To say that my summer evolved at a slow pace would be quite an understatement. My summer strongly resembled a slow snail stuck in a pile of molasses, and reflecting on my overwhelming underachievement was a daunting task to say the least.
As the last weekend rolled around before the semester started, I was on the hunt for one last bash. And after a group of us from “The Northerner” returned from a journalism day camp at Western Kentucky University, I found out that a group of friends were having a pool party; it was time to get ignorant and go hard in the paint.
After the coveted evening of getting wet and wild came to a close, I woke up the next day to the sound of friend’s father knocking on the door to ask whom I was and where his son had gone.
After giving a trite response and immediately leaving the premises with my roommate, I found out that the same group of friends from last night were going to see the limited theatrical release of the new Dragon Ball Z animated movie. Once again, it was time to get ignorant.
They picked me up from my apartment in Fort Thomas and informed me that this movie being played locally was indeed a treat. It was a limited theatrical release, the first time for a Dragon Ball movie in 17 years, and the next closest locations were in Louisville, which sold out right away, and an even more distant location in Northern Ohio.
We arrived at the Springdale Cinema de Lux with high spirits and made our way inside. The theater was packed with anime nerds and looked to be nearly sold out. We may have driven a fair distance and sat through some technical difficulties with the projector, but it was nowhere near the struggle that Goku himself was about to face in the feature film.
The audience was getting antsy and random people began shouting catcalls and jokes at the projectionist, much to the amusement of every other theatergoer. It was clear that everyone in the crowd enjoyed a shared stockpile of inside jokes and as soon as the picture started playing everyone exploded with unanimous, jubilant applause.
What struck me immediately about Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods was the fact that there only needs to be news of a new villain involved to get die-hard fans in the seats; the format for the story was really nothing more than an hour-long version of a typical DBZ episode. Having said that, this movie is definitely only for someone who’s already a longtime fan of the show.
On the other hand, as much as the movie would unlikely have appealed to an outsider, this limited theatrical release was certainly an element that gave the experience a strong sense of unity. Everyone in the audience was definitely on the same page and there’s a certain kind of offhanded humor that DBZ is known for; everyone laughed in unison at every corny joke as if any other response was not even an option.
As stated above, the movie was made solely for the fans, and they will take much delight in the fact that there is a new arch villain, “Lord Beerus”, making a debut as well as an all new kind of superhero for the series, a “Super Sayian God.”
For the animated elements of the movie, DBZ is no stranger to many of the cut-and-paste tropes that most American audiences expect from Japanese animation. While some may feel that these anime staples aren’t needed in more serious movies, these certainly won’t distract from the content of this particular story.
And speaking of the story, well… there isn’t much of one at all to speak of. While every chapter of the Dragon Ball series is marked by which particular villain is trying to take over the Earth, I can’t believe the writers rarely come up with anything even marginally original for a feature length episode of this magnitude.
The “destroyer god,” Lord Beerus, decides to come to Earth and destroy the planet as a way of keeping the balance of the universe. Upon learning that Goku was the one who destroyed Frieza, Beerus is intrigued and wishes to face Goku himself for a proper challenge.
While vigorously training on King Kai’s planet, Goku hears of this news and is immediately up for this pressing battle. But upon losing almost instantly and effortlessly to Beerus the first time, Goku finds out that the only chance he has to defeat his mighty foe is to combine forces with other Saiyans and transform in the almighty “Super Saiyan God.”
Goku takes on this form, but… still loses. His strength is not match for Beerus, even in this new, powerful form. But Beerus still feels as though he has had a proper fight and takes mercy upon the people of Earth.
So for a recap, Beerus decides that he’s going to destroy the Earth unless he’s stopped by a formidable foe. But he isn’t stopped at all, and somehow still decides not to do the one thing he set out to do. This is the most important takeaway from the film is precisely on this note: it doesn’t matter how much of a letdown the plot is – the fans are showing up to it no matter what!
Upon the last few moments leading up to the closing credits, I had more than a good hearted fill of some near and dear nostalgia. But the strangest takeaway from the entire experience was that the whole movie felt like an offhanded comedy that only featured segued moments of action sequences.
It made me wonder, “was this always how Dragon Ball Z was and I just didn’t realize it as a kid?” It would make sense that the action-packed moments on the original series were enough to hold my attention and enable me to forget about every other element of the show, but now I’m curious to go back and see what I missed.
All the same, one pivotal bathroom trip later and I was back with my faithful comrades to ruminate on what we just saw and wonder how much our minds had been blown. The theater even have us a free movie ticket as an apology for the delay; next time I get high school at a house party and find myself in Springdale the next day, I’ll know where to head for another cinematic adventure!