At last, after a delayed release Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is finally here! This movie latest instalment in the much celebrated Dragon Ball series. In this particular adventure, the sinister Red Ribbon Army are back and out for revenge. But with Goku and Vegeta off-world, it falls to Piccolo to try and get to the bottom of it. But can he encourage Gohan to reach the heights of power he is capable of? Will our heroes save the day in time? Or will Red Ribbon have the last laugh after all?
Now, a couple of things before we begin. Firstly, this is a spoiler-free review and I hope that those of you reading who wish to leave a comment will be kind enough to avoid spoiling anything for your fellow fans. Secondly, I watched the dubbed version of the movie. The reason is that it is the most convenient version for me to view in order for me to write this review. Whilst performances in the original and the various dubbed version will vary I am reviewing the English language dub. With all that out of the way let’s review Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero!
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is out now in selected cinemas. Be sure to check your local listings.
STORY – WE COULD BE HEROES
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is the latest instalment in the Dragon Ball series. Taking place a few years after the events of Super and the Broly movie Super Hero sees the return of The Red Ribbon Army. A villainous group we haven’t seen since the days of Dragon Ball Z. This time with a new leader and with a new head scientist the young protegee Dr Hedo. The Red Ribbon Army wants revenge against Goku and his friends and is manipulating the good doctor to “save the world”. But deep within the recesses of their labs, a powerful creation lurks ready to strike.
I will be honest dear reader, due to some ‘enlightened’ individuals on Youtube I have had just about every single plot point and twist in the story spoiled for me. But I do fear that even if I hadn’t had the story spoiled the movie would still be almost as predictable. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’s story goes everywhere you’d expect it to do. I will grant you that it does it very well and is a blast to watch. But this predictability isn’t helped by the fact that early into the movie they explicitly signpost who the big bad of the movie is going to be. Leaving you in a “When are we going to get to the fireworks factory?!” mindset for most of the duration.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a different beast to just about every other Dragon Ball movie and most story arcs in the Super era. Goodness, I dare say I haven’t seen anything quite like this since the original Dragon Ball! It is a smaller-scale story. And whilst the stakes are high, we aren’t dealing with a threat to the multi-verse, the universe, or even the solar system. But one that is based upon and originating from Earth itself. A threat that is familiar in more ways than one. And the fact it is such a smaller scale threat feels oddly refreshing.
In many regards, this feature feels like a throwback to a more ‘classic’ Dragon Ball era. Not just in terms of our threats but also the humour; It isn’t quite as immature as the original show but boy I’ve not seen a movie so obsessed with bottoms in quite some time! Beyond that, there is some cute and wholesome fun to be had with some slice-of-life scenes thrown in sporadically. I do wish there was more of that. But what we get is good enough. Whilst the story is predictable it is still enjoyable for what it is. And it gives us a great spirit of adventure that has been missing from Dragon Ball for quite some time. Even if I feel it needed to be more adventurous.
CHARACTERS & PERFORMANCES – 00PICCOLO
It might be a controversial thing to say, but I really feel that Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero should have been called Dragon Ball Super: Piccolo. Yes, our dear Big Green is the central focus for most of the movie. With extended sequences featuring him almost exclusively. Is this a bad thing? Goodness no! Giving Piccolo time to shine like this is brilliant to see. He makes for a great protagonist. And a great foil for some of the comedy throughout. I do wish that the focus was a little more on him and a little less on Gohan in the final act.
As great as it is to see Gohan looking and acting more like the character I grew up with rather than his neutered state in Super and GT. I do feel his character development from Super has been thrown out to a certain degree. And I feel him getting back into the saddle is deserving of its own arc or movie and not as a feature within an existing one. Our new characters are a lot of fun. Dr Hedo is a great twist on Dragon Ball’s mad scientist characters. And how he is introduced is funny. His creations Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 are cool for what they are. They aren’t quite on par with other androids we have met before. With their personalities feeling rather standard. But seeing them in action sequences is a thrill to see.
PACING & CINEMATOGRAPHY – KICK PUNCH!
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero features some decent cinematography throughout. Frequently presenting the action in the best possible light. And often helping the audience feel front and centre in the action itself. Whilst I do have some reservations with the animation of those sequences I’d be lying if they weren’t presented well. The creative team behind this movie really went to town to give us action on a scale we haven’t really seen in the movies before. I do feel that scene composition could be better in some places. But being the first time we have seen a Dragon Ball movie do something like this I’ll forgive it. The pacing issues however are a whole other matter.
Midway through the movie, we get an extended sequence with Goku and Vegeta training on Beerus’s world. Now, whilst the sequence is a lot of fun, has some great action, and hits to wider plot developments, it does screw with the pacing and narrative flow. Nothing that happens within this scene adds anything to the overall story. It really adds nothing to the movie of substance. And given how ropey the animation feels with one character in particular there is a part of me that worries this was a late addition to the movie. Sure, it is always fun to spend time with these characters. But it feels cheap to put them in like this. And to a degree, it steals the spotlight from our main cast.
EDITING & SOUND – JITTERVISION
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is possibly the most controversial Dragon Ball movie to date. From the moment the movie was first previewed many fans have been worried about the transition from 2D hand-drawn art to full 3D CGI. Early impressions were not kind, to say the least. But the finished movie looks a world better than the initial previews suggested. And I feel that part of the apprehension towards it is due to said previews featuring what seemed like unfinished animations and effects. Which weirdly seems to be a trend in cinema right now as that also seemed to be the case with that Chip n Dale movie from a while back too.
But unlike that particular train wreck Dragon Ball Super: Super Heros’s animation is better than I thought it would be, but never quite as good as it should be. I will be frank dear reader, I do not feel that the animation can hold a candle to what we see in the Broly movie. And there will always be a part of me that would have liked to see this movie in that style. To make matters worse throughout the movie there are 2D sequences and scenes which just look, well, bloody fantastic. Especially the one towards the start of the movie. And yes, there is still that part of me that felt like I was watching a cutscene from one of the games in some spots. Your mileage on this will vary.
As explained in the intro I watched the dubbed version of the movie. With Funimation once again taking the reigns on the project. Honestly, I was worried about how the dubbing of this feature would go. Not from a performance standpoint but from a technical one. And regrettably, I feel that the lip synch really isn’t up to snuff. Don’t get me wrong, it is accurate for the most part. And maybe it is just a side effect of just how jittery the animation looked but there was something about it that looked off. Not as bad as some other animated movies or even the Dragon Ball games for that matter. But it just looks really off in this movie.
The soundtrack itself is sold. It feels incredibly Avengers-inspired. And how good or not that is in your opinion is a matter of taste. For me, it is fine in the moments where it is being used as a gag. Or in moments where it is used at the right time. But there comes a point where I fear the soundtrack loses its impact because of how often it is used. Still, despite its flaws and the flaws of the movie itself I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero for this review.
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