Movie Review — “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero”

A serious upgrade in “Dragon Ball” franchise animation runs up against the same overdoses of exposition, endless back story and arcane plot contrivances designed to pit characters against each other in epic throwdowns in “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.”

Honestly, I don’t know how anyone drops in on this long-running anime action saga, and the twenty-plus minutes that the latest installment begins with shows that the creators are puzzling over that, too.

Heck, the clumsy title gives away the endless amendments/additions and variations of the same story nature of this.

The long LONG roll call of characters, the ever-shifting agendas and allegiances, all this back story built around “You remember when” summaries involving this character’s son or granddaughter, that one’s clone — if it weren’t for the new-and-improved look, this film’s droning, drawn-out opening would kill off the fanbase with tedium and could send first-time viewers fleeing to another cinema in the multiplex.

Even the filmmakers recognize the clutter and just hope the faithful will continue confusing density for “complexity.” Because better looking or not, even the jokey, lighter touches of “Doragon boru supa supa hiro” — I saw the subtitled version — land like a sack of potatoes.

A stunningly-wordy and bulky screenplay overloaded with inanities doesn’t mean you’re animating “War and Peace.”

The odd punchy line — “I’ve changed my plans to include your death.” — drowns in “Once we knock off Bulma and the rest of her powerful and evil secret organization” and its endless variations. Yes, the Red Ribbon gang villains have to keep projecting and labeling the alien-led anti-reds a “powerful and evil secret organization.” It’s like they’re reciting agreed-upon smear-labeling and talking points — like Republicans.

The plot concerns efforts to “new and improve” the Cell Max and other android super-soldiers created by Red Ribbon Pharmaceuticals so that its new heir-hoodlum-overlord Magenta and his new Pugsley/Gomez look-alike ex-con scientist Hedo, grandson of an earlier labcoat, can make a fresh attempt at taking over the world.

Yes, the stories feel recycled, even if you haven’t been waiting eagerly for every new installment in the series. And yes, grandchild characters are now in the fray. This has been going on that long.

Generations of the sometimes-bickering Saiyan aliens and their allies are always training, with slam-bang practice bouts and odd attempts at one-liners.

After one Japanese burst of comic-book blows illustrated with punch-balloons — “DoKaaam!” and the like taking the place of “Biff,” “POW” and “Crunch!” — the Great Demon King Piccolo sputters, “Why are words appearing?”

That was kind of funny in the 1960s when characters in TV’s “Batman” said it. Here, that’s not nearly as amusing as the correction offered every time someone recognizes “The Great Demon King Piccolo.”

“It’s just ‘Piccolo.'” He’ll have none of your “Demon King” shaming, thank you.

There is a moment where it looks like one mobster — designed and dressed to look like anime yakuza — cold-bloodedly murders another character, and I thought, “Hey, this may get edgy.

Nah. The “deaths” are generally soap opera/superhero comic book fatalities. Wait for it…wait…ok he/she’s back.

The big brawls are peppered with “I didn’t know you could…” and “How’d you develop…” remarks about the ever-evolving powers and skills bestowed, this time, by the dragon of “dragon ball” guardian fame.

Whatever the faithful get out of their devotion to these films, any objective take on any given installment can only praise the investment in better animation and point out the obvious — again. The storytelling leaves a lot to be desired.

Rating: PG-13 for some action/violence and smoking.

Cast: Toshio Furukawa, Yûko Minaguchi,
Miyu Irino, Kensuke Ôta, Ryôta Takeuchi and Masako Nozawa

Rating: PG-13 for some action/violence and smoking.

Credits: Directed by Tetsuro Kodama, scripted by Akira Toriyama. A Sony/Crunchyroll release.

Running time: 1:40

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Movie Review — “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero”

  1. DP1508 says:

    Honest question. Why did you even bother seeing/reviewing this movie?

    I’m not trying to defend the quality (or lack thereof) of the film — I grew up watching Dragon Ball as a child but don’t particularly enjoy the new movies — but this is undoubtedly a film made for and released for (especially in North America) fans who are intimately familiar with the series’s lore and characters. I have a hard time believing there are non-fans seriously thinking about seeing the movie or even aware of its existence given the limited-scale release.

    There is undoubtedly a value in “objectively” reviewing films outside of one’s area of interest or preference, but this film is such a niche and “fans only” proposition in the first place I really do wonder what the point is.

    • Roger Moore says:

      You’re not wrong and I gave that thought serious consideration. But reviewing is consumer reporting, warning consumers off this, urging them to consider that. And some franchises improve, grow more ambitious, etc. Some don’t. It’s a test of whether one can keep an open mind when you walk in the door with skepticism. I glanced at showtimes, thought I might catch it or skip it Sunday, and then voila, the studio sent me an unsolicited review link. They want this movie reviewed, and not just by the Faithful — but by legacy critics, widely aggregated critics. Besides, there’s something a bit galling about seeing what you suspect is piffle overpraised on Rotten Tomatoes (not on Metacritic, more reliable) as if a mass production Japanese animation house and an increasingly arcane franchise had made the next “Coraline” or “Toy Story” or “Citizen Kane.”

      • DP1508 says:

        If the studio asked you to review the film, I think that’s entirely fair game. Your job is, of course, to give your honest opinion and the studio requested you do so (and it’s obviously not realistic or sane to expect you to watch 600 episodes of an 80s and 90s TV series in order to properly understand how the movie might appeal to a fan).
        But in general (say you hadn’t been sent a review link), I do worry about when “open-mindedness” gives way to setting yourself up for an exercise in pointless meanspiritedness. Some series do improve, but Dragon Ball is nearly 40 years old and–even hardcore fans admit–long past its creative heyday. After literally 100s of hours of content, the series is what it is at this point and is being made for the relatively small but committed group of fans who like that content. Reviewing this kind of franchise strikes me as quite a bit different than simply giving the 3rd film in a series a chance when you didn’t much like the first two.
        All of the positive reviews I saw on Rotten Tomatoes were indicating that it was a film Dragon Ball fans would enjoy – not the next Coraline, Toy Story, Citizen Kane (!), or even something of wider interest beyond the core fanbase.

      • Roger Moore says:

        It’s going to make a lot of money this weekend, I was probably going to see it. It’s misleading to think a film is all that because only fans are out there endorsing it. That’s the difference between critics and the general public. We see everything, not just films we’re predisposed to like.

Comments are closed.