For the almighty Lord Frieza, Hell is a beautiful field of flowers, full of fairies and stuffed animals singing the day away. That should give you an idea of how seriously Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ takes itself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As befits the franchise’s most iconic villain, Frieza’s resurrection has had about a year’s worth of hype behind its limited theatrical release. So perhaps it’s appropriate that the film gets the resurrection process out of the way in the first ten minutes or so, as henchman Sorbet (Jeremy Schwartz) snaps up the Dragon Balls and revives his master and his inevitable quest for vengeance against Goku. Toei Animation knows that the audience came for fight scenes, and so do we. I’d venture a guess, however, that the fighting isn’t the centerpiece of the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly fun to watch. The battles are appropriately explosive, if a little repetitive. You can only watch the Z Fighters lead Frieza’s army into narrow choke points and blow them away so many times, although each of their diverse fighting styles gets a moment in the sun. But therein lies Resurrection’s true draw: the characters themselves, whose personalities shine all the stronger when they’re not fighting.
Sonny Strait’s Krillin carries much of the film’s first act, particularly in his initial appearance as a superpowered policeman. Christopher Sabat plays a delightfully surly Piccolo and Vegeta, whether grudgingly rocking a baby as the former or flexing his pride as the latter. He’s an excellent foil to Sean Schemmel as Goku, who switches seamlessly from stalwart guardian of Earth to naïve musclehead and back. Bulma (Monica Rial) is, as ever, ludicrously out of her depth in all the commotion. God of Destruction Beerus (Jason Douglas) and his servant/handler Whis (Ian Sinclair) from Battle of Gods also return, serving primarily to provide lofty commentary on the action between mouthfuls of sweets. The cast delivers a charming brand of goofiness that stirs nostalgia in old fans and is sure to reel new ones in for the ride.
However, most of them are shoved aside for the Saiyans’ battle with their old enemy, and the true star of Resurrection is naturally its title character. As Frieza, Chris Ayres drips arrogance from the moment he makes his violent return. He’s equal parts terrifying and hilarious, seething at his sugary hell one moment and cracking off pitch-perfect insults the next. Toei revels in Frieza’s brazen evil, a stark and witty contrast to the slapstick earnestness of his foes. I actually think he does better in a TV show, though; his death only left me wanting more of him. (And no, the post-credits scene isn’t enough.)
Besides his villainy, Frieza is quite often used as a vehicle for the animators to laugh at themselves. He meaninglessly predicts a power level of 1.3 million early on, cowers and grovels before the significantly stronger Beerus, and takes his final form from the beginning of the battle, essentially skipping to the good part for the audience. Resurrection is gloriously aware of DBZ’s penchant for one-upping itself unchecked. Having Beerus and Whis, the two most powerful characters in the entire series, riffing apathetically on the sidelines reminds one of how comically outclassed Frieza is simply by virtue of coming first. Throughout the film I was reminded just how spot on Team Four Star’s abridged series is: the parody really doesn’t add anything to DBZ that isn’t there already.
That’s a strength, by the way, and not a weakness. Resurrection takes itself not at all seriously, because it knows as well as its audience that DBZ’s heroes have only ever grown stronger to rise to the ever-increasing challenges. Bringing back Frieza twenty years later would succeed about as well as bringing him back as Mecha-Frieza did. Without spoiling anything, the finale of the movie drives this point home by effortlessly reversing Frieza’s trump card. That it’s set up in advance, and not just pulled out of nowhere, reinforces our villain’s plight: he gives it his best, but he’s long past his prime.
For that very reason, this is a resurrection story done right. Sure, most of the characters end up sidelined in favor of Goku, Vegeta, and Frieza, but that’s pretty much inevitable given how large they loom in the lore and in anime as a whole. But none of them have lost their charisma, least of all the planet broker so nice they killed him thrice. Far from Frieza’s first defeat – the infamous “five minutes” stretched out over ten episodes – Toei’s return to their greatest villain is short, sweet, and downright fun.