‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’: A Super-Sized Creative Punch!

One of the more unexpected things to happen to me in 2022 was becoming a ‘Dragon Ball’ fan. Ever since the release of ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly‘ back in 2019, I was always interested in revisiting the world properly for the first time. While I haven’t had time to check out the shows, I have seen the movies from ‘Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods‘ all the way up to this new entry. I did some research just like last time and I followed them very well but when it came to ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’, there was a new factor to consider. While the past three movies have focused on Goku and Vegeta, this new story focuses on Gohan and Piccolo, two characters that I’ve barely spent any time with. While I still managed to follow the story well, there were a couple of elements that I think were a bit lacking but even then, overall ‘Super Hero’ was a lot of fun, maybe not the best of these four movies but it still carries its own weight.

some spoilers for ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero‘ are featured in this review.

After the massive success of ‘Broly‘, it was understandable that most fans thought the next movie would go in a similar direction and not the exact opposite. From the four movies that I’ve seen so far, I’ve gathered that there are two sides to ‘Dragon Ball’, the very wholesome, slice-of-life family side and the action-packed lore-heavy side. ‘Resurrection F’ and ‘Broly‘ focused more on the latter while ‘Battle of Gods’ and ‘Super Hero’ featured some smaller stakes with a heavy importance on the Saiyan family tree. I find both of these sides compelling so when they combine the two, it makes for a particularly rewarding experience. The movie that combined the two the most successfully would be ‘Battle of Gods’, it worked wonders as a reintroduction to the franchise while introducing new elements. ‘Super Hero’ struggles a bit more to balance the characters and the action, however. I found Gohan’s character arc to be especially disappointing not only because he isn’t nearly enough in the movie as Piccolo but also because the movie views him more as a plot point rather than an actual character. Maybe this sounds controversial but I would’ve much preferred more Gohan screentime if it meant cutting out the Goku/Vegeta/Broly sequence especially when it doesn’t impact the plot whatsoever. However, that end-credit scene was pretty cute. Piccolo led the film quite well on his own and overall, the characters were very endearing and entertaining, it’s the amount of screen time given to each one that I find an issue with.

Watching this on a premium screen was truly exciting, the first sequence detailing the history of ‘Dragon Ball Z/Super’ was stunning, it was so cool seeing these iconic moments look brand new. In fact, the animation seems to be a huge talking point when it comes to ‘Super Hero’. Admittedly, I was thrown off when the first look at the movie was released, I thought Toei Animation was out of their minds to go in this direction but I’m going to be completely honest, I love how this movie looks. The CG animation not only makes the movie stand out but it feels refreshing to see this world depicted in a different manner. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out how stylish this movie actually is. They took the superhero aesthetic and applied it so well to this franchise. From the very cute title cards for the characters to the bright colours in the epic action sequences. In fact, I really liked what the movie had to say about heroes in general. Whether it was about Gohan becoming a hero to his own daughter and inspiring her to get stronger or Piccolo inspiring Gohan to be better not just as a Saiyan but as a father, the theme was interwoven very nicely with the script. The best example of what being a hero is, has to be Gamma 2 who is the true star of the movie. From the manipulation of power and brainwashing to ultimately sacrificing himself for the greater good to save the others. Gamma 2 is some of the best writing these four movies have seen. Such a great character, Zeno Robinson killed it, so proud of him!

Now despite having a lot of great character moments, ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ still struggles with the plot as mentioned. Not only is Gohan tossed aside for most of the first two acts but the antagonists aren’t as well-written or captivating as they were in other movies. I will be totally honest, I do not know a single thing about the Red Ribbon Army from past media but that didn’t stop me from understanding their goal in this movie. I was actually interested in a political plot in ‘Dragon Ball’ of all things, it was compelling. What wasn’t compelling was how things turned out. The army itself falls to pieces fairly quickly once Gamma 1 and 2 switch sides so the movie resorts to the revival of the iconic franchise villain, Cell in the form of a zombie-fied version titled Cell Max. I am sure he was fantastic in his own arc but here, he was truly just another big enemy to defeat. As an audience, we didn’t care for Cell Max the way we did with Broly whom we had a lot of sympathy for. He didn’t have the personality of Beerus or Freeza either so at the end of the day, he could’ve been a totally new character, Cell’s involvement doesn’t affect the plot as far as I know, then again there might be some connections that the fans might pull out but even so, he is definitely the weakest (in terms of character) villain so far in these four movies.

Overall, ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ is a movie that takes a number of risks in a long-running franchise and for that alone, it’s worth appreciating. From the CG animation to a shift in focus on the main two leads, it’s a movie that is trying to be different from the others and it succeeds while still maintaining that ‘Dragon Ball’ essence. Even with a lacking villain and imperfect script, ‘Super Hero’ is still a very fun ride with plenty of humour, heart and action to please anyone.

‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ is now playing in select cinemas.

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