Directed By: Tatsuya Nagami
Art Direction By: Kazuo Ogura
Animation Direction By: Naohiro Shintani
Story/Screenplay By: Akira Toriyama
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Before we begin, I’d like to set the stage for the day I’m writing this. I have had a really bad day. The apartment I had applied for rejected me, for reasons that would take far too long for me to correct, and I learned that a close friend of mine at work has been going through some emotionally trying shit. In an attempt to escape, I dragged my older sister and younger brother with me to the movie theater to catch one of the limited showings of the new Broly movie. Because dammit, I needed something today.
Unfortunately, my luck only continued to stab me up the ass. In a moment of clumsiness, I dropped a large portion of our popcorn on the ground for some poor usher to clean up later, forcing the former theater employee in me to scream in guilt. I then had to sit through several trailers for animated movies I have zero desire to see, two of which were Toy Story 4 teasers that were simply too loud and annoying to enjoy. In fact, they very nearly gave me a splitting headache. On top of that, the other members of the theater weren’t exactly being quiet, which made me fear that they wouldn’t shut up when the actual movie started. I feared that the one escape I was hoping for today would be taken away from me by forces beyond my control.
Then the movie started. Everyone finally went quiet, and we all sat slack-jawed together through the whole experience. When the audience cheered, we all did so together, and not for so long that it got annoying. And when the film came to an end and the credits started rolling, everyone around me erupted into applause, including my two siblings. And, despite everything else that happened today, I had the biggest dumb grin on my face.
This movie wasn’t just good. It wasn’t just great. It may be the single greatest Dragon Ball film ever made. Hell, it may be the single greatest piece of Dragon Ball media ever produced! What makes me say that, you ask?
Because my sister, who has never seen or cared for Dragon Ball before in her entire life, was whispering “Damn!” at every shot. When it was said and done, she admitted that she was fully expecting to be lost and bored, but she was entertained from beginning to end. She, my little brother, and I all loved this movie!
Now, that’s not to say this movie is without it’s flaws. But when compared to everything else in the film, it’s hard to be bothered by them! In fact, I can only think of one major complaint I had through the entire film, and it was over and done with well before it became a truly painful detriment to the whole experience. When it was over and out of the way, the rest was smooth and super fucking hype sailing from start to finish.
Let’s start with the second best part: the story itself. I honestly have little to complain about here. We start off way back in the past, a few years before Planet Vegeta’s destruction at the hands of Freeza. In this time, we’re introduced to King Vegeta, who feels threatened by Broly’s presence and banishes him to a desolate and hostile planet. Outraged by this, Broly’s father Paragus pursues his son and raises him with the goal of eventually claiming revenge.
A few years later, Bardock returns to Planet Vegeta on orders from Freeza, but he can sense that something is off. After a brief reunion with his wife Gine and his infant son Kakarot, Bardock decides to send Kakarot off to Earth to protect him from Freeza’s wrath. When Gine asks why he’s doing this, Bardock admits that he’s not sure himself, and states that maybe it’s because he wants to save something rather than destroy it, as he always does. With a heavy heart, Bardock and Gine send Kakarot away to the safety of Earth.
Before we continue, I’d like to address this for a moment. Because this is my only real issue with this film: Bardock. I absolutely loved the original take on Goku’s father. He was a savage killer who loved his job, and he only developed any kind of moral fiber after discovering that his race was soon to be destroyed by Freeza. At no point, however, does he repent; he only finds solace in knowing that Kakarot would one day defeat Freeza.
This Bardock, however, feels neutered in comparison. He isn’t a remorseless killer anymore, now he’s a family man who feels genuine love and concern for his children. Hell, he even expresses worry of the safety and well being of Raditz of all people (who makes an appearance alongside Vegeta, and it’s adorable and hilarious). He feels a deep sense of regret over his actions, and he just wants to save something rather than live his life as a constant vehicle of destruction. Sure, it’s not a bad character, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as the original take. Still, for it being my only real gripe with this movie, it’s a very small and forgivable one.
Getting back on track, the movie picks back up in present day with Goku and Vegeta sparring with one another as Bulma, Bulla, Whis and Beerus observe. This time down is interrupted, as Freeza’s men break into Bulma’s lab and steal both the Dragon Radar and the six Dragon Balls she has collected thus far. Realizing the potential threat, Goku and Vegeta gear up for action, though Beerus stays behind and is forced to watch over Bulla in Bulma’s stead.
Meanwhile, two new characters named Cheelai and Lemo discover Paragus and Broly on their desolate home. Taking them back to Lord Freeza, they’re payed handsomely and begin to forge a friendship with Broly despite Paragus’ attempts to push them away. After a scene where the three bond and discover Broly’s tragic past, it becomes clear that none of these three are bad people, and they are simply doing what they must to get by in the universe.
With a new weapon at his disposal, and the seven Dragon Balls in his grasp, Freeza heads to Earth, where he is confronted by Goku and Vegeta. Eager for revenge against Vegeta’s family, Paragus sticks Broly on him, and the fight begins. The rest of the movie is spent on the extreme and devastating battle between Goku, Vegeta and Broly, as well as Cheelia and Lemo’s attempts to save their new found friend from both himself and those around him who treat him as a slave.
