Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F (Movie Review)

Last year was a big year for Dragon Ball Z. Following the success of 2012’s Battle of Gods, we’ve had a new series in Japan, the online RPG DB Xenoverse and the long-awaited release of DBZ Kai in the UK. Topping it all off was a new film written and overseen by creator Akira Toriyama: Resurrection F. Originally released on 18th April, the film was heavily advertised and enjoyed a limited run in US cinemas last summer. It was planned for release on DVD last October, but due to fan demand, it was given a longer run in our cinemas and the DVD was delayed. It was finally released this year on 25th January (with my pre-ordered copy arriving just before my birthday). So, for those who didn’t see it at the cinema, the million-dollar question is this: was Resurrection F worth the wait?

The film begins sometime after Battle of Gods. Having convinced Beerus to spare the Earth, Goku and Vegeta have left to train with Beerus’ master Whis. In their absence, two aliens named Sorbet and Tagoma come to Earth and use its Dragon Balls to revive Frieza; their former master and the series’ most iconic villain. Immediately upon his return, Frieza vows revenge on Goku for defeating him on Namek. He soon learns Goku has gotten much, much stronger and decides to train for the first time in his life before returning to Earth. A few months later, Goku’s friends are warned of the coming danger and race to meet it head on. However, Goku and Vegeta are nowhere to be seen. Gohan, Piccolo, Krillin, Tien and Master Roshi are forced to fend for themselves until the Saiyans come. When they do, it turns out Goku and Vegeta have become even stronger thanks to Whis’ training. But Frieza also has some new tricks of his own, and he’s all too ready to use them.

Resurrection F had a lot going for it: a signature villain, a script by series creator Akira Toriyama and, like Battle of Gods before it, the distinction of being canon (an official part of the series’ storyline). However, I’m going to be honest - it’s hard to recommend whether you’re a fan of DBZ or not. Having Toriyama-san on board means the characters speak and behave as they should, but the trouble is he isn’t a seasoned screenwriter. He made the series in manga (comic) form and, in a strange move, he wrote the film as if it were a new arc in the manga. It may sound like a dream come true, but in action it’s another story. The film moves incredibly fast, preventing us from savouring every punch, kick and blast the characters throw at each other. It’s worse if you’re seeing DBZ for the first time; compared to Battle of Gods, Resurrection F jumps right into the action, giving you no time to get into the world. The cast are given the barest of introductions and Frieza’s long, brutal backstory is barely covered. If you’ve never heard of a Super Saiyan, or you don’t know who Trunks is, this isn’t the place to find out. Prior knowledge of the series lore is a must.

Whether you’re new to DBZ or a long-time fan, Resurrection F has one flaw that won’t go away: its pacing. The anime was infamous for moving incredibly slow, but here it’s the opposite. The fighting the series is famous for starts around twenty minutes in, and when it starts there’s no slowing down. Sadly, the fight scenes dominate the remaining hour preventing other scenes and plot points from being developed. One of the worst is the absence of Majin Buu; a former villain last seen in Battle of Gods. In this film, Frieza refers to Buu as “one of two warriors in the universe he was never to challenge.” Buu is alive and well when Frieza returns, but he doesn’t make an appearance. His absence could have easily been addressed with a line of dialogue, but it goes unexplained in both the Japanese and English dubs.

However, it pales in comparison to the film’s final act: Goku’s battle with Frieza. For this fight, both unleash new transformations - Super Saiyan Blue (formerly Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan) and Golden Frieza respectively. But, unlike in the series, these transformations are done without ceremony. In Goku’s case, there’s no build up and little explanation of his new form; just a line saying he’s learned to harness the Super Saiyan God power (from Battle of Gods) on his own. Golden Frieza, on the other hand, is given the “plant-and-payoff” treatment he deserves. In spite of this, the main event isn’t all it’s made out to be. Unlike previous fights in the series, it combines hand-drawn animation with CGI shots of the characters. To draw a parallel, think of the animatronic and CGI dinosaurs in Jurassic Park… but with less stunning results. The film shifts between hand-drawn animation and CGI in Goku and Frieza’s battle, and the CG models are so poor you can tell the difference. It’s a shame with the rest of the film being so well-animated. With modern tech, and a multi-million-dollar-budget, scenes are much more detailed than their TV counterparts. Some use CGI for the backgrounds, but they blend in better than the long, fast-paced shots used in the final fight scenes.

However, dips in visual quality are the least of the film’s worries. When Toriyama-san first announced Resurrection F, he intended to write more action scenes to appease fans who were disappointed by Battle of Gods. Sadly, the fight scenes in the film are so long they ruin the story’s structure. The battles between the Z-Fighters and Frieza’s army, and Goku and Frieza, take up a lot of the second and third acts, leaving no time for a satisfying finish. Even worse, there’s never any doubt that Goku will save the day. Frieza has his moments, and Vegeta gets in on the battle… but it all ends in the space of ten minutes. Endings are one of the most important parts of a film, and if the last ten minutes fail, the rest of the film fails. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say this: the last ten minutes of Resurrection F fail miserably. If Toriyama-san hadn’t devoted the screen time to action, he would’ve been able to write a longer, better ending. What we got just didn’t live up to the hype.

Like Battle of Gods, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F was a big deal when it came out - but its efforts to please the fans made it fall terribly short. At least, now we can be sure of one thing: Frieza won't be coming back any time soon.

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