Dragon Ball has finally returned with a new movie! You’d think a franchise this big would always have something ongoing but Toei likes to leave money on the table I suppose. It’s always good to see the movie getting a big theatrical release like this and ultimately it ends up being a great DBS movie as you’d expect. You get a lot of good action and power ups which is what you always want to see here and there’s a good amount of replay value to be had.
The movie starts off with Magenta deciding that it’s time to revive the Red Ribbon army and in order to do this he is going to recruit Gero’s grandson, Dr. Hedo. This guy is supposed to be even smarter than Gero so if Gero could build Androids that are stronger than Legendary Super Saiyans, perhaps this guy could build some that surpass the gods. Goku and Vegeta are busy training off planet so when Piccolo finds out about this, he realizes that Gohan may be their last shot. He wouldn’t be Piccolo’s first choice, but there’s nobody else left.
There’s definitely a lot to talk about here as with any Dragon Ball film so lets dive right in. First off would be the animation as it was super controversial that they decided to go with CGI instead of hand drawn. Directly, hand drawn will always beat CGI so the downside of the switch is that the classic Dragon Ball films from around 20+ years ago look better visually than this one. It just can’t keep up and the movie shows us some hand drawn scenes in the opening credits which I thought was a mistake. It looked amazing of course but that was the problem. When the film shifts into CG, it was such a downgrade I thought it was going to show someone playing a video game for a moment there.
As the film goes on, you get used to the CGI so it doesn’t stand out so much and it’s good in its own right, just on a different league. I always compare CGI to the 2nd best dish at a restaurant. It’s still very good, perhaps you could even say great, but you’ll never intentionally choose it. So while this is strictly speaking a downgrade from the traditional animation and I hope they go back to hand drawn for the next one, I wouldn’t say that the CGI is bad. It’s still cool seeing all of the fights and it has a very colorful artstyle.
The fights are really good as always and it is like playing through a video game. While the movie ultimately ends up devolving into the giant villain climax as most anime films seem to, the early fight scenes have a lot of great hand to hand. The best fight was probably Gohan vs Gamma 1. Hard to top that one in terms of movement and overall hype. Some other characters get to jump in for the final battle though which was nice to see. Those were effective cameos.
The soundtrack is weaker than the last films but I would say it was still good for the most part. My only issue is it felt like the themes never had a climax to them. Like it was a good beat and then it would just end before getting to the next level. In general the battle themes were fast and helped make the battles epic though. I liked the theme for when Goku fought Vegeta. So until it ends and you realize the song didn’t climax, it definitely still fits the bill. I also really liked the themes during the first chunk of the film. Mainly the themes for the Red Ribbon army meetups and discussions. It had a very quirky vibe to it that worked.
Now I’d say the film realized that without Goku and Vegeta playing a big role it wasn’t going to come close to matching the last films in hype or scale so instead it focuses more on having a lot of humor and I’d say that was a wise approach. Try winning with charm and style over action since you’re using CG anyway. I’d say it works well. Pan and Piccolo have a fun dynamic going on here and she’s already getting the hang of using her abilities. Saying she has more potential than Gohan sounds super hyperbolic but in sports they try saying that about everyone so it’s probably just a good coaching technique. Convince yourself of it and then you’ll really have fun training your student.
I liked the oreo gimmick for Dr. Hedo and how he was always eating that. The way the film handles the Pan kidnapping was also nice, I thought that was the absolute best way to handle all of this. I’d have a harder time buying her actually being taken in by the random humans and if it turned into a fight then that would really make it impossible to fool anyone into thinking the Red Ribbon army were good guys. So this way it all worked out nicely.
The film’s pacing is really good. It all feels very quick as you’re watching which is why it would be easy to rewatch at any point. There’s never a long gap without something happening whether it be an action scene or a fun easter egg/throwback moment. The film’s just got fun vibes that make it a nice nostalgic adventure. It’s like a lost episode/meanwhile kind of plot. I know I’ve seen quite a few people like the idea of 2 different timelines at this point, one for the manga and one from the show but personally I hope they’re all mixed so I would just put this one right after the Moro arc. I’d say that would still work out quite nicely and in a way I wouldn’t mind if the Super sequel show re-adapts the movie similar to how the first two were.
