Dragon Ball Super: Broly (hereafter simply referred to as “Broly”) is directed by Tatsuya Nagamine. FUNimation’s English dubbed version features the voices of Sean Schemmel, Christopher R. Sabat, Vic Mignogna, and Christopher Ayres.
Following their battles in the Tournament of Power, Son Goku and Vegeta are at it again, training to improve their power levels for any impending threats which may come to Earth. When the evil Frieza returns to the planet with his own plans to collect the Dragon Balls and have a wish granted, our heroes are in for an unexpected shock. The tyrant has brought along two surviving Saiyans – the aging Paragus, and his son Broly, who has an unexpectedly high level of untapped power and potential. Goku and Vegeta engage Broly in battle, but even with all their God-level training, it quickly becomes clear they’re in for one of their toughest battles ever, with Broly growing stronger as the battle rages on. Will our heroes be able to best this new and unexpected threat?
A little bit of background before I move on with the review – Broly was a character who appeared in three earlier non-canon Dragon Ball Z movies. The movies which were released prior to the latest batch were made without the involvement of series creator Akira Toriyama and are not considered part of the series canon, and in many cases they don’t even fit properly into the series timeline. With the arrival of a handful of specials and the newer theatrical films like Battle of Gods a few years ago, Toriyama has taken a more active role in the creation of the movies. This is his attempt to bring the character of Broly into the new Dragon Ball Super canon, making a few changes to the character’s origin and backstory, while also incorporating some content from a recent manga prequel regarding other characters’ origins/backstories, the latter of which does retcon some earlier plot points in the franchise.
Despite being a lifelong Dragon Ball fan, I won’t deny I’m not a fan of all the movies the series has spawned. Hell, I was never even the biggest fan of the Broly character despite his reputation in the franchise. That said, this movie was an amazing surprise with its far-reaching narrative and attempt to canonize the titular villain. It does suffer from a few of the series’ usual shortcomings and an overreliance on CGI in a few sequences, but all in all, I’d easily put this new take on the Broly mythos in the top five of all Dragon Ball movies.
Note that the English dubbed version was the one being shown in the theater I attended for the limited American engagement; I’m not sure if any theaters are showing the Japanese version with English subtitles. There was a time where I outright hated the dubbed versions of the show/movies due to the terrible script and unnecessary added dialogue, despite liking most of the voice actors. Fortunately, around the time they started dubbing Dragon Ball Kai, FUNimation really got their act together. The new dubs of the show have been spectacular and true to their Japanese counterparts, doing justice to the material. Sean Schemmel and Christopher R. Sabat practically own these characters now, having been voicing them in America for two decades . Also worthy of much praise is Christopher Ayres, who’s been the franchise’s Frieza voice actor in recent years, who voices the character in a much more menacing and threatening fashion than previous American portrayals, including many who basically sounded like little old ladies!
The film is essentially divided into two halves; the “Backstory” half and the “Action” half. The first act of the movie is a prolonged history of the Planet Vegeta, the Saiyans’ involvement with King Cold and Frieza, the destruction of their world, and the origins of Paragus and Broly. The backstory of Planet Vegeta has been explored loosely in other media… but never like this. It’s the first attempt at truly diving deep into these plot elements and making them a significant part of any show/movie/etc. Honestly, I gladly would have paid full price for a ticket for a full-length movie exploring this era even more in depth. Many people came for the epic fight which comprises the latter half of the movie, but for me, this opening act, which is much longer and more in-depth than you may expect, was its greatest strength.
But fear not! If you know the least little bit about Dragon Ball, you know Broly’s gonna go head-to-head with Goku and Vegeta in an epic showdown with over-the-top transformations and rampant destruction. You get that here. And boy, oh boy, does it ever satisfy. Long-time fans of the series won’t be let down with the action-packed duel between the Saiyan titans.
One thing I appreciated about the film was that the action doesn’t come at the expense of drama. Toriyama’s new take on Broly is superior to the earlier incarnation, actually managing to make the character come across as somewhat sympathetic, which is no easy task. I do appreciate Toriyama not trying to shoe-horn a bunch of characters across the Dragon Ball universe (or universes, nowadays) into the film, focusing only on a select few of the major characters. Sure, a few old favorites get the shaft, but I’d rather have proper and full focus and development on the pivotal characters instead of a bunch of cameos. This is the way to make a Dragon Ball movie.
I do, however, have a few minor complaints with the film. Continuing the trend from Battle of Gods and Resurrection F, the animators felt the need to utilize very obvious CGI in a few moments throughout the movie. The 2D animation in the film is beautiful, and these moments do somewhat take away from it. However, it’s not overused to the extent the other recent movies did.
The other issue is the return of the villain Frieza. I love this guy; he’s a sadistic son of a bitch who reigns as one of the franchise’s biggest and best villains you love to hate. But in recent years, the series’ loopholes have been exploited to keep bringing him back, or making him a major plot point. This guy’s story should have ended when Future Trunks sliced and diced him, and disintegrated what little was left of him. I’m not complaining about the character’s portrayal, but it’s seriously time to retire the guy and quit (literally) bringing him back from the dead!
Very minor flaws aside, Broly is one of the best Dragon Ball films ever made, with a surprisingly deep backstory and a necessary reimagining of the former fan favorite character. Newbies might be a bit overwhelmed by what they see here, and would be better off starting the franchise from the very beginning (as everything builds on everything else), but die-hard Dragon Ball fans – this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. Very highly recommended.
Rating: Three-and-a-half out of four stars.
DISCLAIMER: Images in the review are the property of their respective copyright holders, including (but not limited to) Toei Animation, Akira Toriyama, Shonen Jump, Bird Studio, Shueisha, and 20th Century Fox. For promotional use only. All rights reserved.