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REVIEW: Dragon Ball Super: Broly Is A Fight-Filled Love-Letter To Fans

It's hard to imagine someone coming into Dragon Ball Super: Broly without prior knowledge of the franchise. The universe Akira Toriyama created is vast and colorful, full of strange sights and unexpected characters, and can be a lot to take in. This isn't to say the film is only going to appeal to long-time fans of the series, of course, and if someone who's never seen Dragon Ball before does experience it as their Dragon Ball introduction, the good news is, the film is exciting and compelling enough to hook them.

But if you areDragon Ball fan? Well, then, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a dream come true, with breath-taking animation and a surprisingly deep story about the parallels between our heroes, their enemies and the people in-between.

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Instead of just focusing on the action, the film invests a surprising amount of developing the motivations and personalities of the three main remaining Saiyans -- the cheerful and competitive Goku, the haughty but determined Vegeta, and the gentle beserker Broly. The fist act of the film is largely a flashback, delving into the history of the Saiyan race and the events that surrounded the destruction of the race along with their home planet.

Serving as an extended set-up for the movie, and focusing on the fathers of the three main players, the flashback reframes their sons' survival as extensions of their expectations and place in the universe. Vegeta was already off-world, being raised to be a vicious warrior. Broly was condemned to a backwater planet where he befriended the local inhabitants of the world, a story quite similar to what happened to Goku. But with his father actually there, trying to make him into a weapon instead of a person, he never found an outlet for his emotions. Meanwhile, Goku receives a light reboot to his origins, with his parents now willingly sending Goku away out of fear of Freiza. His father Bardock even notes that, for once, he wants to save something instead of destroying it. (While the voice cast is phenomenal throughout the film, it's here that the story allows the actors to take on a contemplative air that Dragon Ball doesn't usually indulge in.)

Ultimately, the movie is about Broly, as the title would suggest, but he's not just treated as some threat or monster to fight. Instead, he's developed into a full-blown character, and is slowly revealed to exhibit many of the same traits as Goku, something the narrative explores through new characters Cheelai and Lemo and their attempts to get him to open up. By the end of the film, you may not be rooting for Broly -- but you don't want him to lose, either.

Many of the villains in Dragon Ball, while memorable, are defined by only a few traits. This new take on Broly, however, is contradictory and intriguing, resulting in one of the most compelling bad guys the franchise has ever explored. Coupled with the gleefully evil Frieza serving almost as a sheer force of chaos throughout the narrative, and Dragon Ball Super: Broly uses all the classic and new characters to the best of their potential, giving us something both familiar and fresh.

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Even more impressive is the animation. The entire movie is visually stunning, whether it's depicting cartoonish moments or the characters' mind-blowing fight scenes. The film successfully melds the CGI and traditional animation almost seamlessly in a way other Dragon Ball Super films have never quite been able to pull off. The battles between Broly and the other two Saiyans are thoroughly massive, constantly escalating while never losing sight of the characters and their distinctive traits. During the main battle, there are shout-outs to earlier entries in the franchise, and the return of a surprising piece of Dragon Ball lore that fans will lose their mind over. By the time the fight reaches its apex, reality itself is shattering around the fighters, a sequence which manages to be trippy and bizarre but never disorienting or overwhelming. It's an impressive achievement for the studio, and arguably one of the best looking entries in the history of the franchise.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is the culmination of everything Dragon Ball Super has brought back to the franchise. The film is surprisingly funny, consistently impressive, and just generally a blast to behold. The fights scenes alone are worth the price of admission, but luckily the filmmakers made sure the characters are just as strong as their punches.

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