Having Piccolo be the main character was a bold choice. I’m sure even his fans wouldn’t have predicted that so that was good for him. We get to see why he’s the strategic leader of the team. Yes, Gohan has lost that spot. Piccolo does all the hard work in finding out the enemy plans and making moves on his own. He fights hard and never gives up, definitely the kind of main character you want to have here.
Unfortunately for Gohan fans I’d say he looks really bad here. He stopped training yet again? Really….that’s just an awful look. Particularly since the Tournament of Power was supposed to have reignited his fire to train. I don’t see why he slacked off so hard here and even complained about the old costume being heavy. I’d say it gets even worse when he is struggling hard with opponents that I wouldn’t say are extremely tough when he thinks Pan is in danger. The rage boost should have gotten him through that and since it didn’t, that means he got extremely weakened through the years. That’s not a good look at all. Even by the end during his big moment I would say he didn’t look great because he comes close to losing control again. He’s going to need to work on balancing things out.
Pan looks great of course. She’s learning quickly and is eager to get strong. She’ll be a fine addition to the Saiyan fighters in a few years and I look forward to seeing her go Super Saiyan. Trunks gets a small role but he’s always fun to have around. I’m not really much of a Goten fan in comparison but we’ll see what he can do. Android 18 and Krillin get to show up as well and have their moments as well as a few other characters. Dragon Ball’s always had a fun cast which works out well here and Bulma always has all of the gadgets ready. If not for her having the Dragon Balls things could have been tricky.
Now to the villains, Magenta is a fun enough character. He’s one of those rich CEO types who has a few tricks up his sleeve but mainly likes to call the shots. I thought he was good in this role and I liked how smug he was all the time. Then you have his assistant Carmine who likes to show off in his videos. The guy is more bark than bite but his tactics and planning are actually the best from the 3 villains. Finally you have Dr. Hedo whose genius is good. He definitely likes doing his own thing and while he could have handled some situations better, he has the situation under control for most of the movie which is good.
Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 got fairly big but I wouldn’t say I liked them much yet. Basically they’re the kind of guys who listen to orders no matter what even if they don’t make sense. You need to have more free will than that especially if you consider yourself to be a hero. So I was kind of shaking my head at them the whole time. It’s great that they meant well and by the end they look better, but it’ll take another appearance to really go higher.
Before we get into spoiler territory, I will say as a last thought that one of the big issues here is that a lot of the decisions in the film were rather confusing. They weren’t necessarily bad ones, but they were head scratchers that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. For example, why show Goku and Vegeta early on and imply as a result that they were going to show up with Broly later on. The way the film is set up, you expect them to appear in the climax similar to Resurrection of F when they teleport in. Particularly since their plot gets quite a few scenes but ultimately it feels like that plot didn’t matter. You could remove it entirely and nothing would change similar to the random 5 second cutaway to Bulma finding the radar. The scenes are fluff.
Then the excuse for keeping Android 17 and Android 18 out of the fight for most of the movie was weak. Dr. Hedo may know their weaknesses? Who cares tho. They’re strong enough to take care of themselves and 17 was able to train with the animals until he was able to take on Jiren with the others. They could have used him. Likewise, call in Gotenks and friends right from the start. There was no reason to lay back and wait for everything to go on, just take the fight to the Red Ribbon army. Nobody should be scared of the 2 Gamma. I’d also argue that fighters around the world should have felt when Piccolo’s energy went low and came in to help him. Maybe Gohan can’t sense energy well anymore but the others sure can. Okay now it’s time for spoiler territory so skip the next _ paragraphs if you haven’t seen the film yet.
