it still is moving in new directions. This movie, along with Dragon Ball Super and the previous movie, have also done well to merge the comedy of Toriyama’s Dragon Ball (and Dr. Slump and so forth) with the action of Dragon Ball Z. Characters are laughable in battle, but not annoyingly so. A moment of note is where Master Roshi, surprisingly spry for a character that had defaulted to comic role after years of martial arts mastery, does some impressive moves taking out minions, only to be surprised that he destroyed his staff in the action. Goten and Trunks, the kid comedy duo of the franchise at this point, are completely absent outside of a namedrop, while Pilaf’s trio is in one segment and quickly leave. The humor that Earth’s Hell, which Frieza had to endure, would be peace and bliss for any child with an imagination, adds to the absurdity of his revenge.

Now, much like the last movie, we’re running into some age issues with Dragon Ball Z. The franchise started airing in America nearly 20 years ago, and still retains much of the flaws of that era. At this point, it’s just keeping up with the American concept of the franchise: Goku’s not audibly a hick, attacks are named “Special Beam Cannon,” nobody has a last name in the Son family, and Frieza’s voice is still very much in that camp of King Kai: nothing like the original, odd for the character, but built-in to the American mindset of the characters. Beyond these irks, the voice acting for the movie is well done, and it’s accompanied by an enjoyable soundtrack that knows when to stay low and quiet, but rock out when needed.

Does Resurrection ‘F’ resurrect the franchise? Not particularly, but it does provide a final bit of rearranging to get things in place for the future. Here are the characters you like in the designs you like, here’s some new toys to play with, and we’re even bringing back an older character for one last hurrah. Have fun, we’re going to do more inventive stuff later.

(NOTE: We’re reviewing a theatrical screener Blu-ray provided to us by FUNimation. You may have a different experience seeing the movie in a theater. Additionally, we received a fair amount of promotional trinkets [t-shirt, stress ball, action figure, etc.] that had no bearing on our review, but would be remiss to go unmentioned.)