Warning: this review contains spoilers for Dragon Ball Super: Broly
Dragon Ball Super: Broly had all the right ingredients to be a success. It was a theatrical release to one of the biggest anime sensations of all time. It featured Broly, an immensely popular character in some circles. It would see oversight from series creator Akira Toriyama, much like Super and the two movies proceeding it. It employed a new art direction said to make movement more fluid.
It would seem that these attributes of the film were put to good use — Dragon Ball Super: Broly, to date, is the highest-grossing Dragon Ball movie as well as one of the highest-grossing anime movies of all time. That’s not even to mention the critical reception, which has been quite positive.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what do I make of the film?
Well, I really loved it. And it’s not because I “turned my brain off since it’s a shonen anime.” As a fan, I felt the creators really knew their audience as well as the larger universe that this movie belongs to. It was breathtaking and surprisingly emotional at times. I don’t have any qualms about saying that this is the definitive Dragon Ball movie.
One of the things that makes this movie so remarkable is just how important it is. I know this statement might sound vague, so I hope to make myself clear.
I don’t want to get into the canon/non-canon debate, but it’s unquestionable that “canocity” is a big part of the appeal with the recent slew of Dragon Ball movies. A lot of the Dragon Ball Z movies could be dismissed because most of them didn’t fit in nicely with the story. Come Battle of Gods, people were excited because Toriyama was on board, signifying that that movie mattered in the larger universe of Dragon Ball. Its events could have consequences down the line. With the release of Super, this was proven true. With Broly, not only was a fan-favorite character going to be canonized, but Goku’s origin and the genocide of the saiyan race as well.
You see, the first third or so of Dragon Ball Super: Broly depicts Broly’s origins as well as Vegeta’s and Goku’s. I really appreciate this. Having two distinct time periods run the risk of making a work feel disjointed, but the first portion of the film ties it together. We get to see why Broly ended up the way he is as well as getting more context surrounding the heroes we’ve been following for so long. Gine and Bardock’s farewell to Goku was surprisingly moving. I didn’t expect it from a Dragon Ball movie. Hell, I probably wouldn’t expect it in the show, either. The first-third of the movie makes it feel more personal than many other Dragon Ball sagas.
Well, more persona for viewers and Paragus & Bardock. It’s personal for us because we get a glimpse into the lives of the saiyans and it’s quite emotional. It’s personal for Paragus and Bardock because the things they experienced lead them to carry out the events of the rest of the film. Unfortunately, a criticism I have of the movie is that it’s billed — structured, even — as a story about Goku, Vegeta, and Broly’s origins. While it’s true that it’s certainly about all three, Goku and Vegeta combined have a tangential account, at best, of the first half of the movie. This causes the two to feel less central to the plot when we come back to the present-day. In the grand scheme of things, this is relatively minor. Akira Toriyama apparently wanted the movie to be three hours long. While I doubt me and other diehard fans would have minded, that would have made for an abnormally long movie. After everything's said and done, the cut we got was fine, albeit not perfect. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a possible director’s cut in the future, however.
I also like the “saiyan” angle because it makes it more acceptable not to see the other Z Fighters in action.
Given that the writers would be discarding the old canon, changes were inevitable. As fans, we’d have to accept these changes either way, but I’m happy to say they were mostly for the better. A big point of worry was Goku’s origin as well as Bardock’s characterization. Bardock’s Father of Goku iteration was immensely popular, and at the release of Dragon Ball Minus, me and other fans were worried that Toriyama was making Bardock too much into Jor-El, Superman’s father. I’m happy to say that, while he cares more about his son than the old version of the character, he still feels like Bardock, being gruff and defiant to the end. I appreciated finally getting to see more of Vegeta’s father and seeing how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Broly is, in a word, is amazing. The original Broly movie was the only Dragon Ball movie I owned as a kid, so the lunk has a special place in my heart. They overhauled his character and he’s amazing. He’s a truly tragic character and you really sympathize with him. Unlike Jiren, his backstory doesn’t feel hokey — most likely because it didn’t come out of nowhere and we actually experience parts of it instead of it just being exposited. Like my favorite character, Future Trunks, his upbringing really shapes his unique personality — Future Trunks is so stern and pragmatic due to living in a colorless, post-apocalyptic future; Broly is quiet, somewhat dim, and animalistic due to growing up on a remote planetoid where his only companion was his brutal father who only saw him as a weapon to carry out his vendetta. Come the end of the movie, given everything he’s gone through, you don’t want the protagonists to win. Broly is a good antagonist for the same reason Beerus is — he breaks the mold by being more than a one-note, destruction-craving villain. This version of Broly is probably my second-favorite Dragon Ball character.
I enjoyed that the movie still managed to fit in room for jokes; they really lightened the mood and they didn’t feel out of place. Parts of the movie felt like the original Dragon Ball, which I hope some fans will be able to appreciate. I was afraid that, given the events of Super, they were going to damage Frieza’s character, I was pleasantly surprised at how dastardly he still was. It’s even more notable that he can have a complete gag of a wish (he wants to grow five centimeters taller; any taller and it would seem conspicuous) but still seem threatening.
The animation and is certainly different this time around. The scenes with Goku on crew on Earth often have a simplistic style, with less detail and somewhat muted backgrounds.. I wasn’t sure about it initially, but having some time to reflect on it, I think I like it. It makes me think of the manga. I appreciate Goku and Vegeta not appearing as lanky as they do in some Super episodes, while also not grotesquely buff a like some Z episodes.
They’re realistic enough that they can make me feel bad about myself. Fights are still beautifully animated except for the occasional weird CGI.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Dragon Ball without the fights, which are breathtaking. The movie was determined to remind me why I loved the original Broly— his immense power. He hits like a truck and the choreography, environmental damage, and the glorious screams of Sean Schemmel as Goku gets absolutely rocked all serve to drive this point home.
You’ll go “holy shit” at least once in the movie. Perhaps it’s just seeing Broly in action after so many years. Maybe it’s the depiction of a young Raditz. Maybe it’s when the characters fight through lava or cause a rift in space-time and act like nothing happened. Maybe it’s finally seeing Gogeta made canon as he gloriously dukes it out with Broly. Maybe it’s the end of the movie where Goku tells Broly to call him Kakarot.
The music where someone is chanting the characters’ names might seem campy, especially if you listen to it without watching the scene. But trust me, it works. And it’s awesome.
This entire movie was, excuse my French, fucking amazing.
It might seem that I only liked this movie as much as I did because I was a longtime fan with meta knowledge of the series, but believe me, if you like Dragon Ball Z or Super in any capacity, even if you’ve only watched Super, do yourself a favor and watch Dragon Ball: Z Broly. The plot, characterization, and action are all amazing.
If you're one of the people that don't like Broly's original incarnation, give this one a chance, because he's more than a green-haired psychopath now, and he just so happens to star in the best Dragon Ball movie.