I’m a big fan of Dragon Ball Z. Perhaps I’ll review it at some point in my webseries. It’s a dumb series, but it’s fun. It’s badly written, but Akira Toriyama is very aware that he’s not a good writer, and his goal was to create something fun for preteen to teenage boys, which he did.
Even though I dig the series, I don’t like most of the Dragon Ball Z movies. Many of them are poor retellings of a saga, with boring villains, and often follow the same formula. Threat appears, Goku and friends go to meet them. Quite often, Gohan will be in trouble to be saved by Piccolo from the secondary villain and then get owned by the main villain, the heroes almost lose, and then they win at the end, often with a spirit bomb.
There are only 4 films I liked. Dead Zone, which I enjoyed for it’s perfect blend of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z tone which didn’t take itself too seriously. The Garlic Jr. fight was pretty good too. My favorite DBZ before was The World’s Strongest, which the fans don’t like, but I really like how it went with a weird Sci-Fi route with mad scientists and a boss that didn’t transform, as well as the most epic Spirit Bomb in the series (I’m not even kidding) before it wore out its welcome. The last of the original 13 films I liked was Wrath of the Dragon, which featured a more original story and for once, a new sympathetic protagonist in the form of Tapion. Also, the Kaiju fighting is something I like to mix with my DBZ. Then there is The Path to Power, which is a great retelling of the Red Ribbon Saga that’s very exciting.
Onto Battle of the Gods. This is a very fun film. The main plot revolves around a purple Egyptian cat humanoid named “Bills” or “Beers” (depending on translation, no English dub name has been chosen yet), who is a God of Destruction. Bills wakes up as part of his cycle of destroying planets and stars so new ones can be made. He’s awoken and looks to find a “Super Saiyan God”, a new transformation of a Saiyan that was made to retcon the crap that is Super Saiyan 4. So, Bills and his buddy Whis go to Earth to find out about the Super Saiyan God, while Bulma is having a birthday party. As expected, Goku manages to become a Super Saiyan God and fights Bills for the fate of the Earth.
First, of note, the plot is mostly recycled from a 2008 special “Hey Ya! Son Goku and His Friends Return” which involved a group of villains crashing a party, and the tone are not nearly as dark as any of those other films that took themselves too seriously. This film does it better. First of all, Bills is very likable, written in stark contrast to most of Dragon Ball’s villains since King Piccolo, who were often the incarnation of evil. Bills is actually pretty adorable in his cat-like mannerisms, and he spends much of the movie trying out foods. He even breakdances at one point. His assistant Whis is also exceptionally friendly. It’s a cool departure from movie villains like Broly or Janemba.
The film’s action sequences are freaking amazing, as well as the updated animation from DBZ’s 90s. There are mostly seamless blends of CG with traditional animation, and the last battle with Goku and Bills is exceptionally animated. The movie is worth watching for that battle alone. It definitely captures the kinetic energy of Dragon Ball Z that the fans so wanted to see, and the animation budget is used wonderfully for the most beautiful DB animation yet seen.
It’s really nice to see all these characters we’re used to. There is even a subplot of Emperor Pilaf’s group as children, who had accidentally wished themselves young. Trunks pretends that child Mai is his girlfriend, and it’s very playful. Unfortunately, a lot of the characters don’t have anything more than cameos. The only characters with focus in this film are Goku, Vegeta, Bills, Whis, King Kai, and Bulma. Despite this, there is decent character development in this film. Goku has to deal with the only enemy (besides Perfect Cell), that he was completely unable to defeat. Vegeta has to put his pride aside to keep Bills calm during the party to protect the people he loves. There is even a touching/badass moment where Vegeta manages to hurt Bills quite a bit after he slaps Bulma. Vegeta even has to act out of character, but it does reflect the fact that Vegeta has always been the most dynamic DBZ character.
Also, people are complaining about Super Saiyan God, it looks like this:
It makes sense thematically, because Bills does differentiate between Ki and God Ki, and interestingly, he’s quite scrawny compared villains like Cell and Broly, which is a feasible response to why Goku appears much leaner. Plus, Kaioken was King Kai’s technique, which implies that its godly in some way, so the appearance makes sense. I appreciate that it didn’t look comically overblown like Super Saiyan 4. However, I’m not getting a “Saiyan” vibe from this. Maybe I’d like it more if it was renamed from Super Saiyan God to something else…
If I have one more complaint, the film’s trailers are incredibly deceptive. They basically all drew Bills to be a monstrous opponent who kills for fun, especially with the lines they used in the trailers being like:
Bills: The must be destruction before creation!
Goku: How many planets will you destroy!?
and shots of Bills like this:
And then it turns out it’s pretty lighthearted, but I still really liked it. DBZ fans should definitely give it a watch.