Dragon Ball Super: Broly
*** ½ out of five stars
The 20th animated film based on the world of the internationally-beloved series, Dragon Ball Super: Broly reinvents a character from the franchise’s past in a whole new context.
Decades ago, the intergalactic tyrant Frieza (voiced in the English dub by Christopher Ayres) became the overlord of Planet Vegeta, homeworld to the brutish Saiyans. The Saiyans’ leader, King Vegeta (voiced by Chris Sabat) feared the potential power of a baby Saiyan named Broly (voiced by Brina Palenica as a child, and by Vic Mignogna as an adult). Broly was then exiled to the remote planet Vampa. Broly’s father Paragus (voiced by Dameon Clarke) went to Vampa to rescue his son, but a damaged spaceship left father and son trapped on the planet. Five years later, Frieza, fearing a possible revolt from the Saiyans, destroyed Planet Vegeta, thereby causing the near-extinction of the Saiyan race.
Now, in present day, two of Earth’s greatest fighters are surviving Saiyans – Kakarot, better known as Goku (voiced by Sean Schemmel and by Colleen Clinkenbeard as a baby); and Vegeta (voiced by Chris Sabat), son of the late King Vegeta. Following the recent Tournament of Power (as seen in episodes of the Dragon Ball Super TV series), the two are motivated to continue their training after having encountered great warriors from other universes. They are also anticipating another attack from the recently resurrected Frieza. Frieza’s forces steal the wish-granting Dragon Balls from the home of Bulma (voiced by Monica Rial), Vegeta’s wife and Goku’s longtime friend. Elsewhere, Cheelai (voiced by Erica Lindbeck) and Lemo (voiced by Bruce Carey), two low-ranking members of the Frieza Force, discover Broly and Paragus on Vampa. They bring the father and son to Frieza, who exploits their desire for revenge against the Vegeta family. Goku and company have a showdown with Frieza, Broly and Paragus in the Artic. Vegeta shows Broly no mercy in battle, but Goku senses a good-natured side to him despite his fierce behavior. Who will win the battle, and what will become of both sides?
Broly is the third Dragon Ball film with direct story contributions from series creator Akira Toriyama, following 2013’s Battle of Gods and 2015’s Resurrection “F.” It can therefore be considered canon to both the Dragon Ball Super TV anime, and Toriyama’s original manga (comic book) storylines which have deviated somewhat from their animated counterparts starting with the Super era. Unsurprisingly, the film features both the action and humor that fans have come to expect from this series and its creator. The art style on display also feels considerably closer to Toriyama’s work and is like a manga brought to life.
Broly draws from previous Dragon Ball media in a somewhat unique way. Broly and Paragus originate from earlier Dragon Ball movies released in the 1990s. The earliest Dragon Ball films of the 1980s and 1990s are generally not considered canon with other incarnations of the franchise. They were originally released theatrically in Japan as part of anthologies showcasing different properties from Toei Studios. To appeal more to nonfans, the films were mostly inconsequential side stories. There also elements and characters taken from Toriyama’s recent manga prequel short story Dragon Ball Minus, such as Goku’s mother Gine (voiced by Emily Neves). The only downside to the movie’s prologue is that it somewhat contradicts the events of the fan favorite TV special Bardock: The Father of Goku, but continuity between various Dragon Ball media has long had many inconsistencies.
Perhaps the biggest difference with this new interpretation of Broly is that he is portrayed as a sympathetic figure. Broly had previously been portrayed as a savage, remorseless monster. Here, he is still portrayed as a brutal fighter, but his personality is more nuanced. Multiple Dragon Ball characters have been introduced as villains, but befriended Goku after witnessing his combination of great strength and a kind heart. Cheelai and Lemo are unique in this regard, though they work for Frieza, they treat Broly with kindness, and feel that his bloodlust is largely the product of Paragus’s less-than-merciful training.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a must-see for all Dragon Ball fans. Even if you haven’t spent time with Goku and friends in a while, the film’s prologue and brief recap of the Tournament of Power should catch you up to speed. If you know little to nothing about Dragon Ball, you should start elsewhere or maybe watch a different movie. Either way, Broly sets the gears in motion for Goku and Vegeta’s next journey. The film’s only real downside is that it ends rather abruptly, but you needn’t wait too long for more adventures. While the TV serialization of Dragon Ball is currently in limbo (the Super series ended its run in Japan last spring, and its unclear when it will return and in what form), the Dragon Ball Super manga is still ongoing and its current story arc follows the events of the Broly movie. So, grab some Senzu beans and prepare to start a new year of movies with a (Big) Bang (Attack).