Wait, what? A movie review? Is that kind of thing kosher for a video game website? Well, there's only one way to find out, so let's find out right now... Today, on DRRRRRAAAAAGONNN BAAALLLLLLLLL ZEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
Dragonball Z: Resurrection "F" is the followup movie to last year's Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods. Both movies take place shortly after the events of the final arc of the series, the Buu Saga, with the more recent movie following the events of the first. Battle of Gods introduced viewers to Beerus, the God of Destruction, and his attendant, Whis, who served as the antagonists of the film, while Resurrection "F" features the return of an earlier DBZ villain, Frieza, often known as Freeza and Freezer as well.
It is at this point that I need to drop the obligatory spoiler warning. If you do not want to be spoiled for either of these movies, one of which only just hit Western shores for the masses today, then this is the part where you close out of this page. For those of you who have already seen it, saw it in Japanese, saw it at a pre-release event of some kind, as there were quite a few, or just don't care, please feel free to continue!
While I don't want to go into too much about Battle of Gods and turn this into a review of both movies, it should probably be said that there are going to be quite a few comparisons between the two of them. Additionally, I should probably mention that I loved Battle of Gods. It was like Toriyama took everything I've ever loved about Dragonball and stuffed it into what is now one of my favorite movies, anime or otherwise. This means that Resurrection "F" already had its work cut out for it.
And, well... Let's just say that while I got the DVD of Battle of Gods because I wanted to own it because I liked it enough to watch it multiple times, which is exceptionally noteworthy for me, when Resurrection "F"'s DVD comes out, I'll likely just be getting that for the Director's Cut version of the movie.
The movie wasn't bad or anything, mind, but as a followup to one that was really good, this one was more along the lines of okay - which is a shame, because the first half of it actually was looking to be pretty darn good. The movie opens up with some scenes that are more humorous in tone, which brings me back to how Battle of Gods was a grand mix of humor, action, and seriousness, and we're slowly eased into the introduction of the setting as it is now and some of the new characters, the remainder of Frieza's forces.
Thanks to some unlikely aid, these evildoers are able to revive Frieza, at which point they blast off into space with their revived lord, who immediately makes plans to prepare for his return so that he can exact vengeance. It's not the most original concept or anything, but the execution to this point is great, and Frieza makes for a great villain here - revived and raring to go!
There are a few parts of the beginning that feel a little jarring, admittedly, but all in all it's pretty fun. It's when we start moving towards Frieza's return to Earth that the movie starts to stumble somewhat.
As Frieza makes his return, we find that it's a surprise guest that makes the announcement - Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, the protagonist of the more recent manga series of the same name of Akira Toriyama's, has arrived and apparently is friends with Bulma. To anyone who isn't familiar with the manga, where Jaco presumably meets Bulma (like me), this is probably going to confuse the hell out of you, especially when Jaco goes on to mention Bulma apparently has a sister, who apparently is actually one of the protagonists of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. Who knew?
We also find that Goku and Vegeta, somehow, have taken up training with Whis, the sidekick-slash-former mentor of the last movie's antagonist, Lord Beerus. How this began isn't really gone into nearly as much detail as it should have been, nor is there anything ever added that could add context that viewers can infer more from. While Goku was training with King Kai at the start of Battle of Gods, that much at least had some sense to it. This, which turns out to be vital later on, is another matter.
Last of the somewhat jarring things at this point, Bulma has apparently become so familiar with Whis that she can just hold up delicious Earth food to the sky and he'll come running for it.
While this is at least given enough context in the movie that it isn't that big of a deal, the fact that clearly a lot has happened between the two of them and so little of it is really gone into detail makes a lot of this movie sometimes difficult to get invested in. It may sound minor, and to the less invest fans, it may be a non-issue, but the best way I can describe it is that it just feels like I missed the movie between Battle of Gods and Resurrection "F" where all of these things were established or took place, and this becomes especially prevalent towards the end of the movie.
As an aside, Krillin has become a police officer as well, but unlike the other changes since the last movie, a character getting a job - especially now that Gohan is probably too old to be a superhero anymore - this one is not only not particularly jarring at all, but it's actually one of the highlights of the movie, as is the brief exchange between Krillin and Android 18 before the former goes off to battle Frieza.
Some might jump in and point out that Android 18 should have been the one to go, but Android 18 beat you all to the punch on that one. Krillin himself essentially points out that if he fails, her staying behind will mean someone stronger will be there for their daughter. It may not mean much for those who (not wrongly) were hoping for Android 18 to finally get a fight after essentially not doing much of anything after the Cell Saga, but considering what it leads to later on for Krillin, I... kind of think they made the right call on this one.
