Thursday, September 17, 2015

DragonBall Z: Battle of Gods

  So, I know this has been out for ages now but I refused to watch it until I had finished the show. Yes, late bloomer, wtf and all that. I only just legitimately finished Dragon Ball Z for the first time this week. I was a Toonami brat back in the day but as anyone would know, they'd repeat the hell out of just a few sagas and that was the extent of it. Not to mention I could never watch it at my own house, we didn't have that channel. I would always watch it at my friends' place. Late nights, little sleep, and lots and lots of Dragon Ball Z. Until I got a fair bit older that was my only exposure to the show, that and a couple of the Budokai games for the PS2.

  Anyways, for the past five years or so, I've been making my way through the show, every so many months, I would watch for a while, then stop, and then another so many months later- same thing. Anyhow, I only just finished, and I feel like I'm finally a complete person. I was going to dive straight into Dragon Ball Super but as far as I know there's no English dubs or subs yet. Sigh. Alas. Instead I decided to finally watch Battle of Gods, and also start watching the original Dragon Ball which I also had not seen before- at all. Yes, yes, I know. I get a lot of crap about that as is. No need to add to it.

  But for someone who has nothing but fond memories of sleepovers fueled by Mountain Dew and DBZ reruns, this movie was a total delight. It catered directly to those warm feelings. A lot of people complain about the simplistic one-off nature of the story in this movie, but I like it. It's simple, uncomplicated, and is actually just a really big family reunion featuring some awesome fight scenes. I'm really glad I finished the show before hopping into the movie, because some things just wouldn't have made sense to me, and as is, I still didn't know who Emperor Pilaf was until like... today, watching the original Dragon Ball.

  For me, DBZ's lasting appeal has always been in how the characters grow, progress, and change over the length of the show. Enemies become allies, get married, grow older, have kids- and the cast of characters grows that much more. Battle of Gods was a fun 'where are they now' set sometime right after the end of the Majin Buu saga. The show's ending jumps ten years ahead, but the movie is set well before then. Having just finished the show, and hopping into this, it was seamless. It was like a little mini saga. Character motivations and backstories may be thin, but I didn't mind it. It was very straightforward and fun. Honestly, I think even someone with the most basic knowledge about DBZ could still enjoy the movie. Though it's really not representative of the tone of the majority of the show.

  The movie, despite having the fate of the Earth hang in the balance, is decidedly lighthearted and rather un-dramatic. The show would have several episodes of death and destruction, then several more of utter hopelessness, all while the heroes train to push their limits so they can match the strength of the latest villain and defeat him in combat. The movie isn't so concerned with such a dour and intense plot. It's really upbeat and more comedic than anything. It's little more than a flashy exhibition match with all the trimmings. But that's okay, because again- to me the appeal of DBZ is in the characters, and catching up with them, seeing their antics again and being in the thick of it all was really where it's at for me.

  King Kai warns Goku about an impending threat, the god of destruction, so powerful that he destroys entire worlds simply on the whim of a foul mood. Goku's reaction is to change into his 'butt-kicking' clothes, and start getting excited and giddy at the prospect of fighting him. He hasn't changed a bit, and I hope he never does. He's one of the most powerful beings in the entire universe, and he's still afraid of his wife's temper. It's great. Most of the movie's lighthearted nature runs off of his energy and as a result, the full 90 minutes breezes by. It's packed with laughs and excitement. I got my money's worth even if the movie doesn't really showcase or reflect the long, drawn out, and sprawling galactic hardship that each saga of DBZ is known for. It's still worth it in my book. It's still fun.

  In the show, each saga is bookended by a couple 'slice of life' episodes. I loved those. That's what this feels like more or less, but with a flashy new villain for Goku to fight with regardless. The animation was slick and the fights were awesome. The movie strikes an ideal balance between humor and seriousness, managing to juggle scenes of total ridiculousness with scenes of grave danger and pull it off incredibly well. The story is as thin as it is actually rather silly, but again, I loved it. I know this movie won't satisfy all DBZ fans, and it's clearly far from the sprawling theatrical epic a lot of them wanted, but it brought back good memories for me and I had a big smile plastered on my face the whole time.

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