Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is the 20th film in the Dragon Ball anime franchise. If you're not a fan of the series, that may surprise you. (I had seen exactly one of them, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F', before now.) Its North American roll-out, which includes IMAX showings, begins January 16.

The plot is somewhat complicated for a relative newbie to summarize, but here's what the official press release says: "After the devastation of Planet Vegeta, three Saiyans were scattered among the stars, destined for different fates. While two found a home on Earth, the third was raised with a burning desire for vengeance and developed an unbelievable power. And the time for revenge has come. Destinies collide in a battle that will shake the universe to its very core!"

Essentially, there is a child named Broly who has preternatural fighting powers. There is also a ruler, King Vegeta, who is upset that this boy is likely more powerful than his own offspring. He therefore banishes Broly to another planet. Father Paragus flies off after him, then spends years training Broly in combat so that they can exact revenge. Two familiar characters also figure into the plot: frequent Dragon Ball hero Goku and intriguing villain Frieza, who was a major part of Resurrection 'F'.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly obviously builds on story elements that have been developing over a long period of time. For that reason, it isn't entirely accessible to newcomers. Without a full understanding of all that has come before, you may not understand everything that's going on or what the relationships between some of the characters are. The shell of the plot is easy enough to grasp, though, so you won't get too lost.

Longtime fans, meanwhile, will surely enjoy how the epic tale continues to evolve. Broly is an engaging new addition -- one who allows for a theme about the futility of being focused on vengeance. He occupies a nice gray area because he's neither hero nor villain; he's a relative innocent who's been taught to harness anger.

The animation is appealing to look at, with bright colors and interesting designs. Rays of light often surround the characters as they do battle. Action scenes are inventively conceived, with the combatants slamming each other through the centers of snowy mountains and perpetually "leveling up" with new powers. The last 45 minutes or so are a non-stop fight. Apparently, such melees are a big part of the franchise's draw. That being the case, the extended finale does not disappoint. Non-fans might not be quite as enamored. They could find it mildly tiresome after a while.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is designed specifically for those who have a long-term investment in the characters and story. On that level, it delivers a satisfying new adventure, the final scene of which paves the way for future installments with Broly.

out of 4

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is rated PG for prolonged frenetic sequences of action and violence, and for language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.