At this point in the movie, while things are starting to get rocky, the foundation of a great show is still there. Goku and Vegeta training with Whis isn't that big a deal yet, and they aren't even visited again until much later in the movie. Likewise, despite the fact that I have no prior experience with the character, I was able to infer enough about Jaco through dialogue to grow really attached to him, and he quickly became one of my favorite things about the movie in no time at all.
When Frieza lands, things start really heating up. He blows up a whole city, and because Goku and Vegeta are so far away that no one can contact them, the world's strongest all assemble to fight off the seemingly endless swarm of Frieza's soldiers, with hundreds of the CG-created fiends standing tall and ready to destroy everything in their path!
... Well, okay, this is Dragonball Z, so that's not a big deal, is it?
I mean... Frieza aside, this shouldn't be that hard, right? Even if Krillin told Android 18 to stay behind, just from the storyline immediately prior to the previous movie alone, you've still got heavy hitters like Majin Buu, Gotenks, and even Videl should be able to pack a punch again now that she's given birth to Pan... Not to mention you have...
Forgoing logic for the sake of some fantastic fight scenes and old school Dragonball fanservice, the heroes that take on Frieza's soldiers are none other than the motley team of Krillin, Tien, Gohan, Piccolo, Jaco, and of course, Master Roshi. They all hold their own fairly well, and given the range of different abilities they have (Master Roshi and Jaco can't fly, and Jaco doesn't even use energy attacks), the fight scenes here are fairly entertaining, even if the animation/CG is a little lacking at times.
As nice as it would have been to get everyone in on this, I admit that it probably would have been too chaotic to try to pull this off with more characters, and the Dragonball tribute was really nice. Much as I do like Yamcha, I much more enjoyed Master Roshi and even Jaco being here instead, as they both added to this showdown in ways that Yamcha really probably wouldn't have been able to - and while Buu and some of the other characters might have made a difference and their absence isn't really well explained, it would have made things too crowded once Goku and Vegeta returned.
... which they do almost immediately after the soldiers are taken care of and everyone, including Gohan, decides Frieza has gotten too strong for them!
What follows just makes all of the good to great buildup seem like a waste. To make a long, dragged out story (fight) short, Goku and Frieza fight without transforming, both holding back. After deciding they've ripped off Goku's fight with Cell enough, Goku pulls a new transformation out of absolutely nowhere, and while in all fairness this isn't unlike how Super Saiyan 3 happened, the problem here is that it's following Battle of Gods' introduction of a new form, and also the fact that pretty much everyone had had this spoiled to hell, making the potential cool factor of not knowing about it beforehand completely lost.
Battle of Gods gave us Super Saiyan God, and it did so extremely well. Through the power of faith, rather than spirit or strength, Goku is able to ascend past his mortality and temporarily, for just a fleeting few moments that don't even last an entire fight's length, become a deity. It was extremely well done, and either one of the best transformations or cheesiest depending on how you look at it, but it at least shows some effort and creativity on the part of Toriyama and the team who put it together.
Resurrection "F", on the other hand, simply tells us that Goku at some point learned how to tap into that power by himself and so he's now very strong. Frieza, meanwhile, trained for a few months and went from being weaker than the Androids to now capable of tackling gods.
Despite this, the first part of the fight managed to be entertaining enough. Frieza's new form posed a threat to Goku, even in his new form, and Beerus and Whis offer commentary throughout the fight suggesting that Goku will possibly lose. While the fight does start to drag on after a while, even for DBZ standards, it's still a pretty solid fight all the same.
Then someone on the staff, perhaps even Toriyama, must have decided they needed to completely remove the potential tension from the movie and the direction of the fight just... changes.
Frieza starts losing. He starts acting like how he we're used to him acting when he's losing too, and I can't lie, it's kind of a letdown after all of the buildup to see the same old Frieza once the tables turn. There's been some banter between Vegeta and Goku about taking turns, tying into some earlier comments made by Whis when they were training, but at this point it seems unnecessary. They "figured out Frieza's weakness," and both feel confident that victory is assured. Frieza manages to pull off a cheap shot on Goku that nearly kills him, but luckily he survives, and in the meantime, Vegeta finally takes his turn against Frieza, who assumes he should be able to use his new form to easily destroy Vegeta.
At this point, the Frieza fight has taken up about a third of the movie, and it feels like too much of it has been taken up by Goku and Vegeta just not taking any of it seriously. It seems like we're finally going to see some stakes come back into the picture once Goku is taken out... for a few seconds, before he's obviously revived and then he smiles and lets Vegeta take his turn.
