WRITTEN REVIEW – Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F (2015)

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F
Directed by: Tadayoshi Yamamuro
Written by: Akira Toriyama
Starring: Sean Schemmel, Christopher R. Sabat, Christopher Ayres, Jason Douglas & Ian Sinclair
Music: Norihito Sumitomo
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: September 30th 2015

The Manga and Anime franchise “Dragon Ball” is one of those rare franchises that seems to have been a constant over the past 25 years despite not creating any original content for an incredibly long time. While “Dragon Ball” has its fans and “Dragon Ball GT”…doesn’t…”Dragon Ball Z” has remained in the popular culture thanks to television re-runs, video games and even a TV remake in the form of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (a remaster of the original anime removing the filler essentially making it 1/3 of the length). However, series creator Akira Toriyama has finally created a true continuation of the series with brand new theatrical movies starting with ‘Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods‘ in 2013/14 (depending on which region you’re in).

The success of ‘Battle of Gods‘ proved that there’s still a dedicated and profitable fanbase out there, so we have a brand new TV series with “Dragon Ball Super” (a lower quality version of the current movies including more filler essentially making it 3 times the length) as well as a theatrical sequel with ‘Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F‘. The last movie ended by establishing a brand new Universe filled with new opponents, new heights to reach and entirely new story possibilities to uncover. So it’s only natural that ‘Resurrection F‘ brings back a long-gone villain, rehashes one of the most famous anime transformations in the series and takes place entirely on Earth.

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Taking place a short amount of time after ‘Battle of Gods‘ with Goku (voiced by Schemmel in the English dub) attaining the new Super Saiyan God transformation, himself and fellow Saiyan Vegeta (Sabat) are continuing their training with new mentor Whis (Sinclair) who serves Beerus, the God of Destruction (Douglas). However, their old nemesis Frieza (Ayres) is revived by his last remaining followers using the Dragon Balls and vows revenge on the adopted home planet of his enemies; Earth. Stronger than ever after extensive training, Frieza has a brand new form that Goku and Vegeta must overcome, otherwise the Universe will once again fall to Frieza’s almighty power.

Very much like ‘Battle of Gods‘, ‘Resurrection F‘ is an impenetrable movie. If you don’t know the characters, their relationships and prior stories…then don’t even bother. This movie is STRICTLY for those already committed to Dragon Ball canon. In fact, minor comic relief villains Pilaf, Mai and Shu from “Dragon Ball” (as well as easily being the worst part of ‘Battle of Gods‘) have a brief role with no introduction or context as to who they are in this Universe. Basically, this movie is for the fans and ONLY for the fans.
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While ‘Battle of Gods‘ incorporated the structure and tone from both “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z”, ‘Resurrection F‘ is more in-keeping with the pure action-packed approach found in the “Z” iteration. After a brief set-up establishing the revival of Frieza and what most of the characters are doing after the events of the last movie, the action kicks in and never really stops until the end. ‘Resurrection F‘ is 15 minutes shorter than ‘Battle of Gods‘ and the shorter run-time greatly improves the pacing and keeps filler material to a minimum.

Some filler DOES unfortunately make its way into the movie with the introduction of brand new character Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. Jaco is a character from another Akira Toriyama manga series, but he contributes nothing to the story other than telling Bulma early on that Frieza is on his way (which is pointless because 90% of the main characters can sense high power levels across space anyway). But what’s more baffling is that he turns up in the first 10 minutes and everyone acts like they’ve always known him despite this literally being his very first “Dragon Ball” appearance outside the Manga.

The “Dragon Ball” franchise already has a problem finding most of its supporting cast something to do. You don’t introduce MORE characters because that just exacerbates this long-standing issue with “Dragon Ball Z”.
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That having been said ‘Resurrection F‘ is an improvement over ‘Battle of Gods‘ in this respect because it does find something for the weaker “Z Fighters” to do. Piccolo, Krillin, Tien, Master Roshi etc. have a large action set-piece together where they fight thousands of Frieza’s minions before the main villain joins in the fight to battle Goku (after a long-delayed arrival because…it’s Goku). This is both a blessing and a curse because while it does show off these fighters’ notable skills such as Piccolo’s pure badass-ness, Krillin’s strategic mind and Master Roshi’s potential as both a power-player AND comic-relief, it does come at the expense of 18 and Gohan. The only role 18 plays in ‘Resurrection F‘ is to cut Krillin’s hair for fan-service purposes. Why she doesn’t join in the fight despite being more powerful than most of the minor players in this Universe COMBINED comes across as a dumb move from a narrative perspective, especially since she is literally the only female fighter in this franchise.

