Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ Review
By: Kirran “LordMoonstone” Somerlade
In 2014, Battle of Gods brought the beloved Dragon Ball franchise to theaters in the United States, and now a little over a year later we have a sequel film airing worldwide. The new movie, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, revives Frieza, whose vengeful madness propels him back to Earth to challenge our heroes. The good people at FUNimation provided us with an advanced screening of the film, and we wanted to provide a review for you eager fans!
Before I indulge in the synopsis, I should establish my bias. As evidenced by our keystone project, Dragon Ball Z Abridged, we are all massive Dragon Ball fans. Further, Team Four Star has worked with FUNimation in the past for ad campaigns and voice-over work. In fact, our own Scott “KaiserNeko” Frerichs plays a minor role in the film (see if you can hear him begging for his life!). I will remain as objective as possible, but keep in mind our relations to the company and the franchise.
Written by original manga author Akira Toriyama, the 19th Dragon Ball theatrical release Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ has already grossed more than $51.1 million internationally. It is now slated to air in more than 1,000 theaters across the United States and Canada from August 4th to the 12th. The prior film, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, grossed $50 million worldwide, which puts Resurrection ‘F’ at the forefront. While ahead in sales, Resurrection ‘F’ sadly falls short of the charm found in Battle of Gods when it comes to its plot, but its presentation and intensity make up for its shortcomings. Be warned, a few minor spoilers are to follow.
The cornerstone of the plot revolves around the revival of the titular ‘F’ character: Frieza. The film opens with a depiction of Earth’s hell, which I dare not spoil. Needless to say it is quite a fitting punishment for someone such as Frieza. We are then introduced to the remnants of his army, led by film original Sorbet, and their quest to acquire the Dragon Balls. Fortunately for them, the Pilaf gang already gathered them. Their comedic antics keep the film going strong throughout the opening scene, providing a performance akin to that found in Battle of Gods. While their screen-time may be short, their presence is filled by the appearance of the newly created Jaco, the Galactic Patrolman. Fans not familiar with the manga adaptation of his story will find him as the main source of comedic relief. His sketch of Frieza and interactions with the Z-Fighters, Beerus, and Whis all provide ample moments of Toriyama’s humor. Yet where the side characters Jaco and the Pilaf gang shine, the Battle of Gods duo Beerus and Whis fall short. This is where most of my problems with the movie’s writing become evident.
Beerus and Whis were the best parts of Battle of Gods for me, and it is unfortunate that their characters have devolved since. Whis serves as the observant mentor figure for Goku and Vegeta throughout a good portion of the film. Whis’s apparent omnipotence is fully demonstrated, which destroys some of the mystique for the character. In a sloppily-handled execution, Whis is the film’s deus ex machina as well. Unfortunately, these two are mostly portrayed as food-oriented caricatures of what they offered in Battle of Gods. However, Beerus has a few wonderful comedic moments, and his interactions with the rest of the cast bring the laughs.
Once Frieza arrives on Earth, we see the nexus of Z-Fighters as Krillin, Gohan, Master Roshi, Tien, and Jaco gather to fight the alarming number of soldiers. The fight scene that ensues demonstrates the film’s excellent choreography, sense of scale, and urgency. In this scene, we see the manifestation of Toriyama’s intent, as he “intentionally increased the scale of the action scenes.” Arguably, the fight with Frieza’s soldiers holds most of the film’s excellent set pieces. Jaco utilizes a form of posing in all of his moves, Tien blasts a swath of soldiers with energy attacks, “buff” Master Roshi makes an endearing return, and we get to see Krillin demonstrate his tactical prowess. After Battle of Gods denied everyone but Goku and Vegeta their chance to shine, it is refreshing to see the lesser characters remind us that they’re not devoid of fighting potential.
Once things get dire, Goku and Vegeta join the fray, and Frieza skips straight to his final form. After an energetic, visually stunning fight with Goku, we see the larger conflict of the film, that Goku and Vegeta cannot work together. From there we have the unceremonious transformation into the strangely titled “Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan” form, which is thankfully never referred to by name in the film. Frieza then demonstrates his new Golden Frieza form and the main battle truly begins, as it encapsulates the next third of the film’s runtime. The fight begins to drag, and it seems to attempt to build to some larger climax that never happens. In spite of this, both Goku and Vegeta get their shining moments in the film, and it is refreshing to see Vegeta finally have an excellent part in a movie. In summation, the plot of the movie wraps up quickly, and is too focused on delivering fights.
Moving on, the movie’s presentation is absolutely stunning at points, and disappointing at others. The CG work found in Battle of Gods makes a return, but there is little improvement in the technology. The CG models still look like they are ripped from a last gen video game, and feel out of place amidst the beautifully animated characters. Pictured below are two fight scenes for comparison.
The CG transitions oddly to 2D animation, but when it is purely 2D it looks spectacular. Each character looks gorgeous and on-model in every scene. As mentioned before the large fight between the Z-Fighters and Frieza’s soldiers demonstrates a fluidity found in recent digital animation, and it is thrilling to see the Dragon Ball characters translated wonderfully into the modern era without losing their sense of style.
The voice acting is simply stellar across the board. Jeremy Schwartz and Todd Haberkorn deliver solid performances as newcomers Sorbet and Jaco respectively. Jason Douglas is just as endearing as Beerus in this film despite his subdued role, and Sonny Strait’s Krillin is just as excellent as he is in Dragon Ball Z Kai. Speaking of Kai, blowing everyone out of the water, destroying scenery, and resonating in viewer’s minds, is Chris Ayres as Frieza. His screams, irritation at soldiers, and pompous attitude are all delivered with incredible conviction. Chris Ayres has been the best thing to happen to the Dragon Ball dub, and he has only improved since his debut as Frieza in Kai. Dub fans should consider themselves blessed that the new film provided another chance for them to see Chris Ayres portray Frieza the way he was meant to be seen: a tyrannical, conniving, and maniacal emperor.
The soundtrack is equally impressive, which is a step up from Battle of Gods. Norihito Sumitomo provides many choral moments invoking celebration, despair, and tension. For the unaware, the film’s ‘F’ moniker comes from the Maximum the Hormone song of the same name, which they wrote as a song about Frieza back in 2008. I was excited to see the song in an official Dragon Ball feature, but it is slightly underwhelming when used for Frieza’s revival and not a fight scene. Admittedly we do get an instrumental version of the track for the big Golden Frieza vs SSGSS Goku fight, but I only wish that was the vocal version. There is no moment akin to the big HERO~ Song of Hope insert song found in Battle of Gods. If it’s any consolation, I did get goosebumps from Ayres’s Frieza.
Ultimately, what the film lacks in writing, it makes up for in presentation. Unlike Battle of Gods, which served as a grand celebration of the Dragon Ball cast, Resurrection ‘F’ capitalizes on the familiarity of fans to deliver an incredible follow-up to the legendary Goku vs Frieza fight of old. The premise alone can alienate the uninitiated, but it is an enjoyable film nonetheless. The characters suffer from poor development and a heavy focus on fighting, but it is the culmination of beautiful animation, excellent performances, and grand set pieces that make the movie a must-see for Dragon Ball fans.