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Dragon Ball Z: The Tree of Might / Lord Slug

FUNimation // Unrated // September 16, 2008
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 28, 2008 | E-mail the Author
FUNimation's latest Dragon Ball Z double feature piles on the third and fourth films in the series: The Tree of Might and Lord Slug. It's kind of an odd pairing since both of the movies in this set lean on virtually identical plots, and they draw from a mythology that's impenetrable to the uninitiated while completely contradicting the TV series at every turn. Oh well. Gripping characterization...? Rich storytelling...? No, not so much, and neither of the movies in this set are widely considered to be fan favorites. Still, the colossal over-the-top action that defines Dragon Ball Z is still present and accounted for, and that's good enough for me.

The Tree of Might
The first
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half of this double feature opens with something hurtling from space, and an entire forest is engulfed in flames after it crashes to the earth. Gohan and Krillin do what they can to minimize the damage, but even though they've spirited a gaggle of animals to safety -- including a pint-sized dragon that pals around with Gohan -- the forest is left in smoldering ruins. The two of them decide to mash the reset button, whipping out a set of Dragon Balls and wishing for the forest to once again be lush, green, and teeming with life. Sure, it looks as good as new, but there's still one nasty little addition: a skittering robot sentry that confirms the preliminary analysis that Earth is the perfect breeding ground for the Tree of Might. This world-ravaging instrument of destruction saps all of the life out of a planet until it's a barren wasteland, and once it's taken root, no power on Earth can destroy it.

Of course, The Tree of Might isn't just Goku and company blasting away at bark for an hour straight. No, it's all part of a ploy to conquer the universe, draining the lifeblood of an entire planet into the tree's fruit for a Saiyan-led invading army. When young Gohan refuses an offer to join up with the raiders, a miniature moon is flung into the sky, transforming him into a colossal, unstoppable giant ape...just one more threat for the Z Fighters to struggle with as they duke it out against the invading army.

The Tree of Might might be the most forgettable of the Dragon Ball Z movies I've plowed through on Blu-ray. It's not bad, exactly, but it does seem a little too familiar, sticking to a pretty ordinary, paint-by-numbers DBZ formula -- an overwhelming assault by alien invaders, an enemy Saiyan that looks eerily like Goku, etc., etc., etc. -- without infusing it with anything all that distinctive. Only Gohan's transformation really sets it apart. There's nothing memorable about the skeleton of a plot, but The Tree of Might lets the pacing drag a bit while it sketches out that story. There's still a tremendous amount of action, and while all that's handled well enough, there aren't any moments that really "wow". All in all...? Fine but forgettable.

Lord Slug
Even if I didn't think all that much of The Tree of Might, the other half of this double feature makes up for it. Even though a few dozen episodes of the series had passed in between, Lord Slug practically picks up right where the last movie left off, with Piccolo still meditating near a waterfall while Gohan continues
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to pal around with his dragon. The little whistling dance number that Gohan belts out doesn't have a chance to drag on for too long, though. I mean, this is a Dragon Ball Z movie, after all, so of course the world is in peril, and once again, it's a bunch of galaxy-conquering badniks from outer space. A stray planet threatens to plow straight into Earth, destroying every trace of life and reducing our little blue ball into rocky, fist-sized chunks. At the very last moment, though, it veers off-course and is revealed to be the Planet Cruiser of Lord Slug, the self-proclaimed king of all the universe. The wizened warlord is eyeing Earth as his next vessel to zip across the galaxies, and with Dragon Ball-fueled restored youth, smog-spewing machines to blot out the sun and freeze over every square inch of the planet, and a seemingly indomitable army at his side, who has any hope of stopping him?

Nosing around online, it sounds like Lord Slug is pretty much universally disliked among Dragon Ball Z fans, but I have to admit that I really dug it. There's a much more convincingly enormous scale this time around than in The Tree of Might, and virtually the entire movie is one gigantic brawl that never stops to catch its breath. The alien invaders are pretty clever, from one bad guy with elongated arms that snake out from under the ground to another who grows energy-leeching toads from his shoulders. It's kinda violent too: crushed hands, a couple of ears and an arm ripped off, and spatters of red and purple blood. I guess it all boils down to how much you're drawn into the action because really, that's all there is in Lord Slug, and not a moment of its lean 52 minute runtime is wasted.

Video: The Tree of Might and Lord Slug both made the rounds theatrically in Japan, and the 1.78:1 video on this Blu-ray disc should mirror closely enough how they were framed on the big screen. If you've caught any of the other Dragon Ball Z Blu-ray sets, you probably have a pretty good idea how the rest of this
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review goes. Both halves of this double feature are bright and colorful, and the image is noticeably cleaner and more detailed than an upconverted DVD. There's still some light speckling, though, and heavy noise reduction saddles this Blu-ray disc with kind of a soft, smeary texture. This double feature isn't a knockout on Blu-ray, but it's in the same league as the other three high-def Dragon Ball Z sets, and fans who've been happy with those probably won't feel any differently this time around.

Audio: The Tree of Might and Lord Slug serve up three tracks each: the original Japanese audio in lossy Dolby Digital mono, a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix with English dialogue and an updated rock/metal soundtrack, and a second English TrueHD track playing against the original Japanese music. It kind of goes without saying that the lossless remixes pack much more of a wallop, and these movies are both so heavily geared around hyperkinetic action on a massive, massive scale that the surrounds keep at least kind of busy and are bolstered by a hefty low-end. The recording of the English dub is cleaner and clearer as well. Even though the monaural Japanese track is kind of thin and shrill by comparison, hearing the dialogue in its original language just sounds right to me, but as always, it's great to see FUNimation continue to pile on so many different options.

English subtitles -- translated from the original Japanese rather than just transcribed from the dub -- are also available, of course.

Extras: The only extras are plugs for other FUNimation discs.

Conclusion: This fourth high-def Dragon Ball Z double feature is a mixed bag but still a heckuva lot of fun. It's not as deliriously off-the-wall as Dead Zone and The World's Strongest, and it's not nearly as bleak or downbeat as The History of Trunks and Bardock, instead striking a kinda-sorta solid balance somewhere in the middle. Recommended.
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