Sure enough, Frieza not only loses his advantage, but he even loses access to his golden form of gaudy glory - not before offering Vegeta his old job back, though!
Can you believe it took up until the last five minutes for the movie to finally reference what was once a core part of Vegeta's character? And for Vegeta to even do anything? You could argue that that means the dude's moved on by now, but seriously, this is Frieza and Vegeta here!
But let's talk about Vegeta for a second.
This screenshot of Dragonball Xenoverse is more exciting than any interaction that Vegeta and Frieza actually have in this movie.
It's kind of sad, in a way. People were clamoring for Vegeta to be the next one to become a Super Saiyan God from the moment Battle of Gods became a thing, yet now he's become something that may or may not be beyond it, and his relevance in this movie is decidedly less than in Battle of Gods, where he brutally lost against Lord Beerus every time they exchanged blows.
In Battle of Gods, Goku is taken down by Lord Beerus early on, which means that leaves the fate of the Earth in Vegeta's hands. Vegeta, realizing the danger the Earth is in, is forced to keep Lord Beerus from getting angry. Casting his pride aside for the sake of the people he's begrudgingly come to care for, Vegeta serves the god, sings and dances, and does all he can to protect these people - something that not only Goku but even Lord Beerus himself comment on as being remarkable for him later on in the movie.
Though none of it was done through fighting, those scenes show a strength of character in Vegeta that show longtime viewers, or even those just somewhat familiar with the series, how much he's grown over the years, and how much stronger and more human he's become. "Prince Badman," as his wife affectionately calls him in a scene found in the Director's Cut of the movie, has become one of the Earth's greatest allies and then some, and far beyond even the man who was tempted by evil and strength one last time in the final arc of Dragonball Z.
In this movie, though?
After the early segment in which Goku and Vegeta are seen training with Whis - and again, how that all started is left basically unexplained - Vegeta just stands around for most of his remaining screentime while Goku is fighting Frieza. He'll occasionally throw in quips about how it should be his turn, and at one point he gets annoyed and charges in to fight Goku for a couple of seconds, but up until the last couple of minutes where he finally gets to fight Frieza when Goku's already basically beaten him?
It seems as though, from the beginning, the movie is leading up to a moment where Goku and Vegeta will be forced to team up against this new form of Frieza's, yet that moment... never actually happens. It could be that this moment is actually going to be in the currently airing (in Japan) Dragonball Super, but if that's the case, it's disappointing to see all of the potential this movie's premise had wasted on what essentially may be a glorified trailer for a new TV series.
Regardless, Vegeta finally takes over after Goku is temporarily knocked down, fights Frieza on his own for a while, then Goku is the one who ends up defeating Frieza after a few more "surprises" are thrown at us in the form of Vegeta also having the new level of Super Saiyan (Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan) and then Whis suddenly being able to rewind time a few minutes after Freiza blows up the planet and kills Vegeta... Yeah. That's how that goes down.
So much for Vegeta finally having his moment, huh? And there are really people saying they liked this one more than Battle of Gods...?
In the end, Goku saves the day without working with Vegeta at all, Frieza is dead again, and that's pretty much it.
Whereas Battle of Gods ended with Goku having learned many lessons and having gone toe to toe with a being far more clever and mighty than it seemed like he would ever be, with myself coming out of it feeling like it was a natural continuation of the series, Resurrection "F" felt more like a traditional Dragonball Z movie, and not even one of the better ones at that. Its greatest strengths lie in the action scenes and visuals, but without a good story to tie them together, a reason to feel invested in watching it, it has a tremendous risk of coming up short.
And to me, it did that on more than one occasion.
I suppose what I'm left with is that while Battle of Gods gave writing and character priority, while at the same time blending action in when appropriate, Resurrection "F" took the complaints the latter received of the lack of action so far that writing and character were, at times, almost completely ignored.
The movie still stands above most other Dragonball Z films, if nothing else, and if you just want to see some good action sequences or just want to the continued antics Lord Beerus and Whis as well as the awesome scene with Master Roshi and the others, then this is still a great movie - so whatever the case, if you're a Dragonball fan of any kind and maybe you're just curious to see for yourself how it is, if you don't already have tickets, I'd see if you can get your hands on some.
For context and comparison, Battle of Gods' score would be a rough 9/10, while this one's was looking like at least in the area of 7/10 to 8/10 before Goku and Vegeta arrived on the scene.