Destruction, a depressing yet undeniable factor in the circle of life. Without the threat of an end, life would become stagnant, void of any sense of urgency. Or so we mortal beings rationalise. But were it your role in life to bring about said destruction, how would you behave? Would you relish in the carnage? Despise your lot in life? Or simply accept existence as it is? Regardless, end is an inevitability…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to fight it. Especially if said fights involve punching and explosions.
The Dragon Balls, inciters of adventure and the trump card of the Z Fighters throughout a number of battles. Seven orbs of tremendous power, capable of summoning forth the almighty dragon Shenron, one who possesses the power to grant one a single wish. As you might expect, gathering these legendary relics is far from easy, spread across the Earth, the Dragon Balls have alluded countless seekers, driving many to deception, crime and ins…wait…Bulma found them all again. Of course, she wouldn’t have done so without an important reason. Perhaps to revive a friend and once again show that death is of no consequence, perhaps to give a power boost to one of the Z Fighters so they can save the Universe once more, or maybe she’s wishing for an end to crime or something. You know, things worthy of an eternal dragon…no? Oh, the Dragon Balls are a prize for a bingo game…of course. Hey, remember when the Dragon Balls used to be hard to gather? Anyway, welcome to Bulma’s birthday bash, a celebration that allows our heroes to kick back and relax after all of their hard work saving everyone everywhere. No fighting, no ki blasts, no evil aliens, just a good time. Unless, of course, the most powerful being in the universe decided to join the festivities, but that’d never happen…right?
Enter Beerus, the God of Destruction. An ancient being capable of erasing solar systems on a whim and striking fear into the hearts of all who have ever heard mention of his name, even Vegeta. As is so often the case with the DBZ universe, Earth takes centre stage as Beerus pays a little visit to the universe’s remaining Saiyans. Due to a dream that occurred during his 39 year slumber, Beerus has become enamoured with the idea of finding a Super Saiyan God, a being he believes will be able to provide a challenge for him. However, as the Z Fighters are in the middle of a celebration, Beerus becomes more than slightly distracted by the buffet on offer. Thus the God of Destruction parties like there’s no tomorrow, enjoying breakdancing, bingo and laughter. All is well in the world. Until Buu decides to hoard all of the pudding and sets the God of Destruction off. So begins Earth’s darkest hour, all because of a dessert…
All things considered, I would argue that this film has more in line with Dragon Ball than Dragon Ball Z, and I wouldn’t have to argue hard. Battle of Gods leans heavily on the more comedic side of the franchise, chock full of overreaction, embarrassment and tremendous misunderstandings. Memorable scenes include, but are not limited to, the return of the Great Saiyaman, the life and times of Emperor Pilaf and Vegeta’s all singing, all dancing distraction. Bulma sure knows how to throw a party, one that essentially boils down to a reunion of lovable goofballs. You can’t even take Piccolo or Vegeta seriously by the end of it, and that’s saying something. Even Lord Beerus himself possesses a less-than-godlike personality, though DBZ is kind of known for that trait in its deities. That being said, this actually adds a strange depth to the character. Far from the pure evil that has comprised Goku’s former foes, Beerus is not a bad guy, he just has a short temper…and colossal power to back it up. It’s quite a nice change of pace.
However, even with all of the humour and shenanigans that comprise a majority of the film, the fight sequences are undeniably DBZ, which is a synonym for awesome. Although those depicted throughout Battle of Gods put the series to shame by comparison. The animation put into each moment of combat is great, especially in the grand battle finale between Goku and Beerus. During one particular sequence, the animation follows both fighters as they clash at tremendous speeds over the Earth, finally showing us what is happening during those sonic boom clashes that populate the series, the ones that we cannot follow with our eyes. It is a brief moment, but it is a rewarding one. The film also sets itself apart in the franchise with a tracking shot, wherein the camera follows along with Goku and Beerus, rather than remaining stationary and simply cutting to various screens. It really adds a sense of speed and flow to the fight, setting it well apart from those that preceded it. In a calmer moment, the final fight also provided a very striking visual of our Saiyan hero high above the world. There was just something about seeing that trademark orange and blue garb against a stark black background that really stuck with me. No distractions, no explosions, just Goku.
