By Lvenger 69 Comments
Having made several blogs and threads about news regarding this film, I figured I should write a review of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. This is probably the last blog I’ll write for a while so I figured should do another review of a movie and I chose this one. Mainly because I finally found a good quality decently subbed video of the film in question which I’ve linked in the first sentence for those of you who may be interested or want to watch a well subbed copy of Battle of Gods even if like myself, you’d already read the synopsis and know what’s going to happen. As such, this review will cover SPOILERS in relation to major plot points about Battle of the Gods so I figure I should get that out the way to divert anyone who doesn’t want to be spoiled. For those still here, I shall begin.
Firstly, let me begin by talking about the story which should be the main meat and substance of a film. To summarise in short, Bills, the film’s antagonist and the God of Destruction in the DBZ universe has awoken after a 39 year ‘nap’ to find a foe that is supposedly a threat to him and his godly power. Its name is the Super Saiyan God. He sets off to find Goku, who is on King Kai’s planet training, after his aide, Whis, informed him that Frieza had been killed by this Saiyan. Meanwhile, the rest of the DBZ cast are celebrating Bulma’s 38th birthday at a party thrown by her. This neat overview paints a rosier picture than the reality of what is actually the case. The film’s story is a big let down in this department because Toriyama essentially writes an overly long filler for the first third of the film at least. Not much happens in terms of progression of the overall plot in the first half hour to 40 minutes of the film. And this is because Toriyama hinges a great deal of the early stages of the story on Bulma’s birthday party. The pacing is incredibly terrible as one can clearly see from watching the film due to Toriyama wasting precious minutes of the film on bland scenes such as the Pilaf Gang showing up after being turned young by a wish from the Dragon Balls along with Bills and Whis discovering the culinary diversity of food on Earth and a Bingo tournament. This is what we get after Toriyama takes years off the original series whilst assisting with DBZ Kai? Kai was approved by Toriyama because it was what he wanted the original anime show to be. Kai was punchier, better paced, progressed through the story at a nice rate and didn’t waste time on much filler or overdoing it on the action. I honestly don’t get the hostility fans of the original anime have to Kai because it refines and improves on so many problems with the original show. But before I lose track, this is where BOG falls down. It wastes too much time on pointless, bland filler centring on Bulma’s party for practically the first half of the film and dumps the massive exposition and epic action in the second half. This is similar to a problem I had with Man of Steel although at least that film didn’t dump plot and action all at once unlike this film. We don’t get clarification on the Super Saiyan God until over halfway into the film where Goku summons Shenron with the Dragon Balls to tell him about it. We don’t get to see how it can be summoned until there’s some more time wasting to build up tension about a twist in the story. Toriyama’s story just screams of filling up and dragging out the film unnecessarily rather than organically introducing plot elements over time balanced with some convenient action pieces.
So I’ve established my thoughts that the story’s very overrated but what about the characterisation? Well for the most part, I do think the portrayal of the characters was decent. Though Toriyama doesn’t do much to change the main characters, I guess he doesn’t need to given how iconic they are. Goku is cheery, well natured and kind yet foolish, rash and obsessive over facing such a strong opponent as Bills. Yes, there are moments when Toriyama forces him into the limelight but that’s a tradition of DBZ I’m afraid. It’s not the most organic story telling but it does have an iconicity to it. And I do think Vegeta gets treated well here. Normally, his pride and arrogance gets in the way of him progressing as a character but I did like how Toriyama placed him in a situation that required him to put aside his pride and basically babysit Bills from destroying the planet. Though the scene where Vegeta sings is the most cringe worthy, creepy and downright disturbing scene in Dragon Ball history and that’s saying something. And Vegeta gets to show that he has a heart as well when fighting Bills after he slaps Bulma and supposedly surpassing Goku. Mini rant here, I liked it but it makes NO sense for a Super Saiyan or a Super Saiyan 2 to surpass a Super Saiyan 3. This context does not help the plausibility of Vegeta surpassing Goku. I’d much rather Vegeta had turned into a Super Saiyan 3 and given Bills some trouble because that way, it would be plausible for Vegeta to have surpassed Goku. But the most interesting characterisation comes from the new antagonist Bills and his aide Whis. Yes Bills was going to destroy the planet but there was a purpose behind it which was sorely lacking in the Buu Saga and arguably the Android Saga as well. Bills is the God of Destruction so it’s his job to destroy planets to maintain order in the universe. What’s more, I liked Bills’ personality. He’s definitely one of the more interesting villains in DBZ. We get to see layers to his character for once. He’s capricious, irritable, has a legitimately plausible bad temper and is menacing enough to make the Kais quiver in fear whenever he awakes. But he’s also playful, snarky, well mannered, quite calm, inquisitive and in the end, actually humble to an extent. Such a dichotomy in DBZ villains is rare and even though this is far from a good film, Bills is one of the most interesting villains to come out of DBZ. Whis is alright I guess, a bit too much of an obsession on food for him but he balances an absent minded charm with a clarity for what Bills wants and the story at hand.
