So How Good is Dragon Ball Super: Broly? (Movie Review)

As much as I respect Akira Toriyama, I was worried when I heard he was writing the next Dragon Ball film. Four years ago, he made his screenwriting debut with Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F. What should’ve been a glorious return for one of anime’s greatest villains was a glorified disaster – horribly paced, overpacked with action, and anticlimactic. His friends at Toei Animation sought to make up for it with Dragon Ball Super, the new series that began as a retelling of the films Battle of Gods and Resurrection F before telling its own stories. Now that the series has come to an end, Toriyama & Co. have given us a new film: the eagerly awaited Dragon Ball Super: Broly. Released on Blu-ray & DVD in May, it’s the third film Toriyama has supervised and the second one he’s written. He and his crew meant to take the lessons they learned in the past four years and do another iconic villain justice. Keep reading to find out if they succeeded – and as always, beware of spoilers!

Broly begins forty-five years in the series’ past, on the Saiyans’ home planet. King Vegeta III (our Vegeta’s father) discovers a Saiyan child with latent abilities that exceed his son’s immensely. Jealous and fearful of the child’s potential, the King banishes him to a hostile world then abandons the child’s father after a failed rescue attempt. Years later, their home planet is destroyed leaving only a handful of the Saiyans alive. We then move to the present day – after the events of Super – to find Goku and Vegeta fresh out of the Tournament of Power… and already seeking their next big challenge! It comes sooner than they think when their old enemy Frieza, newly resurrected after the tournament, comes to Earth to wish upon the Dragon Balls. This time, though, he doesn’t plan on fighting – Frieza has rebuilt his army and brought along two new recruits to do the fighting for him. To Goku and Vegeta’s surprise, the newcomers are Saiyans: the exile Paragus and his grown-up son Broly! The pair have spent their entire lives in isolation training, and now Paragus wants to take revenge on King Vegeta by having his own son fight the Prince of All Saiyans. Paragus thinks it will be an easy win – but he has little idea how powerful Broly really is. And no one, not even Broly himself, knows what terrible power he’s about to unleash.

I had a hard time getting my act together for this review, so I’ll start by saying this: if you hated Resurrection F, you need to see Broly. Everything about it is a huge improvement over the last film, from the writing to the battle scenes we’ve all come to expect. However, the first thing you’ll notice is the animation – it’s smoother, faster, and more fluid than ever before! That’s because Toei Animation formed a new team of animators to make the film. The lead animator is Naohiro Shintani, a Dragon Ball newcomer, and instead of staying with the art style we’ve gotten used to over the years, he gave it a complete overhaul. The screenshots I’ve picked don’t do it justice – the film looks so good in motion, it puts the finale of Battle of Gods to shame! Some of you may be upset that, once again, the film combines 2D animation with CGI. However, under Shintani’s wing, they blend together much better this time. In Resurrection F the CG characters were easy to spot, but even the most attentive viewers will have a hard time picking them out now. The trademark fights are improved too; unlike the clashes of yesteryear, the bouts in Broly use everchanging camera angles to give each punch, kick and blast extra impact. In a single shot, the view can change from a bird’s eye view to a closeup to a first-person perspective in the blink of an eye. Some viewers may find the action harder to follow, but the fast and furious camerawork makes it more intense than any fight yet seen in Dragon Ball. To top it all, they’re accompanied by a catchy soundtrack by Norihito Sumitomo and Daichi Miura.

Of course, there’s more to like about Broly besides what we expect – in a change from past Dragon Ball films, the character building is surprisingly strong. Instead of bombarding us with cameos, the film spends a good deal of time establishing the new characters. It’s especially good for Broly, the film’s star, who’s been given a makeover for his cinematic return. If you’ve been a fan of Dragon Ball since the 90s, you might remember him as the Legendary Super Saiyan from the classic DBZ films. Back then, he was little more than a madman who threatened Goku’s family… all because Goku cried incessantly as a baby. The new Broly is much deeper; a gifted child shunned by his own people and forced to become a fighter. Unlike most Saiyans, he’d rather make friends with you than beat you to a pulp – sadly, his father would have none of it. Paragus is so obsessed with revenge, he goes to horrible lengths to train Broly to get it. He even uses a shock collar to keep Broly in line, like an attack dog! Thankfully, not everyone treats Broly so harshly. The two Saiyans are rescued by two members of Frieza’s army: the non-combatant Lemo and thieving cutie-pie Cheelai. You wouldn’t expect someone from the Frieza Force to be nice, but these two come to see the best in Broly and do their best to bring it out. Lemo & Cheelai make Broly far more likeable than his original self… but he’s no less dangerous. When the gloves come off, he’s every bit as powerful as he was in the past – and unlike Frieza in 2015, this Broly gives our heroes a hell of a fight to the very end. Both fans and newcomers will come to love him by the film’s end; and you’ll be pleased to know that he’s now canon!

From the opening scenes, it’s clear that Toriyama & co. have raised their game since Resurrection F. Although Broly moves at a fast pace, it’s more even than the last film and doesn’t rush from one fight to the next. In fact, it spends its first forty minutes developing characters old and new – and if you’ve followed Dragon Ball since the beginning, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll see. In the opening act, we get a glimpse of the family lives of King Vegeta, Paragus, and Goku’s father Bardock. And far from being single-minded killers, as we were led to believe, they’re all loving parents! It’s quite the game changer, but fans will appreciate this as it makes the Saiyans’ fate more heartbreaking; and newcomers will love it because it shows them exactly who to root for. The last two films were weighed down by a huge cast, but Broly keeps the cameos to a minimum. No one is seen or mentioned unless they have a part to play, keeping our attention squarely on Goku, Vegeta & Broly. The film’s also more accessible due to its tone; even at its most intense, Broly isn’t afraid to have a laugh. Some of its funniest moments come in the battles with Broly, and they come out of nowhere in the best possible way! And don’t worry if you haven’t seen Super to the end; the film makes clever use of rapid-fire flashbacks to fill you in on the essentials. At the least, you only need to have seen Battle of Gods and Resurrection F to fully enjoy Broly. If this is your first taste of Dragon Ball, however, you’re still in for a treat.

If Resurrection F is Dragon Ball’s equivalent of Thor: The Dark World, Broly is its Ragnarok – a rich, refined, and rip-roaringly fun film for fans and newcomers alike! If you’ve seen it already, share your thoughts in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter!

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