'Dragon Ball Super: Broly' film review: Iconic anime returns with its best film yet
Rejoice ‘Dragon Ball’ fans old and new: Goku’s latest big screen adventure is his best standalone film yet. The anime action flick "Dragon Ball Super: Broly" (now playing theaters nationwide) is everything a fan wants in a standalone Dragon Ball movie - incredible fighting and the return of a fan-favorite character. And rest assured, you don't need to have watched every DB episode to enjoy this fun and thrilling adventure.
In short: Rivals Goku and Vegeta, two of the universe's most powerful fighters, believe they are the last survivors of their warrior Saiyan species - then they meet Broly, fellow Saiyan who may very well surpass them in every way.
For a franchise that has spanned 30 years and almost as many movie specials, it would have been easy for "Broly" to be as inaccessible and incomprehensible as every other "Dragon Ball" film that has come before it. The anime story is well over 500 episodes long at this point - and every previous "Dragon Ball" movie has gotten mired in the anime's long, winding mythology. And for the first time in the franchise, "Broly" doesn't require a Ph D in Dragon Ball lore. This movie is one newcomers can jump right into, even as it fleshes out the DB story in surprising ways that will satisfy hardcore fans of the series.
For the uninitiated, "Dragon Ball" essentially follows its hero Goku, a pure-hearted and brave fighter who has defended Earth and the universe throughout the Dragon Ball story. He's battled monsters and conquerors and always come out on top. But at his core, Goku's real agenda is not merely to protect his friends and family - he's compelled by a relentless drive to be the strongest fighter, period. And despite the anime's many villains and storylines, anyone who understands that basic aspect of Goku can easily jump in and enjoy "Broly."
What differentiates "Broly" from every Dragon Ball movie that has come along since the 1980s is it is the first truly standalone story. Several movies that came before "Broly" were either too entrenched in the story's mythos (making it hard for outsiders to embrace it) or so detached that they're not considered "canon" (thus rendering the movie irrelevant). "Broly" solves both those problems by only focusing on the Dragon Ball lore that matters to this conflict - and by creating its own backstory, one that is completely self-contained within this one movie. Any references to the anime's deep lore is minimal. What's important to "Broly" is mainly confined to this movie. And "Broly" isn't too watered down for long-time Dragon Ball fans - rather, "Broly" actually back fills some of the show's story, then enriching the main series.
But at the end of the day, "Dragon Ball" is all about the fighting - and "Broly" completely justifies its big-screen treatment. The movie itself is essentially a re-imaging of a fan favorite movie that never really connected with the anime series. Fans liked the old movie, but it just didn't quite fit in with the rest of the show. However, "Broly" is a direct continuation of the most recent show. It organically picks up where the show left off, and establishes an existential restlessness in its heroes as a new challenger emerges. The fate of the galaxy or even Earth isn't at stake - this is Goku and Vegeta realizing there are still superior fighters to overcome - and they are not alone in the universe.
Final verdict: "Broly" is everything a Dragon Ball fan would want and everything any casual anime fan can jump right into. It's an exciting bit of anime fighting fun that pays homage to the core of what has sustained Dragon Ball for decades: Goku's endless quest to be the strongest fighter.
"Dragon Ball Super: Broly" is now playing in select theaters. The anime action adventure has a running time of 100 minutes and is rated PG for prolonged frenetic sequences of action and violence, and for language.