Friday, April 20, 2007

From the Archive: "Dragon Ball Z: First Strike" DVD Box-Set Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of the "Dragon Ball Z: First Strike" DVD box set. 

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Dragon Ball Z
First Strike"
DVD Review - Originally published April 20th, 2007

Didn’t this set come out last year?  Yes, it did.  I even got it the day it came out.  So why am I reviewing it in the first place?  But I’m very bored at the moment, so why not review the series’ first three movies?

This set is great, and any DBZ fan should get it.  Trust me, it won’t take much out of your wallet.  Normally, a FUNimation release of a DBZ movie is 19.99.  That’s one movie, one disc.  This set (three movies, three discs) is 19.99.  That is three for the price of one.  The first disc in this set, containing the movie Dead Zone, was released a few months prior to this release.  I had already bought it (for 19.99) but the only way to get the other two was to buy this set.  I barely thought twice about, it was such a great deal.

But what exactly is in this set?  Well, as I said before, it contains the first three Dragon Ball Z movies.  The DBZ movies were released twice a year during the series’ run, one at the summer season, and one at the Holidays.  There were 13, all fun, all B-level, and none as good as the series itself.  FUNimation, who dubs the anime in America, had previously released (as they released their expensive, 3-episode volumes of the series) movies 4-13. 

The first three had been dubbed and released by DBZ’s first dubbing company in the States, Pioneer (who also did the butchering of Poke’mon).  Pioneer’s movie versions were the only Uncut DBZ they ever released.  The dubs were quite good, but the picture quality was awful.

Thankfully, in August 2004, FUNimation acquired rights from Pioneer to the first sixty-some episodes and the first three films.  They’ve released the first 39 of these sixty-some episodes in the Season One set, with the rest following in Season Two.  The films were going to be released separately, but with poor sales on their release of Dead Zone, they decided to just go with a boxed set.  (That ALWAYS works.  No joke.  That’s why George Lucas is rich.)

I’m very surprised the Dead Zone disc didn’t fly off shelves; it hadn’t been commercially available in years, and was simply a great disc.  Let’s examine it.

The plot of Dead Zone is very, very simple, and as with all DBZ movies is strictly non-canon.  Gohan is kidnapped by Garlic Jr., an evil little prince who wants to take the throne of Kami-Sama, God of Earth.  Goku goes to save Gohan with Piccolo (this sounds familiar...) and together, they save the day, with a little help from a surprise someone...

Dead Zone is essentially a loose retelling of the first six episodes of the series, but Goku doesn’t die.  This was done with the Dragon Ball (no Z) movies as well; the Dragon Ball movies (there were 3) were all retellings of different sagas, and were released theatrically at the conclusion of the saga they were retelling, kind of like a fun and altered recap.  The creators seemed to want to continue this with Dead Zone, but all other 12 DBZ movies were not retellings. 

Anyway, Dead Zone is short, but sweet, and is a fun way to spend 40 minutes.  It gets a B-; that’s not bad, it just isn’t WOW good either.

But this disc is WOW good.  The picture quality is stunning.  It’s obviously been painstakingly re-mastered.  There isn’t a hint of dirt, the colors are vibrant, and details are excellent.  This is an almost twenty-year-old film, and looks as if it was animated yesterday.  The sound is also impressive, but just on the English Track.  Sadly, while this track is in 5.1, it does not do what the season set does, letting you listen to the dub with Japanese Music.  Instead, it’s just the crappy, synthesized stuff FUNimation made in-house.  While I don’t really prefer this track of the two given, it is an excellent audio track nonetheless.

The Japanese is presented, as usual, in Mono.  Good, but could be better.  I usually pick this track when viewing, but if you plan on owning this set, by all means, try both out.  There are no extras except a very poor audio commentary with the voice actors.

The World’s Strongest, the second film in this set, is one of the best DBZ films ever made.  It’s plot is somewhat more intricate, though still not as advanced as that of the series.  Basically, a Dr. Wheelo has his minion kidnap Bulma and Master Roshi (it should be noted my spell check program is going berserk at this point), believing Master Roshi to be the strongest man alive.  Wheelo, a brain in a machine, wants to have a strong body to inhabit.  Bulma lets slip that Goku is the strongest, and he seeks out Goku, who comes to the rescue.  45 minutes of action ensue.

This is one of the best DBZ films, but still somewhat slow moving and boring in spots.  It pales in comparison to the series, but is better then Dead Zone and is a fun watch.  This disc is solid, but does not have the care shown for Dead Zone.  It has not been re-mastered; it appears to have been put through a noise reducer, but that’s about it.  Dirt and scratches aplenty, and an overall soft feel.  Perfectly watchable, but could be much better.  There are no extras.

Tree of Might...I honestly don’t know if this is one of the good ones or not.  It’s slow, and the fight scenes drag.  The ending is silly and quick, but it’s a good watch.  The plot: Turles, a Saiyan who survived the explosion of Planet Vegeta, comes to Earth and plants the tree of might, a tree whose fruit makes him and his minions stronger.  For no particular reason, he gets in a fight with Goku.  Goku, after being beaten up badly for half an hour, punches him, and Turles dies.  The ending sucks, as if the producers didn’t have enough time to finish it.

But the movie feels more like a film then all but one of the DBZ movies.  It has lots of little plots that join together, and introduces a personal favorite character of mine shown prominently in the films, the Hyra Dragon. 

This disc has the same problems as World’s Strongest.  No visible remastering done, and no extras to speak of.  Oh well.  It could be worse.  We could be getting the transfers Pioneer did for their releases of these, which were horrifically battered.

Overall, a nice set that is worth the price.  The DBZ movies are nothing more then cheap cash-ins on the success of the series; not much effort was put in to any of them, but they are lots of fun and nice additions to the series.  Get this set if you enjoy the series.                 

Program Ratings:

Dead Zone: B- (42 Minutes)
The World’s Strongest: B (59 Minutes)
Tree of Might: B- (60 Minutes)

Technical Ratings:

Dead Zone:

Video: A
Audio: B+
Extras: D-

The World’s Strongest:

Video: B-
Audio: B+
Extras: F

Tree of Might:

Video: B-
Audio B+
Extras: F

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