I’m honestly surprised by how simple and sweet this story is. Everything is perfectly paced, lingering long enough to have impact but not so long that it gets annoying or boring. Every event leads into the next without any issues, giving the story a sense of coherency that not many Dragon Ball stories have. Each of the new characters is sympathetic and relatable, and they each have a clear goal in mind. Most impressive of all is Broly himself. He isn’t just a far better character than his original incarnation: he may just be one of the best characters in all of Dragon Ball.
Broly is absolutely fantastic in this movie! He is incredibly sympathetic, as he’s essentially a big kid who is being forced by his father to do terrible things. He doesn’t know how to carry himself around others, and he’s isolated due to the fact that his father took away his only friend. His design is incredible and memorable, and it only becomes more so as he powers up. And that green sash of his isn’t just cool. It has a major importance to the plot, Broly’s backstory, and serves to make him all the more tragic a character, though I won’t spoil how. He is a reluctant villain, someone who clearly doesn’t want to use his extreme power to hurt others due to his own gentle and simple nature, but his uncontrollable power and selfish father (whom he still loves regardless, as he’s the only family he ever had) push him further towards darkness. This movie is his story, and it’s a damn good one. Easily my favorite in all of Dragon Ball.
The end of the movie also has clear lasting consequences on the future of the series. The biggest problem I had with Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Super was that their arcs didn’t have any lasting effects on the ones that came after. Because of this, each story felt pointless, and it made the overall plot feel like a bad case of the “And then this happened!” style of story telling. Here though? It’s clear that the story, if it is going to continue in some way, will be drastically different thanks to the events of this film. As such, it feels genuinely important and gives the story weight in the grand scheme of Dragon Ball. And even if it somehow doesn’t continue, this one leaves of on an incredibly satisfying note that wouldn’t leave me with any regrets should this be the last Dragon Ball product to be released.
Spoiler alert: it won’t be. Not by a long shot.
The script for this movie is absolutely amazing! Each line of dialogue is expertly written and delivered by the spectacular voice cast. Every joke made me laugh, and the more heavy emotional moments hit pretty hard. Then, when the action spiked up and things got exciting, the movie became impossible to tear away from.
Which leads me to the actual greatest thing in this movie: the art and animation. Even if you somehow don’t like the story, you can’t deny that this is the best looking Dragon Ball has ever been. Each character movement is smooth, energetic and wonderful to look at! Each punch, explosion and energy blast feel kinetic and powerful, sucking you right into the action! The background work is downright stunning, and the music, while goofy sounding in any other context, builds on the emotion and excitement of each scene flawlessly!
Hell, even the CGI parts of the fight look amazing! Sure, they don’t look as good as the drawn animation, but they still looked damn good! They blended in perfectly with everything else and didn’t take me out of the moment for even a second! That right there is an incredible achievement folks!
Then there are some truly fantastic shots! There are tons of stand out shots where the artwork is somehow even higher quality than the rest of the movie. Then there are simply really well directed shots with extra little details. My personal favorite being the absolutely bone chilling shot of Freeza looking on an exploding Vegeta as the number on the Scouter rapidly drops to zero. That was the moment I realized I was watching something truly special. It’s giving me goosebumps just to think about it!
And then there are the transformations. Holy fucking shit, these are so god damn cool! Each one is explosive and mind boggling to watch, be it the Fusion Dance or a simple Super Saiyan transformation. My personal favorite, and most visually incredible, was Broly’s first transformation into a Super Saiyan. Good god, that shit looks fucking good! In terms of visuals, these are easily the best transformation sequences in the history of the franchise!
Then there’s the action itself. Most people go to see a Dragon Ball product for the fighting. If the fighting isn’t good, you aren’t going to sell the fans on your movie. So how’s the fighting in this movie? You probably guessed it: it’s the best the series has ever had.
We already know the animation is absolutely stunning. But the choreography of the battles are even more so! Each fighter perfectly displays their skill, techniques and raw power flawlessly in this battle. On top of that, they make great use of the environment, such as when Broly dragged Goku’s head through the ice while he’s tossing him around in what may be the most brutal beat down in the history of Dragon Ball! Even at it’s most extreme, the action is easy to follow and extremely entertaining! Plus: it’s absolutely fucking insane!
Do I really need to say it at this point? This is my favorite piece of Dragon Ball media to ever come out! Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s damn close to it! It’s the best looking, best paced, and most emotionally engaging (as well as hilarious) story Dragon Ball has ever told! You can be damn well sure I’m picking this up the moment it becomes available on Blu-Ray, and I’m going to watch it again and again. If you have a chance to see this in theaters, I highly recommend you do! Whether you’re a die hard Dragon Ball fan or a casual movie goer, this one is a solid and incredibly entertaining use of your time!
This, to me, is the new peak of the franchise, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here! Just so long as it includes more Broly. Please for the love of god, give us more Broly!