And as for Gohan, the continued nerfing of this character knows no bounds. I honestly don’t need to say anymore. If you’re a “Dragon Ball Z” fan you’ll agree with me.
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But once Goku and Vegeta arrive, the movie kicks into overdrive with Goku transforming into his new form to combat Frieza; the Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan. This form gives him even more strength but with awesome Blue Hair. The familiar Goku/Vegeta battle strategy of “Take it in turns” applies here and the movie gets a lot of mileage out of a joke that, if we’re being perfectly honest here, really should have stopped being funny decades ago. But it does give the movie some of its biggest laughs as these two conflicting personalities continue to butt heads with each other.

“But Trilbee!”, I hear you cry. “How can Frieza compete with a Super Saiyan God when he is significantly weaker than prior villains such as The Androids, Cell or Majin Buu?”. Well, the explanation kinda makes sense. Frieza comes from a species where their high power level is granted from birth. As a result, Frieza hasn’t had to train a day in his life. So when he’s revived, he trains for four months (very specific) and attains a brand new form; Golden Frieza, which not only allows him to fight the Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, but he’s actually able to surpass Goku.

But the way Frieza is defeated is…okay, a lot of the disappointment with ‘Resurrection F‘ stems from the last 10/15 minutes which is incredibly deep into spoiler-territory. But the ending of this movie needs to be addressed. So at the end of this review, after I’ve given it a score, I’ll include a spoiler-filled section discussing the ending. But needless to say, not only does it suck, but it’s indicative of the problems “Dragon Ball Z” has as a franchise right now. The spoiler section is at the bottom for those of you who want more details.
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While ‘Resurrection F‘ fails in the character department (for spoiler-filled reasons), it definitely does excel at the action. While the bigger scope, more powerful punches and more colourful energy blasts don’t hold a candle to the gravitas that the original “Dragon Ball Z” Goku vs. Frieza battle held (episodes 95 to 105 of the original Anime), there is a lot of nostalgia to be gleamed and a lot of spectacle to be found. The action across the movie is inventive, colourful and it can’t be understated what the theatrical fan experience seeing these movies on the big-screen adds to the franchise. It kinda makes “Dragon Ball Super” redundant because the budget can’t hope to compare with its big-screen counterpart and with the insubstantial filler that the episodic format demands then there’s not much of a reason to watch the underwhelming TV re-tread.

Incidentally, you’re kinda lying to yourself if you think that the original “Dragon Ball Z” anime is a better paced viewing experience than “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.
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The voice actors are on reliably great form, particularly Christoper R. Sabat who provides franchise-best work as Vegeta. But a lot of the impressive vocal work comes from Chris Ayres as Frieza (Ayres also voiced the character in “Dragon Ball Z Kai”) and he brings back a lot of the original menace of the character while also having some megalomaniacal fun. Really, there’s not much to say about the voice-work. These actors are clearly comfortable in these roles and they’re exactly what you want out of this English dub. Though the music is a step-down from ‘Battle of Gods‘ mainly because ‘Resurrection F‘ is lacking a big “f-yeah!” moment that the first movie had with “Song of Hope”.

Speaking of “f-yeah!”, one questionable aspect of this English dub (which was present in ‘Battle of Gods‘) is the unnecessary swearing. I know that a lot of the franchises’ fans are people in their teens or have grown up into adults as the franchise has continued, but there really is no reason for Vegeta to call everyone a “Bastard”. I’m not saying animated films can’t contain harsh language, but it just feels…wrong…for “Dragon Ball Z” characters to swear. ESPECIALLY Goku.
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Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F‘ is both an improvement and a significant downgrade from ‘Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods‘. It’s paced a lot better thanks to its shorter run-time and has a lot less arbitrary filler and ramps up the spectacle significantly by involving more of the original cast members instead of making this franchise devolve into the “Goku and Vegeta Show”. Frieza is also a delight, even those his mere re-introduction into this theatrical revival presents a larger problem with “Dragon Ball Z” (more in the spoiler-section below). But it lets the characters down with an baffling cop-out of an ending and, try as it might, can’t re-capture the original Goku vs. Frieza iconography because it doesn’t seem quite as sincere. But it’s still entertaining and nostalgia for the original series does take ‘Resurrection F‘ further than it ideally should.

