Dragonball Z: Resurrection “F” (2015): Written by Akira Toriyama, directed by Tadayoshi Yamamuro. Starring: Masako Nozawa, Ryo Horikawa, Toshio Furukawa, Ryusei Nakao, and Mayumi Tanaka. Running Time: 94 minutes.
Rating: This film cannot be rated
I can honestly say that ever since I started writing film reviews, I never thought this day would come. Despite the pretty lenient guidelines I give myself in terms of what I can count as a “new” film for my yearly counter, and thus be able to write a full review about, not once did I think that I would have the chance to write one about Dragonball Z, one of the foundational shows of my childhood. And yet, here we are. In April of this year, Dragonball Z: Resurrection “F” (from here on out referred to as DBZ:RF) received its theatrical release in Japan, and a mere 4 months later it got a brief and very limited release in the US. Limited it may have been, but it still falls under my rules regarding theatrical releases, and therefore counts.
“Even the complete obliteration of his physical form can't stop the galaxy's most evil overlord. After years in spiritual purgatory, Frieza has been resurrected and plans to take his revenge on the Z-Fighters of Earth. Facing off against Frieza's powerful new form, and his army of 1,000 soldiers, Goku and Vegeta must reach new levels of strength in order to protect Earth from their vengeful nemesis.” This is, literally, the entire title summation of this movie’s plot on Rotten Tomatoes. And it is all you need to know. There’s an beauty to be found in its poetic simplicity. Perverse, almost. Because this is Dragonball Z, and if you need any more reason or explanation, or any justification for why the walls of Death itself have no meaning, you’re watching the wrong movie.
To be fair, almost none of the DBZ movies (although some early ones are exceptions) count as films in any real sense, hence why applying any traditional rating to them is in an exercise in impossible futility. They are nothing more than extended specials of the show- each assumes you already know the main characters, their backstories, and their relationships to each other, and simply conjures up a baddie otherwise completely unmentioned in the regular episodes for Goku (and it is always, inevitably, Goku, because) to beat the living shit out of before blowing him (and it is always, invariably, a him, because) to Kingdom Come. Sometimes, there is an army of hapless minions for the others to pick apart. Sometimes there is not.
It is a tired, staid, and sorry excuse for a narrative…and boy, was it one hell of a sweet nostalgia bomb to sink back into. If I hadn’t seen Spy, Inside Out, and Trainwreck already, I would be proclaiming DBZ:RF to be the funniest movie of 2015 to date. The baddy we get to see smacked around this time is, as I’ve mentioned already, Freiza, which should be a joke given how stupidly-overpowered just about everyone is now compared with when he first appeared, but they duck around that in literally 5 seconds flat by revealing he simply never actually trained to increase his strength before, but since he finally knows how strong Saiyans can get, he will now do so. He does. The results are phenomenally funny.
But wait, you say, Freiza’s dead! And not only is he dead, he was brought back before, and Gohan punched him and he literally exploded. Remember when that happened? Neither does Gohan, apparently, nor anyone else. But I can’t nitpick that, since none of the movies have ever been treated as canon. Anyway…
If you need even a hint as to how Frieza was brought back to life, I recommend you double-check the title of this franchise. He takes control of the remnants of his once-powerful forces and heads straight to Earth for the sole purpose of extracting revenge on Goku. Because that worked out so well the last time. Piccolo, Krillin, Gohan, Tien, and for some reason Master Roshi, plus Jaco the Galactic Policeman, are on hand to basically demolish the army while barely breaking a sweat, until Frieza finally makes him move. He is stopped just in time when Vegeta and Goku are brought back to Earth by Whis and Beerus, with whom they have apparently been training since the end of the past movie.
This all happened in just over the first half of the movie. So the rest of it is just Goku, Vegeta, and Frieza (but mostly Goku, because fuck Vegeta, amiright?) hashing things out with some staggeringly awful CGI fighting. There are hints of lessons that both still need to learn as fighters, but to my disappointment, this ends up playing absolutely no role in the conclusion of the battle. The day is saved, along with the Earth, nothing is learned, and everyone goes about their day. And no, that is not a spoiler, because like I said, this is a DBZ movie. They aren’t even going to try to make you guess how things will turn out, so why should I?
It was refreshing to see that somewhere between the end of the Majiin Buu Saga, by which time this franchise had officially been banned from the house by my parents, and the present day, the DBZ franchise has attained an almost nirvana-esque level of self-awareness. The utter incompetence of Yamcha and Chiaotzu in a fight are admitted to right at the start, and the two never even make an appearance (while, again, MASTER ROSHI was considered strong enough to bring into the fray). Even Frieza gets in on the winking fun- he directly names the toy based on his new form that, I am sure, has already been made, calling it the “Golden Frieza.” When I was a kid, we would theorize about such forms existing for the various characters, and it’s nice to see the mind-readers in Toei Animation HQ took notice of us humble American brats.
In the end, the question of whether or not this film is worth your time if you were not an at least somewhat obsessive fan of the show is a moot one- of course it’s not. What are you even doing here? For those of us who could never get enough howling Kamehamehas, the question is- does this latest addition to the DBZ film series hit enough of the needed adrenaline points to be worth an hour and a half of your evening? I would say it depends on your level of self-awareness. I had a gay old time of it myself, but the overuse of CGI and reliance on an already-known villain, albeit an iconic one, do keep it from rising above its pulpy, TV-special origins. That might make it too much for some to sit through. Then again, for many of you, that might be exactly the point.