Dragonball Z: Battle of the Gods by Masahiro Hosoda

Dragonball Z: Battle of the Gods by Masahiro Hosoda

Dragonball Z: Battle of the Gods takes place several years after the titanic battle with Majin Buu. Bills, the God of Destruction, hearing that a Saiyan has defeated Freeza, awakens from a long slumber. Bills tracks down Son Goku and challenges him to a fight…

I read Dragonball Z as a manga. I didn’t watch the series as an anime nor does the anime bring any justice to the story. Anybody who jokes that the fights in the Dragonball Z anime go on forever, I actually agree with you. But also I respectfully refer you to the manga. I never got around to seeing Dragonball GT because Akira Toriyama didn’t write it, which it is precisely why I am both excited and unsure when I heard about this movie. Imagine if J.K. Rowling added an extra chapter between the ending and the epilogue in Harry Potter, how would the fans feel? What could a new Dragonball Z movie possibly mean? Is Toriyama going to continue and end the saga again? Or is it a mere trip down memory lane? Most of all, which one would I prefer? I am of two minds.

Dragonball Z: Battle of the Gods is two thirds nostalgic fan service and one third story expansion. The Z Warriors all return but unfortunately do not have much to do besides Goku and Vegeta. Every character gets to have their little moment, but these moments are all exactly pitch-perfect to their characterizations. Their interplay is what makes it fun. Vegeta does some things that I would never dream of, and he ends up being the most engaging character. In the end, it all hangs on Goku to solve the conflicts singlehandedly and for that he comes off more bland without assistance.

There’s never an impending sense of threat, partly because the story automatically connects to the epilogue of Dragonball Z. Bills the Destroyer is no Frieza or Cell. There’s nothing as dramatic as Krillin’s death on planet Namek or a young Gohan falling onto Vegeta in monkey form. But it’s an unfair comparison as there is no time to properly build Bills up as a proper villain with any personal vendetta involved. Bills is threatening only because he is physically powerful. Toriyama is aware of his limitations and does what he can.

To Toriyama’s credit, Battle of the Gods properly expands the Dragonball universe with its new villain, establishes a higher realm of power and Goku achieves a new ability at the end. I would have liked more exploration on Goku’s newfound ability and how it works. But again, it’s glossed over from the lack of screen time. There’s no time for a huge arc, Goku isn’t allowed to fall immeasurably, rise and come back as immensely as we all want to see. Nor is there enough of time to kill any of the Z Warriors and resurrect them at the end. That would only be feasible if Toriyama revamped the series, but that doesn’t seem to be the plan.

Before the movie started, I scanned the theater audience. I was surprised to see there were many 40-year-old parents bringing 10-year-old kids, and only a moderate amount of people in their late 20’s like me that would have properly caught the Dragonball trend in the mid-90’s. The film’s first act contains a comedic set piece that runs for ten minutes and it’s here where the film won me over. It made me self-conscious at first when the children started filling the theater with laughter. They were laughing at every single gag and the thing was I was laughing as well. And in laughing, it sparked memories. I’m remembered how funny Dragonball used to be. The first 4 issues of the comic book were immensely perverted and it acted as an early version of sex ed. In that moment, I let go. Yes, the Z Warriors don’t have much to do, but their little character moments had me cackling like a fiend. Yes, Bills the Destroyer is no Frieza or Cell but I love that that there’s a new villain for Goku to fight. Yes, there’s no real impending sense of threat but I totally forgot about that and immersed myself into this world again. I didn’t care anymore. Every time a character transformed into Super Saiyan or every time two opposing ki blasts had a tug-of-war, my mouth still dropped in sheer awe. I was transformed  back into the 10 year-old chubby boy who was aching to buy the next Dragonball manga at the local newsstand, wishing that I can fly and fire Kamehameha blasts at school bullies.

So, is this movie mostly fan service? Yes, my laughing and overall enjoyment is more deeply rooted in the series than the children in the audience. If they wanted to get into Dragonball Z, they probably shouldn’t start with this installment. In the end, does it really matter that film is fan service? No, because I would have enjoyed it equally as a kid anyways.

Rust and Bone by Jacques Audiard

Rust and Bone by Jacques Audiard

Put in charge of his young son Sam, Alain (played by Matthias Schoenaerts) leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain’s bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stéphanie (played by Marion Cotillard) suffers a horrible accident where she loses her legs.

I have struggled with writing about this movie for months now. I have accepted the fact hat this review just simply won’t do the film any justice. So I’m going to just go straight into it…

Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts both give great performances. I don’t know if it’s because I find Marion Cotillard really attractive or if she’s just really engages me an actress, but in every one of her scenes, I feel like I’m watching someone suffer right in front of me. This is probably what people were describing back then when Marlon Brando broke out with method acting in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Ali like a brute animal that wants to communicate but doesn’t know how to show his soft side. The way Ali fathers his son Sam is upsetting yet very engaging to watch. It dispels the idea that a lead character doesn’t necessarily have to be likable as long as he’s watchable. We can see how he is trying to be better, even though he can’t help but be himself.

Ali and Stéphanie are one of the the most memorable onscreen couples I have seen in a while. These two characters cannot be anymore different from each other and yet I believed their relationship. It feels so real the way the two leads play it.

The film is gritty, poetic and even elusive at times. It hit a very deep note inside me and that makes it very hard to talk about the film’s inner workings. It made me think of how love between two people really is very dependent on need, circumstance and timing. Ali’s animalistic alpha male nature is the exact thing that feeds into Stéphanie’s trauma from the tragic loss of her legs. He is so straightforward about having sex to the point where he almost doesn’t even notice she is legless, which in turn is what begins to make feel Stéphanie normal and even beautiful again. This slowly lifts her out of depression and she regains meaning in her life and supports Ali’s animal nature (in the form of underground boxing), which is the exact personality trait that always gets him in trouble.

Against the film’s gritty raw palette, the unfolding of their relationship was very touching and deeply romantic as I felt what every action and reaction means internally and externally to both characters. When two people fall for each other, it feels like they’re creating their own private internal world together. This movie made me feel like I am watching that world slowly being created between these two people. I liked being inside their idiosyncratic world. Even though the actual situation would seem depressing, on the contrary, it’s executed with such vivid detail with so many poetic truthful moments that it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. One noteworthy poetic moment was a scene where Stéphanie revisits her workplace and regains meaning to move on from her injury as she watches a killer whale through a tank.

Some have said that the ending feels abrupt. I did not feel that way. The melodramatic emotions all properly build powerfully underneath throughout the movie till it wells up and completely geysers its way to a satisfying finish. It did not feel like a jump at all. Some can say it was a hokey cheesy way to end the movie and that can be a legitimate critique but it worked for me. Rust and Bone punched my gut, turned me into a sap and left me speechless.

It’s one of the best films I’ve seen in 2012. I tremendously enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone. I need to see The Prophet now.