The Return of Cooler is another one of my favorite Dragonball Z movies and a very epic conclusion to Cooler’s story arc. The Return of Cooler is also longer than the previous film (62 minutes as opposed to the 45 minute-long “Cooler’s Revenge”) and packs in a lot more story and action.
New Namek (homeworld of Piccolo’s people) is suddenly attacked by a planet-eating war world called the Big Gete Star (think Unicron from Transformers the Movie only squishier). Dende, the new Guardian of Earth, senses the disturbance and enlists Goku and friends to save the troubled Namekians. Goku, Gohan, Krillen and the rest arrive on New Namek and face-off against a legion of powerful Cyclopean Drones. The battle is tough, but things only get more complicated when the mastermind behind the planet-chomping operation rears his ugly head: Meta Cooler!
Cooler is easily my favorite returning villain of the Dragonball Z movie franchise and the Return of Cooler is the best of his two appearances. Clocking in at 62 minutes (that’s actually pretty long for a Dragonball Z movie), this movie manages to work-in an excellent story, lots of fight sequences and one of the most epic final battles in any Dragonball Z movie. What I appreciate most about this film is that the odds really *are* against Goku and his friends which actually leads to a thing called “tension”, which tends to be absent from many Dragonball Z movies. More often than not, Goku defeats the lead villain by simply turning to a new level of Super Saiyan or just pulling out some dues ex machina attack, like the Spirit Bomb. This time around, Meta Cooler beats the mortal Hell out of both Goku and Vegeta when they’re at their very best and they actually have to find a way to defeat the enemy by, *gasp!*, using their wits!
This installment also marks the first appearance of Vegeta in a Dragonball Z film (he’d been a regular in the TV series for quite some time, however). His big entrance was exceptionally pleasing, though Cooler does toss him around like a bit of a chump. Although I’ll always prefer Brian Drummond’s rendition of Vegeta from the old Ocean Group dub of the television series, I will admit, Christopher Sabat’s take on the character managed to grow on me. He’s very deep and growly, not quite as hissy-sounding as Drummond’s, and he sounds suitably evil.
Toei’s animation is magnificent all-around. The fight sequences are gloriously violent and perfectly choreographed. This installment contains some of the best aerial battles between characters, deploying numerous “camera” tricks which result in a very dizzying effect. As characters race all over the skies, teleporting from one spot to another, the landscape beneath them spins like crazy. They move really *fast*, you almost have trouble keeping up with them. Meta Cooler’s hordes of Cyclopean Drones are also a nice break from the standard minions the lead villain tosses at the good guys in previous films. While they lack colorful personalities, they’re plethora of attacks, such as grappling arms, machine guns and rocket-launchers, make them a definite visual treat. Meta Cooler-himself looks especially awesome as well as…shiny. Really, really shiny.
A shame to say it, but after this installment, the Dragonball Z movie series becomes a bumpy ride in regards to quality. Up until this point, the only decidedly bad installment was “Lord Slug”. However, from here on out, the movies will range mostly from bad to mediocre with only a few good ones thrown in. So enjoy this movie for now, because you won’t be seeing anything as good until “Wrath of the Dragon”. But, to assign the standard letter grade, I give the Return of Cooler a B+.