After a bit of a long break, i figured i would try and get some more of these out of the way. Only 9 more to go after this one!
Even with Frieza defeated yet another evil comes to disrupt the peaceful lives of the Z Fighters, can Goku beat Frieza’s brother?????
After the drop in quality for the series with the previous entry, Cooler’s Revenge is a return to some of the qualities that made Tree of Might a great entry.
The art is very colourful and detailed, and it is the last movie with the older art style (art director Yûji Ikeda and cinematographer Motoaki Ikegami left the series after Tree of Might which is likely the reason why Lord Slug looked so lackluster in comparison) before the characters look like they had armour plates glued onto their bodies. The animation is smooth as well, with the fights actually having some choreography and interesting pacing instead of just explosions and big hits.
Also the movie is the closest one yet to being connected to the series’ continuity, i see it functioning as a parallel universe where Goku makes it back from Namek straight away.
Cooler being Frieza’s brother is a good idea, he’s motivated from a sense of pride instead of vengeance and his slim design is just as interesting as Frieza’s. All of which makes him a more memorable villain than Lord Slug.
As much as an improvement the good qualities make this film in relation to Lord Slug everything in this film suffers in comparison to Tree of Might; for starters the credit intro to Tree of Might is a perfect example of the level of detail and care taken for movie III of the series, as its used as a montage for the gathering of the Dragon Balls as opposed to the canned one in Cooler’s Revenge. Most importantly the blazing pace in Cooler’s Revenge allows for no narrative to develop (clocking in at 47 minutes with credits). Even though Tree of Might‘s narrative is just as simple as Cooler’s Revenge the addition of the subplots of the forest fire and Gohan befriending his dragon buddy Icarus added weight to the plot when those times of peace, rejuvenation, and beauty are threatened with destruction.
While the art style is colourful and highly detailed, Tree of Might utilised its art direction in a superior manner. With the bright and colourful images being replaced with more and more gloominess, while in Cooler’s Revenge vibrant blues, oranges, and high key light sources are present from start to finish.
Reused plot devices and contrivances are old and tired out 5 movies into the series as well; absent from the plot is the Dragon Balls being used at the beginning of the story (thankfully), however Goku and company are once again shown enjoying their peaceful life by going out camping only to have Cooler’s goons literally jump out from behind the bushes to attack them. In the words of Alex from Street Fighter 3:
Gohan once again plays the damsel in distress. Being beaten to a pulp and/or otherwise threatened to give Goku a more personal reason to want to beat Cooler. This happened in Tree of Might but it’s far more interesting and reveals Turles’ sadism in a far more nuanced way to turn Gohan into a giant ape as opposed to just hitting him. While its great that Piccolo gets some of the spot light in this movie i like Gohan, i want to see him kick a bit of ass but he never does (it’s not quite as bad as Vegeta but i’ll get into that later), and it’s frustrating and unsatisfying as once again he’s only there to be put into peril (despite his enormous strength Krillin has a better fight against Cooler’s men than Gohan does, let that sink in).
The ending is also another comparison which favours Tree of Might, as its a culmination of the film’s superior art direction, pacing, atmosphere, and even thematic depth. As stated earlier the movie gets darker and gloomier with every passing scene until the final stare down takes place in almost complete blackness, a far cry from the bright sun rise of an earlier scene. The director paces out their stare down by cutting away to still shots of the surrounding environment and removing all sounds but the score, making the sudden explosive final duel that much more arresting and compelling.
Another art and directorial flourish has the 2nd Spirit Bomb’s brilliant white explosion juxtaposing and washing away the dark and prevailing atmosphere of the film, signaling that the end is final and complete. Lastly and most importantly the thematic currents of the film compliment the dicotomy in the visuals, as the nature of Turles’ and Goku’s strength is revealed in the final showdown; whereas Turles takes and uses his strength for himself, Goku gains and uses his strength on behalf of others thus highlighting the differences between hero and villain respectively.
Cooler’s Revenge while being visually interesting with good choreography and animation has almost none of the depth of Tree of Might. It’s essentially a light show, where Goku and Cooler trade blows with one another until the eventual end. Sure there’s that shot of Goku restoring the bird to life while becoming a Super Saiyan which arguably represents the differences in Cooler’s and Goku’s power, but it comes with none of the allegorical strengths “Tree of Might” has (with Turles mysteriously looking like Goku), nor does it have the same visual flairs and embellishments.
Lets be clear here, despite my preceding rant Cooler’s Revenge is not a bad movie. As (as mentioned above) its much better than Lord Slug, and believe it or not i can speak more about the dichotomy between movies III and V but i want to keep this to a manageable length. However it is the presence of these dichotomies make the movie falter and ultimately fail to what came before, as i’ve seen what can be achieved in the series and thus the bar will forever be set at that height for better or worse (that’s also not to say Tree of Might is perfect either, read my review of that).
Bottom line is Cooler’s Revenge is worth a look for fans or for the curious. It looks and moves good, and moves by fast enough that all of the padding and hiccups are easily forgettable as the film is done before you know it. But it could have been much better.