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DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY (2018) review

January 16, 2019

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written by: Akira Toriyama
directed by:Tatsuya Nagamine
rated: PG (for prolonged frenetic sequences of action and violence, and for language)
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: January 16-24 2019 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

What did I get myself into and what in the world did I just watch? Those are just two of the many questions that swirled in my brain while watching “Dragon Ball Super: Broly”, the wonkily-named, latest theatrical entry in the Dragon Ball series, a Japanese anime fantasy martial arts extravaganza that’s popular amongst its die-hard fans. That response is to be expected since this is the first time I’ve watched any of these movies and I was gob-smacked to learn its the twentieth entry in the series. Embarking on watching this, I felt like the outlier walking into a seemingly abandoned comic book store on gaming night, just stepping in for that lone issue I’m missing, but then struck with curiosity as to what, if anything, I’m missing by not being into this apparent phenomena.

Again, I’ll preface by emphasizing that I approached this movie not as a longstanding fan of the characters and worlds creating by Japanese manga artist, game artist and character designer, Akira Toriyama, but simply someone curious as to what it’s all about. That being said, while I found myself somewhat entertained and impressed by the sci-fi fantasy world-building here (some kind of trippy), I was mostly overwhelmed and utterly confused by the convoluted story, cascade of characters and ceaseless cacophony of hyper-fighting.

 

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*Now, let’s see if I can make sense of what transpired…

The story starts forty-one years ago on the planet Vegeta, home to the Saiyans, a fictional extraterrestrial race under the military rule of a powerful galactic tyrant named Frieza (Christopher Ayres). King Vegeta (Christopher Sabat) has hopes that his incubated son, Prince Vegeta (Sabat, as well), will one day become an elite prodigy due to the boy’s current power level, but when he learns that Paragus (Dameon Clarke) also has a son gestating but with an abnormal power level that far exceeds his son’s, the prideful banishes the boy to Vampa, a desolate planet. This doesn’t go over so well with Paragus, who secretly follows Broly’s capsule with the plan of raising him on Vampa and training him in the art of wielding his immense power with the ulterior motive of eventually using Broly as a weapon of vengeance against King Vegeta.

Fast forward five years, low-class Saiyan, Bardock (Sonny Strait) suspects Frieza’s orders to send his son Kakarot (later named Goku) to Earth means he too has ulterior motives. Sure enough, Frieza demolishes Planet Vegeta after he learns that a rumored Super Saiyan could defeat him at some point. The Saiyan race are decimated except for Goku (Sean Schemmel), Vegeta and his cohorts Nappa (Phil Parsons) and the older brother of Goku, Raditz (Justin Cook). You following all this? It’s okay, I was confused as well.

Fast forward still to the present, where we find Goku and Prince Vegeta training in the desert with their friends, when they are suddenly informed that six out of seven Dragon Balls have been stolen by Frieza’s soldiers. Of course, this urgent news will only make sense to viewers in-the-know. Meanwhile back on Vampa, Broly and have been discovered and rescued by Cheelai (Erica Lindbeck “Miss Hokusai”) and Lemo (Bruce Carey), low-class soldiers from Frieza’s forces, who were scanning the universe for recruits. As Goku and Vegeta rushed to the Arctic to stop Frieza from collecting the seventh Dragon Ball, they are suddenly faced by Broly with his father who arrive with Frieza’s forces.

What follows is a massive battle between three powerful beings, Prince Vegeta and Goku against the perceived threat of Broly. As the trio engage in cataclysmic fights on land and in air, pummeling each other through mountain tops, it’s revealed that Paragus has conspired with Frieza in order to exact his constant revenge. As the battle rages on, someone must relent before an inevitable transformation destroys every living being.

 

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Some viewers may already know to expect this, but I was whelmed to find the not-so-subtle humor (actually there’s nothing subtle about what unfolds here) of this feature, some of which are less overt than others. I got a kick out of how some of the denizens of planet Vegeta, are purposeful named after “vegetables”. There’s the most obvious, King Vegeta (an obvious name, considering any King from a planet would be named by the planet’s name, hence: King Uranus) and there’s the titular Broly (broccoli) and his father, Paragus (asparagus), whose pee probably smells quite rank. Again, this should comes as no surprise from anyone paying attention to this series, since creator Akira Toriyama had previously created a character named Kale (not to be confused with one of the 79 moons of Jupiter), but I found it humorous.

Within the last thirty action-heavy minutes of “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” there are deaths, deceptions, transformations and revelations, not to mention literal dragon balls and a summoned, wish-granting dragon – just don’t expect any major themes, concepts or depth. It’s safe to assume that there’s certainly enough going on here for the targeted fanbase and with all the backstory and build-up here, “Broly” is also not a bad gateway for neophytes like myself.

Watching “Broly”, I was reminded of the respect I have for the actors who primarily voice animated characters, actually that respect increased as I took note of all the shouting, screaming and teeth-grinding that can be heard here. I also tried to consider the geek culture this series has gained over the years, but there’s no escaping that there’s folks out there like me, who for whatever reason will be coming to this totally green and will be completely overwhelmed and lost, ending with a feeling of dizziness and defeat after viewing.

Ultimately, I wasn’t won over by anything in “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” and therefore I won’t be digging up the previous nineteen movies in the series. I don’t regret the viewing experience, since I felt like ripping my shirt off and running out into the street and screaming to the sky after watching this.

*Who my kidding, I had some online assistance.

 

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RATING: **

 

 

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