Film Review: DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY
The Dragon Ball property is one that is very dear to my heart. Still, to this day, I remember waking up each Saturday (for Dragon Ball and then its sequel series, Dragon Ball Z) and Sunday (again for Dragon Ball Z) morning to marvel at the over the top, epic martial arts showdowns between Goku & friends and the seemingly unbeatable "big bad" that they had to contend with each season - story threads which DB fans also know as "sagas." If the Dragon Ball property is unfamiliar to you, don't worry, I'll bring you up to speed.
Similar to what you might recognize from a certain superhero origin story, a mysterious young child lands on Earth in a space pod. Found by a kind old man named Gohan, the child is given the name, Goku, and raised as his own. As the child grows, he starts to display unusual martial arts abilities - abilities far beyond that of any normal kid or even adult - and goes on various adventures in search of seven magical orbs (or dragon balls) - that can grant wishes. It is in this series that Goku befriends a band of supporting characters who come into play later. Next up, you have the sequel series, Dragon Ball Z, which sees the lead character, Goku, as an adult - with his wife, Chi-Chi, whom he met in the prior series, and their son, Gohan (whom Goku named after his surrogate father). This sequel series provides further details about Goku's origins, revealing that he's apart of a ferocious group of humanoid alien warriors known as Saiyans. Additionally, it is in this series that Goku comes across other allies & antagonists, such as the villain (later ally), Vegeta - another fellow Saiyan, who is revealed to be the prince of their alien warrior race. Lastly, it is in this series, that we see the action racheted up to a level where characters get significant power boosts - so much so that many of the battles between characters often causes atomic level damage to a given area!
Personally, the end of Dragon Ball Z was about the time that I stopped watching religiously - as I felt that the series reached the zenith of where its characters and their abilities could go. Man, was I wrong!
Enter the DRAGON BALL Z film, BATTLE OF THE GODS, which saw Goku go face to face to a character called Beerus, whose power as "The God of Destruction" far exceeded the power of any of other villain to come before him in the entire anime series. From this film, we got the latest Dragon Ball series, Dragon Ball Super - a series which resets the landscape of the DB universe with godly characters whose powers and abilities far dwarf those seen before -and that's saying something, since characters were capable of destroying entire planets in the DBZ. Finally, with that, we get this movie, subtitled BROLY, which takes place following the events seen in Super.
Now, like Goku, Broly, similarly has his own extensive backstory, but I won't go into the details. The most you need to know is that he is a legendary Saiyan with raw, unrivaled abilities - think: Jean Grey/Phoenix of the Saiyans. Previously, his story happened outside of the main DB storyline as a one-off elseworld movie (or trilogy of movies, I suppose if you want to get technical). That is, until creator Akira Toriyama decided to retcon the popular character to fit into the existing universe. Before I explain how, let me warn you that I'm will start getting into spoilers..
STILL HERE? GOOD.
So in the character's original story, Broly originally escaped the Saiyan homeworld before it was destroyed; however, in the retconned version featured here, he is already off world when the planet is destroyed. Additionally, rather than give Broly had a longstanding unbridled hatred of Goku - due to the character being irritated (as an infant) by an infant Goku's incessant crying in the Saiyan nursery (seriously, not kidding), Toriyama does something different. Instead of making Broly into a mindless killing machine, he makes the character more sympathetic by making him the victim of an abusive father. Other than that, the film plays into the story beats of the original one-off film - minus the subplot of being recruited by Frieza. Unfortunately, it is this subplot that provides one of my few gripes with the film. With a character as powerful as Broly, it seems unnecessary to align yourself with Frieza. While I understand why this angle to the story was chosen (which I'll get to), it seems like a head-scratcher to those who know this character.
That gripe aside, the animation in the film is awesome! Similar to what you'd find in any great action film, the animation puts you right in the middle of the action taking place - making the viewer a willing participant in the ferocious exchanges between the characters. Additionally, for longtime DB fans, there are plenty of easter eggs to enjoy: Frieza's father King Cold, the Ginyu Force, Goku's saiyan parents, a kid Raditz, a hilarious callback of Goku's transformation into a super saiyan (featuring Broly and Frieza), and much more!
Finally, fans will be happy to know that Broly - though defeated - is not killed by the film's end. Thanks to "sympathetic angle" mentioned before (regarding his character), he's left to be a wild card that could possibly return as a hero or villain in future stories.
DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY is now in theaters.
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