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Canon fire!  The 1993 anime feature, DRAGON BALL Z: BROLY – THE LEGENDARY SUPER SAIYAN, gave fans their first glimpse of a character who would be either embraced, vilified, or dismissed: Broly was presented as an inconceivably strong and deadly foe to our heroes, Son Goku and Vegeta.  It wasn’t so much the competition of strengths that annoyed fans, as an aspect of Broly’s story, wherein we’re told his utter rage at the sight of Dragon Ball‘s main pointy-haired protagonist stemmed from the final days of the Saiyan planet, Vegeta, when the noise of a crying newborn Goku triggered a fury in nursery-mate, Broly, that would endure all their lives.  Baby Broly’s irritation, coupled with his “Legendary” Super Saiyan-level power, was the basis of the enmity between two of the last survivors of their obliterated planet.  However enjoyable the film was, there was a contingent of fans who regarded it as big-screen filler, and set the character aside as illegitimate, due to Broly not having been invented by Dragon Ball manga creator, Akira Toriyama.  

Flash forward twenty six years, and the old is new again.  Toho has revisited this chapter in the Dragon Ball movie pantheon, with DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY, a reboot of the 1993 film that is now sanctioned by Toriyama, himself.  Broly has become a real boy, and an official part of the DB canon.  Diehard fans can now fully enjoy Broly in peace.

We start back in time, when the Saiyan Planet Vegeta was home to a fearsome and powerful race of world-dominating warriors.  So significant is fighting strength to the Saiyans, their ruler, King Vegeta, grooms every newborn for greatness or destruction.  His own son, Prince Vegeta IV {because the Saiyans aren’t exactly creative in the naming department.}, exhibits such incredible power even as a child, that he already leads extraplanetary military missions.  Prince Vegeta’s early strength seems untouchable, that is until news of a new addition to the Saiyan nursery reaches the king.  

While in an incubator, the infant registers power far beyond adults, and is seen as a threat to the dominance of the king’s son.  Despite being the child of Paragus, a loyal commander in the Saiyan military, the baby, Broly, must go, and the king shoots the infant into space in a single pod, meant never to return.  Not taking this unfair dispatch of his only child lying down, Paragus manages to track his son to a primitive and brutal planet, where he’s set to live their lives with sole purpose of vengeance against King Vegeta and all his kin.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Vegeta, even a king must bend the knee: King Vegeta’s overlord, the reptilian King Cold, has introduced his son, Frieza, as the new overseer of the race of mercenary were-apes.  The Saiyans are the muscle that clears off weak planets to be sold for huge profits for King Cold. Sadly, Frieza doesn’t find the Saiyans as useful or tolerable as his dad, and plans to be rid of them once he can justify their disposal.  

The folks on Planet Vegeta are blissfully unaware of the treachery, save one warrior called Bardock, who susses out Frieza’s scheme.  Despite the heartbreak of the boy’s loving mother, Bardock sends his own infant, Kakarot, into a pod toward a far gentler planet than their own, to keep the boy safe, and to help his weak child grow stronger.  Bardock’s suspicions prove correct way too quickly, and he sacrifices himself to vainly stave off Frieza’s energy bomb attack, which annihilates the entire planet with the flick of a finger.  

Decades later, a ship sailing through remote galaxies lands on the dangerous planet that has become home to Paragus and a now-overgrown Broly.  The pair are brought before Frieza, who sees worth in the enormous Saiyan.  Approaching Earth to claim the wish-granting Dragon Balls, Frieza knows he will run into his old foes, the earthbound Saiyans, Kakarot – Government name: Son Goku -- and the fallen prince, Vegeta.  The giant, powerful Broly, led by his father’s hatred of his own race, is a useful tool for the thwarted alien overlord to finally defeat those pesky Saiyans.

There’s a lot of Dragon Ball minutiae packed into this chapter, with many moments tailor-made to enchant longtime fans {Ginyu Force!}.  The backstory of Planet Vegeta encompasses not only the original Broly story, but that of the origins of Son Goku and his Saiyan birth family, including his loving mother, Gine, as seen in 1990’s DRAGON BALL Z: BARDOCK -- THE FATHER OF GOKU, and even a cameo by Goku’s big brother, Raditz.  

They’ve even altered that lame motivation for Broly’s postnatal ire at Goku, quite sensibly, and made Broly much more a simple fellow, raised and utterly controlled -- literally -- by his father to seek revenge on those who ruined their lives (Without the insight that had they stayed on Planet Vegeta, they’d probably both be dead.).  Simple seeing simple, Goku understands Broly in a way that his own dad does not, recognising the hulking Saiyan’s inner goodness, which is really difficult when Broly keeps stomping the heck out of him and Vegeta. 

The action, one of the most important aspects of a Dragon Ball anything, is intense and speaker-pounding.  Audiences can feel the impacts through the floor.  Broly brutally mooshes Goku’s head into the side of a mountain, and is only momentarily phased by the various colour schemes that designate Saiyan strength in the DRAGON BALL SUPER universe.  Like all good Saiyans, more fighting makes Broly more stronger, and his misplaced blind rage as Frieza’s true evil is revealed makes him scarily unstoppable.  

Broly’s relentless onslaught, combined with a lack of instant-healing Senzu beans, forces the two frenemy aliens to do what the proud Prince of All Saiyans would have never considered otherwise, as Goku and Vegeta join together as one powerful being, by way of a beautiful, intricate, and oddly specific interpretive dance called Fusion. (We understand the need for pin-point accuracy in the Fusion Dance with the appearance of both the fat and skinny versions of Veku, the Fusion failures.) This fusion of Goku and Vegeta into Gogeta lifts the battle to another level; blinding and thrilling, to the point of dizzying.  The fight artwork is exceptional, particularly the sequences where it seems like the fighters have actually smashed through the third dimension.  The last half of the film is dazzling and worth the price of admission alone.

I was gratified to hear that DBS: B is going to be the first anime feature released across the US in IMAX because the fight scenes totally deserve it.

On the flip side, the first half -- packed with fanservice for the diehards -- is choppy, script-wise; feeling like many pieced-together inserts of characters, all in a shorthand that might lose younger, or more casual audiences.  It might be more of a fan film than the previous features, BATTLE OF THE GODS, or RESURRECTION “F”.

Another way DBS: B lacks, is in its drawings.  Outside of the battle sequences, there were times when the artistic quality was lower than the original DRAGON BALL Z TV series.  Lines are uneven, perspectives are strange; backgrounds, particularly on Broly’s planet, Vampa, are downright muddy and difficult to make out.  Perhaps it was an attempt to give a sense of the old-school, hand-drawn animation of the original Broly film, but some of the artwork, even on our main characters, looked shockingly sloppy and rushed.  While nobody comes to a Dragon Ball film to be an art critic, the lack of quality, particularly after the excellently-rendered RESURRECTION “F”, and the action sequences of BROLY’s second half, was disappointing.

Casual viewers ready for some slam-bang excitement won’t mind, and neither will hardcore fans, who will enjoy a reunion with their favourite Saiyans, homages to the older films, and witnessing Toriyama’s official stamp on Broly’s entrée into the Dragon Ball canon proper.  Framed by its pulse-pounding action, DRAGON BALL SUPER: BROLY is a rollicking ride.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

January 12th, 2019

 

 

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