The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F'

The statistics on Dragon Ball Z are mind-blowing. It is the top anime franchise of all time, having sold over 30 million Blu-Rays/DVDs, 45 million videogames, and $6,000,000,000 (yes, billion) in merchandise since it debuted in 1986. Kids and anime fans are often obsessed with it, and have been for a long time. The latest chapter in the Dragon Ball Z saga, subtitled Resurrection 'F', comes to America in a special big-screen event that runs August 4-12.

The plot concerns a villain named Frieza who, earlier in Dragon Ball Z history, was defeated and slashed into pieces. Two members of his army, Sorbet and Tagoma, come to Earth in search of magical orbs known as “dragon balls.” Their hope is to use them to resurrect Frieza, which is indeed what happens. The now-returned baddie immediately seeks revenge against the Saiyans, the warrior race that defeated him. After training to increase his power, he leads his massive army in a mercilous attack. One of the Saiyans, Goku (the major player in the Dragon Ball Z universe), has also become more powerful. He leads the charge against Frieza.

A moment of disclosure is probably in order: aside from knowing the title and having seen pictures of a few characters over the years, I came into Resurrection 'F' with no prior knowledge of Dragon Ball Z. Subsequently, that plot synopsis may come off as woefully simplified to devoted fans of the series, in which case I offer a sincere mea culpa.

Based on this particular film, it's not hard to see the appeal of the franchise. Every frame of Resurrection 'F' is packed with interesting and odd-looking creatures. Each of them has some special power or skill, which ensures every viewer will discover a favorite. (I was partial to Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, an overly prideful space-cop who attempts to warn everyone that Frieza is back and ready to resume being evil.) The animation is bright and colorful, with inventively-designed fight scenes. The first forty minutes of the film are set-up, while the last fifty constitute one extended battle. There's an appealing indulgence in fantasy during the fights, as they display a cheerful disregard for things such as physics and logic. Characters tend to talk at length about how they're going to fight before they actually fight. Once they actually do begin combat, they fly through the air, zap one another with magical powers, and sometimes even transform out of nowhere. Frieza, for instance, levels up to become “Golden Frieza,” taking on a sleek gold look to match his even further-enhanced abilities. Maybe fans will understand how/why this happens, not that it matters; it's fun, which is what fantasy is fundamentally about.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' also contains a surprising sense of humor. Several moments exhibit a self-aware quality, and the characters often have amusing little quirks. One of them, for example, is a “destroyer god” who's just as interested in sampling new deserts as he is in obliterating worlds. Even as Frieza is plotting to abolish everything in sight, he's concerned with a strawberry sundae. The “hell” Frieza finds himself in at the beginning of the story – which is packed with cutesy animals his nefarious personality can't stand – is funny, too. Some anime is very serious, almost to a fault. Resurrection 'F' takes its story and mythology seriously, yet also finds room to lighten the mood by showing a goofier side. That gives it a fresh, hip quality.

The downside, obviously, is that if you're a newcomer to this franchise, not everything is going to make sense – and most of it will not. This is definitely a movie that builds on the extensive history that's already in place. Fans in tune with that history are going to love the plot's scope, as well as the way a significant villain returns to resume his place in this universe. As for newbies...well, I can only speak for myself, and I found Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' intriguing, even in its more perplexing moments. It has beautiful visuals/character design, some truly funny comedy, and stylish fight scenes. Those things add up to a solid anime adventure.

To find a theater near you - or to buy tickets - please visit the FUNimation Dragon Ball Z website.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' is unrated, but contains sequences of fighting and some mild language. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.

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