First off we’re going to talk about the final boss, Cell Max. This was the biggest missed opportunity in the movie by far. Why use the second design which is almost universally known as the worst? Then he’s a mindless monster here and he’s huge. That’s a really bad combo of 3 elements if you ask me. It’s almost like they were trying to recreate elements of Bio Broly by making him like this which is not what you want to do. I mean there are a lot of similarities with character designs and such that people pointed out months prior to the film but that should just be an Easter Egg.
Now it does make sense that Cell would return. A lot of us suspected that immediately when we saw that Gohan would be a focus here and it would keep the films going in bringing all of the old villains back. So that makes the hit extra hard since everyone wanted Perfect Cell in here. This Cell is barely even a character so much as an obstacle so that was sad. What the film could have used was a second climax where he transforms into Perfect Cell and that’s when Goku and Vegeta arrive. That’s definitely how I would have done it without a doubt. Fights against giant creatures like this just aren’t as interesting.
Then we come to the power levels. That’s always going to be an issue with Dragon Ball at this point but it’s always so big that you just have to mention it. In DBZ the biggest moment for this was always the Androids because there’s no way an old man could have built something to beat Super Saiyan. It’s not happening but by and large that was always the biggest moment in DBZ for power level issues. Super is when things started to really go off the rails which made sense as the levels got bigger.
So first off, a big issue is Gohan vs Gamma 1. They’re fighting rather equal in Super Saiyan, then Gohan takes a slight edge in SSJ2. Then…Gohan goes mystic and it’s back to being an equal battle. That makes no sense no matter what multiplier you use for mystic. Generally it should be around a X4-X5 as it’s considered to be better than SSJ3 for the most part. Instead it’s as if he didn’t get stronger at all. It makes his SSJ Blanco form harder to scale too. (I do like how they’re finally taking inspiration from Dragon Ball AF with this form. It’s a really good design and feels like we finally got Super Saiyan 5) It’s still great that we got new forms though. If we do really get a TOP 2 or a war against the gods, Gohan and Piccolo should now be able to contribute a little to the fight. Gohan might even be able to contribute a lot depending on how high his new form scales. Right now I feel like it should be about as good as Evolved Blue or Blue Kaio-Ken but I’m not ready to put it on the Ultra levels yet.
At the end Gohan mentions how Goku and Vegeta would have had a hard time here and that’s how you realize how delusional he is at this point. They would have mopped the floor with Cell Max so that means Gohan thinks that he’s actually on their level right now. Also, why didn’t Cell Max’s explosion destroy the planet? Normal Cell’s would have which is why Goku warped him away and this Cell should literally be millions of times stronger? That was a bit odd. In general the power levels don’t really work here at all but that’s not the kind of thing that hurts a film’s score or anything. It’s expected at this point. I did like how Vegeta beat Goku again though. He maintains his undefeated streak as he beat him during the Buu arc, when they first fought, and then again now. End spoilers
Overall, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a great movie. I would also call it the movie of missed opportunities and odd decisions though. Not having Goku and Vegeta play some kind of prime role here was a mistake I would say. You have to either throw them a fight or just write them out. For the other characters I think you could write better excuses for not having them get involved as well. At the end of the day though we get a lot of good fights and the CG works well enough. It’s a fun film with a lot of light hearted moments as well. I wouldn’t say the stakes ever get all that high and you don’t feel like the heroes are going to go down but that ties in with this being more like a side adventure. It’s about setting the characters up for the future and giving you some more time with them as opposed to being the next Broly battle. I’m ready to see what’s in store for Gohan next so hopefully they hurry with the next sequel.
Random mad scientist builds androids that can somehow keep up with current power levels? It’s almost as if the writers wrote themselves into a corner and had to make up new opponents to give the heroes a real struggle for a decent story. Where oh where have I seen this trope before…
*Eida, Daemon, Code and Kashin Koji* – “Allow us to introduce ourselves.”
After a while it probably is tough to think of another method. That’s why I think it’s time to bring the gods and angels in for some action