As a side note, the rest of the DBZ cast could have done with more characterisation if Toriyama had balanced the plot more effectively. But now I’ll spend a short paragraph looking at the humour in this film. Aside from epic action, DBZ is known for its light hearted levity at times. Sadly, that isn’t present in a good way in this film. There are a few somewhat funny scenes like a drunken Gohan getting shot at and Whis and Bills’ reaction to Earth cuisine but they don’t outweigh the terribly bad puns. From childish jokes about the Pilaf Gang’s age to Trunks having a girlfriend (who is a younger version of a member of the Pilaf Gang) and that awfully cringeworthy scene of Vegeta singing and dancing, the attempts at humour in this film do not come close to salvaging it in the slightest. And there’s a ridiculous scene involving Bills and wasabi. The jokes are as lazily written as the plot which really hampers the enjoyment you can get from this film.
Fortunately, there is one sure fire area Dragon Ball Z never fails to impress in. Incredible action and epic fight scenes in DBZ come together like peas in a pod. Though we have to wait til the last half hour for the climatic fight scene, there are appetisers along the way. From Bills humiliating Super Saiyan 3 Goku in 2 hits to owning most of the Dragon Ball Z cast including powerful members like Majiin Buu (who managed to hold off Kid Buu for a while) and Ultimate Gohan who was a boss after his Mystic power up though it’s uncertain whether that power wore off over time, we do get sprinklings of action throughout the film that whet the DBZ fan’s appetite. These show off how obscenely powerful Bills is and how clearly he’s above the DBZ characters at this point in the story. Plus they add to the imposing gravitas Bills has. And then we come to the piece de resistance, Super Saiyan God Goku vs Bills. Now this fight captures the scope that DBZ fights are known for and deftly balances the seismic battle ranging from mountain wastelands to the centre of the Earth and even deep space. All the while balancing the close up shots of seeing punches, kicks and energy blasts fly from the personal perspectives of Goku and Bills. The balance between the huge scale of the fight along with closing in on the blows thrown itself made for an entertaining battle. This was well handled for once in BOG and it’s nice to know DBZ hasn’t forgotten everything that made it great.
Now for some notes on the animation and soundtrack. The animation was quite smooth and has come on a long way from the original show’s look and feel whilst maintaining a similarity in texture and appearance that demonstrated that this form of animation is here to stay for a while yet. And the soundtrack is better for a DBZ movie. There’s a particular point where Goku is fighting Bills when Flow’s track Hero is excellently implemented into the fight and it times perfectly with what’s going on in the fight without detracting from it. In essence, it heightens the stakes of the fight whilst not ruining the fight itself with unnecessary metal or rock. But don’t expect me to comment on the Japanese voice acting. The link I’ve provided is well subbed, one of the best subs I’ve seen for a DBZ film. You really get a sense of what’s going on which was nice. Though that was independent of the film itself and will not be counted in my final rating.
Before I finish, I’d like to make some quick thoughts on the big twists and reveals in the film. Number one, the Super Saiyan God form. I was really disappointed by this. I found it to be lazy, simplistic Kaioken redrawing with a bit of a leaner Goku and red hair. Barely any major difference in transformation which undermined the supposed draw dropping reveal of it. The Super Saiyan transformations have always been accompanied by radical designs behind them. The original Super Saiyan transformation was certainly the most revolutionary of the time giving the Saiyan golden spiky hair and a kickass yellow aura. The enhanced Super Saiyan forms bulked on the muscle which was an interesting design. Super Saiyan 2 had some neat subtle additions via the even spikier hair, a line of hair sticking downwards on the face and an electric aura. And despite what people say, I like the design for Super Saiyan 3. The increasingly longer hair to mirror the increase in power was a great balance. But unlike Super Saiyan 4, which changes too much of the Super Saiyan form, Super Saiyan God looks lazy and unoriginal. I would have liked it if the aura would have been blue instead and there was a dramatic change in appearance for Goky. Secondly, whilst the extra multiverse and gods plot point is interesting, it was tacked onto the end of the film in a rush for Toriyama to do something with later on. That’s not how you drop major plot points to be carried on in a 200 episode DBZ series Akira! And finally, Whis being stronger than Bills just undermined the menace Bills posed in the film
To conclude, despite the explosive action and decent characterisation, the story of Battle of Gods is bland and poorly mistimed throughout the film. The uneven distribution of plot, story and characters is not appreciated by me in the slightest along with the terrible humour. The fact is, this is the first major DBZ project Toriyama is on for years and he along with others I assume blow it on this film. It can sell it wants but that’s no indication of its quality. Which leaves much to be desired in that department trust me on that. There may be a spark that can be nurtured in the future but for now, this is an average film that is evidence of the flogging of a dead horse.