School would end, and I'd rush home to catch the latest episode of the Cell Saga on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. Everyday meant another new episode and even crazier action. I know I'm not alone in this: an entire generation spent their afternoons watching Goku and his friends (but mostly Goku) kick all kinds of ass.
Seventeen years after the last feature film, Dragon Ball Z has returned to theaters in the form of Battle of Gods. Unsurprisingly, the movie is a box office success and has already grossed a whopping $7,000,000 in just two days.
Taking place between the end of the Buu saga (chapter 517) and the final chapter (518) of the original manga, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods tells the story of the ruthless God of Destruction, Bills. Waking from his 39 year slumber, Bills is startled to discover that the diabolical Freeza has been defeated by a mere Saiyan. Before settling into his long rest, he had seen a vision that one day a Super Saiyan God would stand before him in battle. Excited by the prospect of an all-out brawl, Bills sets off for Earth in search of his ultimate rival.
Back at Capsule Corp., Bulma is holding a massive birthday party for herself. All of the Z warriors are present save for Goku, who's off training with King Kai. The celebration takes a turn for the worst when Bills and his assistant Wiss arrive in search of the Super Saiyan God. With the Earth's fate in the hands of a fickle God, Vegeta is forced to step in and tend to Bills every request. The clock is counting down, but will Goku be enough to stand against the most powerful being in the universe?
To say that Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods is light on story would be an understatement. Bills wakes up, goes to a party, eats some food, and then engages in a final battle. The events of the film wrap up in a single day, and because we as viewers know how this story ends, there's absolutely no threat of losing a single character. Battle of Gods lacks any kind of dramatic tension, and doesn't really ever try to create any at all.
This new film also makes no effort to try and reintroduce the cast, assuming that at this point everybody and their mother knows who these men, women, and children are. Even the so-called Super Saiyan God is a disappointment, coming off as pointless and lazily designed. The pacing is quite terrible, with long stretches of time devoted to side characters running around trying to steal the Dragon Balls. Despite being a brisk 90 minutes long, Battle of Gods could have easily been trimmed down into a 60 or 70 minute feature.
Yet when I walked out of the theater, I was still smiling like an idiot.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods doesn't tell a good story, but it seems like director Masahiro Hosoda never set out to do that in the first place. Battle of Gods is a celebration of Dragon Ball's long history. Every major character makes an appearance and gets at least one chance to take the spotlight. Even Emperor Pilaf and his two cronies are given a sizable chunk of screen time, reminding viewers of DBZ's humble beginnings. Rather than tell a dark and dramatic story, Toei Animation opted to make a light hearted, joke-filled film. The characters bounce off one another well, making references to prior events and acknowledging different moments in the franchise's history. If you've ever considered yourself a Dragon Ball Z fan, you'll find yourself laughing much more than you probably ever expected you would.
The characters are as you remembered them, though Son Goku actually gets fairly little screen time or interaction with the rest of the cast. He spends most of the film training or out of commission, which leaves the burden of being the main protagonist on Vegeta's shoulders for 75% of the movie's runtime. Fortunately, the antihero handles the pressure admirably, and comes out as the most memorable part of Battle of Gods. His attempts to calm Bills' rage are some of the funniest scenes in the film. Sadly, Bills is something of a mixed bag. Despite being billed (no pun intended) as the God of Destruction, he's hardly the evil antagonist DBZ fans are used to. Even when he threatens to destroy the Earth, Bills never comes off as threatening because he spends most of Battle of Gods' runtime eating food and partying with the Z warriors. His overall design leaves much to be desired as well; a skinny purple rabbit isn't exactly how I had envisioned a world destroying God.