Today, we arrive at the third Dragon Ball Z movie. This is actually the first movie in the series that I am previously familiar with, having played some of the DBZ video games over the years that covered the story of Turles, Goku and Raditz’s other brother.
The story begins surprisingly benign, with Krillin, Bulma, Oolong, and Gohan going on a simple camping trip. Unbeknownst to them, a saiyan pod crashes far off into the distance and causes a large fire. After the forest is destroyed, the heroes go on a mission to find the Dragon Balls and revive it.
In my opinion, this is the most charming part of the movie. This is also a very bad omen when there are 40 minutes left after this portion is over. The exposition with camping and Dragon Ball hunting is actually very fun and cute, we even see Yamcha, Tien, and Chiaotzu for the first time in the Dragon Ball Z movies. With the roster of original Z-Fighters mostly complete — save for Piccolo, who is still in solitude training under a waterfall until it’s time to fight — it really feels more in tune with how the wide the character roster is for the rest of the series.
The plot, however, does not really add much to the movie. For an established villain like Turles, I was genuinely surprised at how weak the reasoning was for his appearance and motives on Earth. To turn the entire planet into a host for the Tree of Might makes sense, but the personal vendetta against Goku for not completing his mission (and most importantly, being a weakling) is a bit silly, especially given that Goku had already fended off two other veteran saiyans at that point.
I was, however, at least happy to see most of the Z-Fighters get a chance to jump in on the action. If they hadn’t been immediately defeated, it would have been even better. Even Piccolo is mostly useless in this movie, which is pretty disappointing. He protects Gohan and is immediately almost killed, and from then on is doomed to be cannon fodder with the rest of Goku’s friends. I suppose this is important to illustrate how serious a threat Turles and his goons are, but it feels like a lot of wasted potential when Goku lets the henchmen wipe out his friends and then defeats them all at once.
One thing I did like was Gohan being turned into a Great Ape against his will. For some reason, the way DBZ handles the moon situation is always interesting to me, with Piccolo destroying the entire moon earlier in the series to prevent Gohan’s transformation, and Turles almost effortlessly creating a false moon out of ki to spurn the transformation regardless. It is bizarre to me that characters with the power to do these things are regularly beaten, since destroying (or reforming) a planet seems slightly more complicated than a 1-on-1 fistfight. At the very least, Goku having to try to stop a rampaging Gohan while Turles looms was a unique dynamic for the fight.
If you’re interested in watching this movie for the first time, ignore this last paragraph, because there will be spoilers about the final fight. Goku, having been beaten down repeatedly, and even failing to win with a Spirit Bomb because the world is so battered by the growing Tree of Might, achieves arguably his most contrived victory so far. Surely, in a movie about fruit that grant you magical power, with a villain who boasts about having an extra fruit of might after already eating one, the turning point will be Goku somehow obtaining this fruit and being rejuvenated. No, that is not the case. Goku’s “pure energy” randomly awakens the tree and grants him the power to annihilate Turles (and the entire tree, otherwise impervious) in one attack. Even for Dragon Ball Z, this is groan-worthy.
Probably my least favorite of the three I’ve watched, does not really shine aside from the fun moments with the newly introduced Z-Fighters. Turles serves his purpose as a villain without doing anything particularly unique. Once again, a bit of brevity could’ve made this movie a lot better, one should never find themselves checking how much time is left in a movie, but especially not one with a runtime of under an hour. Hopefully this will be a one off, as I imagine the next few will begin to transition into the (much more interesting) Namek era.