The new Dragonball Z movie, titled Resurrection F, is really more of a remix than a resurrection. Or, better still, a greatest hits compilation, albeit one where the hits happen at light-speed and can destroy the planet. It’s a collection of everything you enjoy about DBZ, but it’s also all stuff you’ve seen before.

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The good news is that Resurrection F is a definite improvement over the previous DBZ movie, Battle of Gods. That’s mainly because Battle of Gods was a strange film where Goku and the other Z Warriors took on Beerus, the hairless cat-headed god of destruction, in a shockingly anticlimactic battle that Goku actually lost. By featuring an actual villain who plans to do actual harm to the protagonists, Resurrection F gains a focus and an immediacy that makes it much more exciting than its predecessor.

It also helps that the “F” in Resurrection F stands for Frieza, the best-known villain from Dragonball Z’s original manga and anime. The galactic conqueror is resurrected by some of his surviving minions with help from the Dragonballs (something the Z Warriors could have easily stopped and never even bothered investigated, strangely). If you’re wondering how Frieza could possibly take on Goku, who kicked the villain’s ass back when he was a regular golden-haired Super Saiyan, and is now at the blue-haired Super Saiyan God level, well, there’s an answer. See, Frieza did all his original fighting, conquering and planet-exploding without ever having trained. So after returning to life, Frieza spends the next six months actually focusing on getting stronger, and when he arrives back on Earth, he’s got his new golden form and is powerful enough to give Goku a run for his money.

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His fight with Goku is pretty great, even if it takes a while for both combatants to fight “for real” and enter their final, most powerful forms. They animation is crisp, modern animation techniques are well-utilized without being too obtrusive, and I bet seeing it on the big-screen would be a major treat for any Dragonball Z fan.

But if you’re not a DBZ fan, then F will almost certainly be completely unintelligible to you. The movie makes virtually zero concessions for new audiences—the characters aren’t introduced, none of DBZ’s “rules” and power levels are even briefly explained, and also Beerus is hanging around for no particular reason, meaning if you missed Battle of Gods, there’s a baffling new character taking the place of beloved characters like Trunks and Goten that everyone seems to be pals with.

Even if you are a DBZ fan—and I count myself as one—Resurrection F still feels weirdly limited in scope, especially for the return of such a major character. The movie doesn’t try to do anything new with the character or the franchise; again, other updated Frieza and Goku’s color schemes for their final battle, it’s pretty much the same fight from the anime TV series, just condensed into less time. And the movie follows the exact same formula that the anime perfected back in the ‘90s: lengthy build-up, lesser characters have fight scene, main villain shows up and defeats lesser characters, Goku arrives, Goku and main villain fight for a while, main villain powers up and starts beating Goku, Goku powers up and beats the villain. The end. Resurrection F doesn’t deviate from this even slightly. (Also, Goku is off training on another world for the first 45 or so minutes of the movie to justify his absence in the beginning, and only learns of Frieza when a character literally thinks to check his voicemail. I can’t decide if this is making fun of the increasingly constrained ways DBZ has kept Goku out of action until the end of fights over the years, or if the makers have just stopped trying to think of reasonable excuses for it.)

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The world of Dragonball Z is certainly a bit prettier now, but it’s just as rote. It’s not the worst thing in the world to put a new shine on a beloved classic—that’s literally what DBZ has done with Goku’s new blue-haired “Super Saiyan God” mode and Frieza’s Academy Award-esque gold final form—but that’s really all there is to this Resurrection.

Hopefully next time, we’ll get something closer to a revolution.


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.