I give ‘Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F‘ 3 stars out of 5.

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Right, so Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Goku and Golden Frieza battle for around 10 minutes with Frieza gaining the upper-hand despite Goku’s divine powers. However, Goku discovers a weakness in Frieza; that his overwhelming power is too much for his body to handle and his un-trained newly discovered Golden-form will burn out.

In other words, this is the EXACT weakness that defeated Frieza in the original Goku vs. Frieza fight. When Frieza powered up to 100% on Namek, despite being stronger than Super Saiyan Goku, his power drained from him very quickly allowing Goku to defeat him.

But it gets even more disappointing. With Frieza on the brink of defeat, one of his minions shoots Goku in the chest with a simple blaster and brings him to the brink of death. The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan is almost killed by a standard-issue blaster. That is so stupid, I can’t even…
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So Vegeta takes over to deliver the finishing blows as he also powers up to a Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan and beats up Freiza to such an extent that he reverts back to his recognisable white/purple self. Aside from the fact that Vegeta is about to claim victory over an opponent that was already about to lose, which robs the Prince of Saiyans of his long overdue win against the person who wiped out his entire race, this should be Vegeta’s epic moment…but Frieza then quickly destroys the Earth because he’s a sore-loser.

But it’s okay, because as blatantly foreshadowed earlier, Whis is able to reverse time by three minutes allowing Goku to intervene and kill Frieza, saving the Earth and then the credits roll.

Now, this Whis Ex Machina ending is terrible for MULTIPLE reasons.

  1. It robs Vegeta of a moment that should TRULY be his. 9 times out of 10, Goku is the one who claims victory over the Saga’s big-bad leaving the supporting characters in the dust. This isn’t just a problem with “Dragon Ball Z” as other anime popular in the West has the same issue (“Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Pokemon” come to mind), but in this context it’s particularly disappointing to see Vegeta’s LONG OVERDUE victory over Frieza get taken away from him. It genuinely does disservice to the most interesting and compelling character in the franchise and it completely stunts his growth during a time when he needs it most.
  2. Frieza destroying the Earth is a ballsy move that could take the franchise in a bold new direction. But the fact that we now have an ally character in this franchise that can turn back time by three minutes (with no other established limitations) means that the franchise has written itself into a corner and will rob any future death or collateral damage of any meaning because it can easily be reversed. Yes, the Dragon Balls did something similar in the anime, but those were normally done as an end-of-saga Status Quo reset-button with complex limitations as opposed to a cop-out whenever its convenient for the characters.
  3. Nothing has changed by the end of the movie other than Goku and Vegeta acquiring a new blue-haired form.

That last point is particularly frustrating. ‘Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods‘ ended in such a way that opened up the franchise to limitless possibilities. That was the point of the revival in the first place. As much as fans love the Saiyan, Frieza, Android, Cell, Majin Buu and Fusion sagas of the anime, we can only watch those stories so many times so the franchise needs to move forward. But reviving Frieza IMMEDIATELY after establishing a new universe full of stories and potential enemies and threats feels astonishingly backwards. And the fact that ‘Resurrection F‘ ends with the status quo we’ve become familiar with since the original “Dragon Ball Z” anime ended in 1996 feels like this franchise is stuck in the past and afraid to even remotely move forward.

The next “Dragon Ball Z” movie NEEDS to advance these characters. It NEEDS to explore these new universes that ‘Battle of Gods‘ established the existence of. As fun as Frieza is as a villain, the main characters got over him two decades ago and moved onto bigger and better things. It’s time this franchise did the same.
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Posted In: 2015 Reviews Current Reviews Reviews

Author: Trilbee

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Posted: 1st Oct 15