Toei animation promised the best Dragon Ball movie to date with its announcement of Dragon Ball Super: Broly. They were bringing their best animators, Akira Toriyama’s A game, a dive into the Saiyans’ origins, and the rebirth of fan-favorite Broly in a new must-see movie to showcase the heights of modern Dragon Ball. Having always existed in a strange place excluded from the now mythologized classic series, but still emphasized as a true “canon” successor, would Super now gain accreditation as a proper follow-up to Dragon Ball Z?
To the world’s dismay, Dragon Ball Super: Broly has a vast selection of fine irons in the fire, but no great blacksmith to craft something worthy of the materials. Though moments of the adventure harken back to legend, with a surprisingly endearing character in Broly and the duo of Cheelai and Lemo, and features mesmerizing visuals and fight choreography, it’s neither the second coming of greatness nor does it break free of the shackles of Super. A great accomplishment for fans that points the modern series in a positive direction, but a film that crumbles under scrutiny.
Super Saiyan God Vegeta’s First Appearance
In a plodding first act the film seeks to introduce Broly and Paragus, retcon the beloved Bardock – The Father of Goku T.V. special with the uninspired, bland, Superman rip-off, Dragon Ball Minus story written by Akira Toriyama in 2014, all while failing to establish a real precedent for future conflict or a true villain. The beginning chain of events is anti-epochal. Besides the lazy explanation given for Broly and Paragus’s activities over the past 40 years most of the opening is underdeveloped and feels unnecessary. It comes across as an unfocused attempt at fan-service that takes precedence over doing the film’s plot and main characters justice. With a brief look at the history of the Saiyans and an introduction to Goku’s parents Bardock and Gine, this act culminates in the destruction of planet Vegeta at the hands of Frieza. This is a long since established aspect of lore, with melodramatic revisions, that has no bearing on future events.
After a seamless transition into the modern day, the downward slope of the beginning takes on a positive trajectory that reaches for the stars. The second act starts off with an energetic sparing session between Goku and Vegeta with Whis, Beerus, and Bulma chilling out ocean-side on a private island. The brilliant drawing quality starts to become prominent with every character looking the best one could conceive modern animation capable of. The same level of detail persists in every fist thrown as Goku and Vegeta train, giving a tease of the combat to come. Little details like Bulma wearing a vacation outfit and Vegeta donning his Buu-saga clothes make characters feel that much more alive as banter is exchanged and the plot slowly unfolds. Visually, Dragon Ball Super: Broly will always be in a league above the rest, and this extends to environmental design and the likes of new characters Cheelai and Lemo.
Small Moments Prove What DBS: Broly Is Capable Of
These Frieza Force members are hunting for new additions to the force when they stumble upon Broly and Paragus stranded on a distant planet. What ensues is a refreshing exploration of Broly’s character as he interacts with Cheelai and Lemo while fleshing out some of his and Paragus’s backstory. Dialogue and character interactions succeed in developing sympathy towards the characters and giving the movie some much needed emotional weight. As the Frieza Force heads to Earth, the second act crescendos with Broly vs. Vegeta.
The directing and animation moves with the action as these two god-like beings exchange blows. Each attack is choreographed to perfection with no wasted movement or recycled frames; every visual carries the same amount of excruciating detail, boundary-breaking the fight into legendary status. Even transformations stop time with epic displays of power and style that reminisces of classic Dragon Ball. This begins the film’s focus onto an extended action sequence that surpasses gods themselves. By masterfully integrating necessary moments of brevity, the brawl allows time to slow down and keep up with the fully realized super-beings on screen. However, this grand experience eventually continues well into wearing itself out.
Excruciating Detail Ascends The Animation
The final act begins the film’s degradation as the spectacle begins to lose its charm and neglected aspects pull viewers back into reality. Besides throw-away lines, the stakes and a true villain are never realized. The punches roar through the dimensional fabric without any weight to them and the action builds on top of itself with no release. It begins to feel like a glorified sparring session with no consequences whether one side wins or loses.
Broly is the most developed and likable character while Frieza’s inclusion is played for laughs, leaving the film without a proper antagonist and comedy that does not do the series’s legacy justice. Even the stupendous action can’t save the film from these fundamental flaws that plague it. The fighting gets exhausted with no moments of brevity and a hyper-active directorial style that mistakes erratic camera movement with excitement. What feels like half the film is devoted to a breathless versus sequence that forgets to make clear why exactly this fight is important.
The movie ends with potential still locked away – neither succeeding to recapture classic Dragon Ball, break free from the mistakes shackling Super, nor to develop into a legendary identity of itself. Greatness is overshadowed by a lack of respect to basic storytelling principles, a slow opening that neuters beloved characters, some lazy jokes, and an unnecessarily heavy emphasis on action when the film has proven itself capable of so much more.