Along with epic visuals, the closing fight sequence also provided some of the most interesting dialogue I can recall in DBZ history. With a little help from Beerus, we come to learn more about Goku’s motivations and, more importantly, the pride that drives him. Though he gathers enough power to challenge Beerus, he is filled with anger due to the fact that he required help to do so. Agaisnt every villain prior, Goku surpassed his limits by his own merit, training under increasingly intense circumstances until he was powerful enough to win. But not this time. This time, Goku learns that he has no way of reaching Beerus’ level on his own, no matter what he does. Though characters have joked about Goku’s love of combat before, this is really the first time we see the extent to which that affects him. There’s an almost selfish undertone in the way he views his opponents. Conversely, the film also grants us a look at the more positive side of Vegeta, the character whom we usually expect to be the source of pride and bravado. After a slight intoxicated Bulma mouths off to the God of Destruction, he bats her away without a second thought. Big mistake. In a rather unexpected and remarkably sweet moment, Vegeta’s temper explodes to an exten we haven’t seen throughout Dragon Ball Z. Think about that one for a moment. Said rage forces Vegeta to surpass Super Saiyan 3 Goku in strength as he assaults Beerus. Sure he doesn’t win, but you can’t tell me that it wasn’t an awesome moment. It may just be the romantic in me, but this moment hit me pretty hard. I mean this is Vegeta we’re talking about, a character who has previously turned his back on all relationships in search of power, only to ironically find it in fighting for Bulma. Combined with the insight into Goku’s own brand of pride, these moments stand out as the highpoints of the film. Sure the action is undeniably cool, but this is where the characters truly shine.
Fans of the English dub of DBZ will certainly be glad to know that the entire cast provide great performances and really sell their characters. Fans may however be quite upset/disappointed to know that not all of the characters received any deal of screentime. Between Beerus, Whis, Goku and Vegeta, there was not a lot of attention paid to the other familiar faces. In fact, most of the humorous dialogue was provided by Pilaf of all people. Krillin managed to narrate some sequences and Android 18 asked a question at one point…Tien was also there. Whilst I understand that there is only a limited amount of time in a movie, it did feel a little unfair to everyone that such important characters only got to say a few things before attention shifted to Goku. Though that isn’t exactly new to the franchise now is it? Regardless, each character was voiced to the standard that they were before, creating a cast of great personalities. Of course, the fight scenes did not fail to remind all that DBZ is one of the pioneer series of screaming, a crown it wears with pride.
In addition to the film itself, and an uncut version that runs with an extra 20 minutes of footage, the release of Battle of Gods comes with some pretty epic extra features. In what is dubbed “Battle of Voice Actor” we get the chance to rewatch the climactic confrontation between Goku and Beerus. However this time, each line is complemented with a Picture-in-Picture overlay of Sean Schemmel and Jason Douglas recording their lines in the booth. This allows for a real time comparison between behind the scenes footage and the finished product. It’s honestly the first time I’ve ever seen a bonus like this and I enjoyed every moment of watching it. Also included is a behind the scenes featurette that showcases the various voice actors of the film receiving direction as they perfect their lines. One particular direction that garnered my attention directed the actors to perform as they had in DBZ, not DBZ Kai. Just a little bonus fact that made me happy, knowing that the cast is just as passionate about the series as the fans are.
Battle of Gods is an interesting movie. With much more humour than is usual in a DBZ movie, it really feels like a reunion special. I mean it is that, but that is much more in line with Dragon Ball than it is Z. That being said, the fight between Goku and Beerus certainly raises the stakes and possesses a different feel than the rest of the film. Best of both worlds I guess, something that is truly noticeable in Beerus himself. Though the most powerful foe Goku has ever, and may ever, face, Beerus is a source of humour throughout the film. Just as his catlike appearance may denote, he is an incredibly curious creature, doing most things simply because he wants to. Be it eat sushi or eradicate an entire world, it really doesn’t matter. However, Beerus also possesses a code of honour that prevents him from being considered a true enemy of the Z Fighters, though some of them may beg to differ. Combined with the personal truths he drew out of Goku, Beerus may just be the most interesting DBZ villain to date.
Ready up an Instant Transmission and head on over to Madman to view the God of Destruction first hand