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Review: Kodama’s ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ Lacks Epicness

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Review: Kodama’s ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ Lacks Epicness

Review: Kodama’s ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ Lacks Epicness

by Manuel São Bento
August 22, 2022

As someone born in 1994, Dragon Ball was one of the TV programs that accompanied me throughout my childhood, impacting my life – and that of many children and teenagers worldwide – in an unforgettable manner. No other television offerings came close to watching the epic adventures of Goku and the Z fighters. It’s impossible to describe the tremendous happiness fans felt when Dragon Ball Super was announced as a continuation of the anime – a series that improved exponentially, arc after arc. Then came Dragon Ball Super: Broly in 2018 – by far the best movie in the franchise. Therefore, expectations were very high for the latest Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, so it hurts to write that I left unsatisfyingly unfulfilled.

I think it’s evident that no fan truly anticipated a movie on the level of Broly, especially when the premise completely removes Goku and Vegeta from the story, as well as Broly himself, Beerus, and Whis, among others. Super Hero focuses on the family relationship between Gohan, Piccolo, and Pan, a narrative choice that, in fact, proves to be extremely interesting and driven by immense emotion. Goku was an absent father in addition to being an irresponsible, silly protagonist, so Piccolo has always been the real father to Gohan, having a much greater emotional connection to the Saiyan who exploded during the Cell Saga – becoming a character that everyone hoped to start leading the saga, but Akira Toriyama didn’t share the same ideas.

I applaud the courage to release a movie starring Gohan and Piccolo as protagonists, particularly when one hand is enough to count the times that Goku and Vegeta were put aside in more than twenty other Dragon Ball flicks. Through the return of the Red Ribbon Army and with new androids to defeat, Super Hero takes advantage of the canonization of Pan – she had already been introduced, but only as a baby – to create a passionate plot, but not without first dedicating time to the antagonists for a good portion of the first half. While I appreciate this allocation of time to introduce and develop the villains, it’s a slow, repetitive phase with a lot of unnecessary exposition that doesn’t help viewers start the movie with the same enthusiasm they entered the theater with.

Broly has an incredibly captivating, emotionally compelling backstory, bringing the audience over to his side when the inevitable battle unfolds. In Super Hero, the heads of the organization are formulaic, dull caricatures with banal motivations, but the androids Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 are pleasant surprises, even featuring in one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film. Dr. Hedo – grandson of Dr. Gero – also proves to be a complex antagonist rather than a villain with an evil plan for world domination. It’s a pity that Toriyama and director Tetsuro Kodama aren’t able to balance all these relations efficiently.

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Super Hero spends a lot of time with the Red Ribbon Army and some of its generic characters, not allowing the affinity between Gohan and Piccolo or Gohan and Pan to grow to the point of justifying what happens in the third act. Here, it might be an unpopular opinion, but the new transformations and forms seem forced and driven solely by fan service. One of these truly screams “fan art” and somehow reduces the impact of transformations from the past that required so much sacrifice, training, and traumatic losses from other characters – almost as if it skips two or three forms without explanation. The quick camera movements and abrupt cuts further detract from these points, not allowing viewers to really marvel at the new looks.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

However, the biggest problem is related to the animation style and the studio’s questionable decision to follow a different direction after the greatest movie success in the franchise’s history. Super Hero applies 3D animation and unlimited use of CGI throughout its runtime, a detail that was already known when the film was announced. While adjustment is possible over time, the sensation of watching a videogame with slightly better graphics never goes away. The characters look too clean and fake-looking, as if the punches, kicks, and energy blasts don’t really affect them. The details seen in 2D animation are impossible to achieve with this 3D style, leaving this movie very far from the visual quality of Broly or even the last arc of the series.

I don’t mean to insinuate that Super Hero doesn’t have jaw-dropping moments or that 3D animation is the main issue. The action holds incredible energy, and there are genuinely phenomenal sequences, notably a fight in the rain where the CGI really delivers an absolutely stunning visual dimension. Although no battle is as impressive as any in the previous movie, they’re still packed with entertainment and iconic references to many episodes across the different series. The ending boasts as many satisfying elements, but I prefer to avoid commenting on it here, despite most of the trailers spoiling all the essential information anyway.

I want to finish with what I liked the most about Super Hero – something that surprised me tremendously. Toriyama’s humor has never worked so well. The interactions between the several characters are so ridiculously hilarious that I lost count of my full-on laughs. All Dragon Ball content has some sort of comedy associated with it, but I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard. Even when the film’s momentum is low, the saga’s classic jokes and references lift it, keeping the audience entertained and engaged with the story. It might not be the best work in the whole saga, and there are many superior movies, but it’s still far better than the vast majority of the franchise’s adaptations.

Final Thoughts

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero offers what most fans of the saga come looking for: energetic action, new transformations, and the classic Akira Toriyama humor that works brilliantly in this movie. The risk and courage in creating a narrative focused on Gohan, Piccolo, and Pan turn out to be successful due to the more intimate context, but it’s still quite far from the epic levels and supreme satisfaction of the last feature. Exaggerated fan service leads to unjustified, absurd new forms. The pacing and balance of the different storylines and relationships lack better control. The fight sequences have good moments, but some abrupt cuts take away some of the dazzle. And finally, 3D animation proves to be a massive detriment in almost every aspect compared to the ideal mix elsewhere. It’s a pleasant, light, fun adventure but sadly unfulfilling.

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Manuel’s Rating: B-
Follow Manuel on Twitter – @msbreviews / Or Letterboxd – @msbreviews

Find more posts: Animation, Review

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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