Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
Getting first the obvious and reiterated stuff out of the way, I grew up with Dragon Ball Z, it redefined my infancy and adolescence, I still watch the series from now and then with extreme excitement during many key moments, and this movie has a stunningly epic and huge impact in Latin America, Mexico being no exception.
Now I've already talked about how Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013) was the biggest anticipated summer release here in Mexico. There were even tears in the theaters when the trailer was shown featuring the original Latin American dubbing voices with which we grew up and adored. It was surreal, something out of this world. Admittedly, though somewhat shamefully, I shared some of those tears. My childhood was coming back to the big screen!!
Up to this point, this movie has the most astonishing visuals of all the 20+ movies I've seen from the series. The opening shot is actually quite interesting: a fantasy Hell tracking shot sequence opens and introduces us to a Ghibli-like collage of fantasy characters with a touch of comedy where fairies and alive teddy bears are marching and dancing happily while the legendary cold-blooded villain Frieza is stuck in a cocoon perpetually. Never had the creators intended such a surprising opening scene. Then we proceed with the plot, as a loyal follower of Frieza reunites Earth's Dragon Balls to revive him and reconstruct his body with the latest biotechnology.
I swear that if this had been the big-screen comeback of the series instead of that disappointing movie of 2013, around 70% of the audiences would have been blown out of their minds. Theaters showing it would have exploded. This was the action-oriented spectacle they were expecting with a prouder, non-dancing and non-singing Vegeta with touches of humor more akin to the original series. Even if it is more action-oriented than its prequel, it is also concerned about the characters and revives the old formula of reuniting the Z warriors fighting the minor menaces until the ultimate showdown falls into the hands of Goku.
Now, the biggest issue with this film seems to be the impending menace. Many movies of the series during the 80s and the 90s introduced a struggle that clearly went out of the warriors' reach, even that of Goku (and Vegeta when he was also a protagonist). They had to go beyond their boundaries and capabilities to finally destroy the menace. Here, there is no menace and everything seems like a playground for Goku. Even if Frieza does show some advantage at some point, we all know that the same reason that caused his downfall in the series is going to be repeated here. It's irony, but that kills the menacing atmosphere. Frieza is no longer an intimidating, scary character. He's an alien punchbag for Goku. Props to the conclusion though, which I won't spoil, but if this film had retained the seemingly hopeless atmosphere of the previous film and of the series, this would have been easily one of the best.
I think I'm ranking this as the 8th best film after other seven more entertaining watches, but as long as Toriyama-based works keep being released that destroy the possibility of Dragon Ball GT being cannon, I'll be grateful and happy.