A decade since the last animated movie was released, Dragon Ball is back courtesy of a new feature subtitled Battle of Gods. DBZ is easily one of the most recognisable properties in anime and despite its age remains popular partially due to Bandai Namco’s never ending conveyor belt of Dragon Ball video game releases. Personally I loved Dragon Ball, back when it originally aired, but in recent times my fondness for the franchise has waned due to some subpar cash grabs. The non-canonical follow up Dragon Ball GT was not well received by some fans and the less said about the live action abomination that was Dragon Ball Evolution the better. Ah well, I am sure Battle of Gods will herald a triumphant return to form given that series creator Akira Toriyama was involved in its production… or maybe not.
The movie opens up with the god of destruction Beerus (named after what I say when ordering a round at the pub) awakening from a protracted hibernation. On a whim the purple skinned deity, who somewhat resembles Doctor Evil’s cat, decides that now is as good a time as any to test his fighting prowess on a Super Saiyan god. With that in mind he seeks out series hero Goku and promptly dispatches him with a couple of flicks from his pinkie finger. Unimpressed Beerus decides to venture off to Earth where the remaining vestiges of the Saiyan race reside. This could spell doom for our world given that Beerus earned the title “God of Destruction” due to his disposition for obliterating planets whenever he gets miffed.
Conveniently for Beerus the handful of surviving Saiyans can all be found at the same location, as they are attending a lavish birthday party hosted by Capsule Corp heiress Bulma. When Beerus arrives he turns out to be a surprisingly courteous guest who ends up enjoying the celebrations rather than causing trouble. That all changes however when his fine dining is disrupted by the gluttonous Boo who refuses to share his pudding with him. Desserts are serious business so the greedy display ends up sending the humanoid feline over the edge. Beerus decides the time has come to rid the Milky Way from the third rock from the sun. Oh yeah, there’s also a subplot about a trio of thieves trying to nab the Dragon Balls and a prepubescent Trunks trying to court a forty year old lady. Mr Toriyama must have been intoxicated on sake when he drafted this idea.
How Manga Entertainment had the gall to nominate Battle of Gods for best picture at the Scotland Loves Anime film fest is beyond me. Although I thought the film was all right, whilst I was watching it, when it came down to penning a critical review of the feature I was left struggling to point out any worthwhile merits. What I most like about the Dragon Ball Z series are the flashy martial art fights were combatants zip through the air hurling destructive projectiles at each other. The opportunity to see these spectacular duels brought to life with modern animation techniques was however squandered, as the movie is severely lacking in action.
Instead the bulk of the movie concentrates on the goofy shenanigans occurring at Bulma’s party. I can’t say that I approve, as I never thought that comedy was Dragon Ball’s strong suit. The silly filler used to pad out Dragon Ball Z is after all what makes the series so hard to re-watch these days. Hardcore fans are unlikely to care though and will revel in seeing their favourite characters return after all these years. Just be aware that most of the cast don’t get any significant screen time, aside from Vegeta who acts completely out of character. Instead of being a prideful warrior, who likes to test his mettle against mighty opponents, the prince of Saiyans is reduced to the role of comic relief – cowering in terror whenever Beerus loses his temper. Given the choice I would recommend The Devil is a Part Timer over this movie. They both feature a scant amount of super human fighting, but at least The Devil is a Part Timer succeeds in tickling the funny bone with its gags.
FINAL RATING: TWO AND A HALF STARS