With ten more movies to go after this, we better start this up again if we’re ever going to reach the end.
The evil Saiyan Turles and his group of Marlboro men plant a world killing tree on the peaceful planet of earth, can Goku and the rest of the Z fighters stop this new menace????
I think we’ve reached the peak here with this movie (in the series), as i don’t remember and can’t see another movie being as uniformly solid as Tree of Might. Its story for one has just the right amount of sci fi elements to have it fit in with the proper series, but also retains a really interesting fantasy spin on things with a mystical and evil tree and allegorical main villain.
It starts off like the other movies in having Bulma, Oolong, Krillian, and Gohan enjoying their peaceful existence only to have it upset by evil doers, the Dragon Balls are used immediately (which is a running theme in the movies it seems) but this time its to restore a forest that was burnt out by the crashing of a space probe. This less immediate start to events allows the plot to develop naturally, instead of setting it up with remarkable coincidences (World’s Strongest) and/or poor writing (Dead Zone).
That extra time is for the most part spent developing a nice little subplot of Gohan and his new dragon buddy, which is a much more natural way to include Gohan instead of the acid trips he’s had previously and their relationship comes into play later on in the movie to decent effect. It also uses its extra time to set up the largest scale movie i’ve seen up to this point (in the series), as the Tree’s arrival on earth and resulting damage isn’t just an isolated event and eventually starts to destroy the entire planet.
But lets talk about the most important thing in DBZ: the fights. Following in the previous movie’s foot steps the various bouts in Tree of Might are well choreographed and animated. With all of the Z fighters involved lending the fights a great amount of visual variety. It also should be mentioned that the movies seem to have Goku fight more than one person at a time, and that leads naturally to interesting fights. Nothing in the series is as well animated and executed as him fighting Turles’ goons and beating them in turn.
Goku also seems genuinely pushed to his limits here and the whole situation by the end is extremely hopeless, as the spirit bomb fails to beat Turles the first time. Which adds a sense of unfamiliarity and desperation to the ending of the movie.
Tree of Might also benefits from a great sense of atmosphere, that is supplied by some decent music (in the Funimation edit) and some of the best art in the series. Seriously, some of the paintings in this movie are glorious:
While Turles isn’t a bad villain (on the contrary he’s actually one of the most interesting) his existence is given a very unsatisfying explanation. This has the effect of hamstringing his appearance as the throw away explanation of how he was “struck from the same mold” as Goku only brings up more questions than it answers, and gets in the way of my enjoyment of the situation as he appears more or less out of thin air.
The best explanation that i can give is that Turles is a literal and allegorical villain; that represents who and what Goku would have become had he remained a part of Saiyan culture. Turles being a dark reflection of Goku is reinforced by his actions, he thankfully isn’t given a lot of expositional dialog and that allows for his personality to come out naturally. To that end he comes off as a particularly sadistic and coldly confident Saiyan, without the crippling self doubt and pride Vegeta displays.
To that end i wish Goku and Turles had a bit more of a satisfying bout between one another, as their fight is mostly just big crippling hits and explosions, however this is made up by a great ending stare down and duel at the end of the movie.
Lastly the ending is almost ruined by King Kai giving completely unnecessary exposition, but the strength of the movies narrative manages to push past that little speed bump and keep on going to a satisfying end that brings the story and characters in a full circle.
The Tree of Might manages to get over some minor hiccups of a slightly disappointing main villain, and clumsy exposition through a good story, great fights, even better art and animation than the last outing, and a hopeless atmosphere.
It has set the bar high for the rest of the series, and at this point is easily my pick for best DBZ movie.
OUT OF FIVE