Movie Review: DragonBall Z – Dead Zone

Dragonball Z: Dead Zone

It might not be my favourite of the Dragonball Z movies, in fact now that I come to think about it it’s not even in my top five but it does hold the proud honour of being the first movie to hold the Dragonball Z name (while being the fourth movie overall in the franchise) and that’s important because it in its own way started things off.

I can’t really express what DBZ means to me, it isn’t like Harry Potter which I unashamedly admit made me who I am today (that’s a lot of blame to put on some books btw…haha) but it defined my childhood to an extent and taught me that all you really need to succeed in life is passion, a good nature and a willingness to meet challenges head on. From time to time over the years I’ve forgotten that message but all it takes to remind me is to watch the episodes all over again (with the added benefit of so many hours of entertainment)

Despite the obvious love I have for Dragonball Z I will try to be fair with this review. There were problems and this movie in particular had its share.

People sure to scream a lot…and for extended periods of time in this universe.

Barely a minute in and we see someone getting his ass handed to him and killed by some shadowy (and muscly) figures. For the casual viewer who for some reason decided to to introduced themselves to Dragonball through a random movie without any preparation, first of all shame on you that just now how things are done and secondly that big green dude with a beef against some guy called Goku is called Piccolo and he’s kinda of a bad guy right now but for all intents and purposes you should be sad he’s buried in a rocky grave.

I need to talk about the intro though. I’ve written a lot of these review in quick succession so I’ve found first off that their are certain phrases I like to uses over and over again and I want to limit that (unless anyone wants to make a drinking game out of it) but I need to repeat a certain phrase again. I got literal nostalgia chills watching it. It may not be the intro of my childhood because their are like five different ones but it captures the spirit of the show so well, with an incredible and cinematic fusion of moments from the series accompanied by a great little track which kicks of the trend of the movies having awesome rock music in it.

You could complain about the animating style of this movie but being honest it’s quite accurate to the style of the show and since this movie was released in 1989 (1997 for the western market) it’s not bad for the time. Quite stylised in its way. I mean you could probably show me random stills from half a dozen anime and I could find the one for Dragonball (we can do that if the drinking game doesn’t take off)

They tend to ignore it in the series but I’m surprised by how few villains use the all powerful Dragon Balls (Magic wish granting orbs capable of granting almost any wish) to wish for Immortality and I’m glad Garlic Jr (yes that’s actually the big bad…or should I say little bad’s name) finally sacked up and did it.

He’s not the most imposing bad guy (to start off with) and his minions donny exactly strike fear into my heart but even I thought it was a bit silly that Gohan (nerdy, shy bookworm dressed like a Japanese prince) would mock them and run riot. Sure he knows his dad is coming and he thinks his dad is the world’s strongest fighter (see the second movie for more details) but I just don’t see him being a little brat like that.

Also little Gohan gets high as a cloud (that’d be funny if you knew that Goku rides around on a magic cloud called Nimbus. Who am I kidding it’s still not funny) but yeah a few bites from an apple and he’s all over the place. And Garlic Jr’s minions can’t even keep a check on him. Seriously where do evil tyrants get such incompetent lackeys.

Also considering how many evil dudes use the Dragonballs over the years you’d think they have installed some safety features like only the true of heart can summon the eternal dragon Shenron or at least nix immorality. Literally the one thing that guarantees you aren’t winning a fight (without some stupid plot device saving you at the last second. But more on that later)

While I’m thinking about Garlic Jr something’s always bugged me. DBZ is know for recycling character designs. For example Turles (the big bad of another DBZ movie) looks exactly like Goku. But Garlic Jr looks exactly like an older Dragonball character know as Emperor Pilaf and for a whole I legitimately didn’t know they were different characters but I’ll chalk that up to lack of observation and not a really problem with the source material.

I love Dragonball. I really do but even I cringe at some of the dialogue here is the worst this movie has to offer

Garlic Jr: “you must be the famed Goku”
Goku: “and you must be the guys who thought you could mess with my family”

Unlike in the series and the other movies where the world was being directly threatened or Goku and the gang had a personal connection with the villain this one really felt like Goku was dragged into it. If they just taken the Dragonball from Gohan rather than kidnapping his son then he probably wouldn’t have got involved. So despite being our hero his whole thing was overshadowed by the history between Garlic Jr and Kami (Guardian of earth) not that I’m complaining I’m just here for the pretty colours and fast paced ass whooping.

Despite being low class as minions go. Trust me I’ve seen better. They do pack a bunch and they present a challenge to Goku while not outclassing him too much that his fight with Garlic Jr later is overshadowed or his victory seems unrealistic.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much DBZ abridged (a YouTube series parodying/satirising elements of Dragonball) or that slowly everyone who isn’t a Saiyan (an alien species to which Goku belongs who are noted for being fierce warriors who can unlock a super transformation which makes them incredibly powerful) is outclassed and made redundant but when i first watched this I was legitimately surprised that Krillin (Goku’s best friend. He also happens to be short and bald) was the one that saved Goku. More often than not he’s just comic relief but he really comes through in this movie. Way to go Krillin.

I’m really gonna hammer in how proud of him I am. He needs it. Trust me. Especially since he get bloody peed on. And no I’m not kidding. They take time out of the 45 minute long movie to have a sleepy Gohan pee all over his head. And then we’re supposed to just carry on like the little bald man doesn’t have a big ol’ pee head.

While someone is being urinated on a battle outside in ensuing between Garlic Jr and kami (the much older looking green dude) and it’s pretty good as fights between old men with walking canes and others the size of children go.

Back inside we have piccolo clearing shop. Reducing one member of the misfit minions to ashes. Also they can apparently pull swords from their bodies at will that’s…neat. But the sword is no match for Goku’s pole (ha. That sounds dirty) what I mean is his power pole (that still sounds wrong. But to explain he has a magical extending wooden pole which he uses to beat up enemies. Not really helping myself here. Just gonna stop)

Finally we get to see why Garlic Jr is a threat. He beefs up and starts to smash like a teal coloured hulk. I really wish he could die because then I could make some weak pun about him being crushed Garlic but I guess immortality is as inconvenient to me as it is to the screenwriters.

Also you have to appreciate the moment in any fight when you strip to get stronger (to explain he wears weighted clothing which restricts speed and strength. A method of training to improve power and stamina. Although isn’t my way of phrasing it better)

It turns out even partial nudity isn’t quite enough to save them. But they at least deal some damage. Such a shame he’s….immortal.

So cue the get out of jail free card. Or more accurately the put him in jail free card. Garlic Jr opens up the dead zone (yep the same one from the title) which is an extra-dimensional void and also the place where Kami banishes Jr’s father. I guess because ironic punishments which end up backfiring are better than just killing enemies who have no actually way of beating you till you literally open up a big gaping hole for them to stick you in.

Garlic Jr decided to keep Gohan because of his “hidden potential” and this comes into play at the end when enraged by his father and friends being hurt he quits being sad and gets mad and delivers a powerful attack which knocks Garlic right into the dead zone and thus wins the battle for the good guys. He promptly passes out forgetting what happened like every single character in Smallville does at one point or another. The characters regroup and the music plays as the narrator ends the movie on a high note.

Despite the plot lacking in some areas and raising some inconsistencies with the television series it’s a good film and well worth watching. I think this film deserves its rating of 6/10.


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