Jun 21, 2010

[Movies] Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Dragonball Evolution (2009)I was hoping to post a review of Toy Story 3 right now, howe er given my busy weekend I'm probably watching the movie as this entry is scheduled for publish. So that review will have to wait for next week and instead we'll have a horribly campy one in its place.

When you decide to adapt a popular series or book or whatever into a movie, you certainly set yourself up for a major challenge. The fans will all have their idea of how the movie should be made, the kind of actors that should be cast or even the nature of the special effects that should be involved. Just as the old adage warns that too many cooks spoil the broth, diverse fan expectations can kill a movie even before it hits theaters.

When is Hollywood going to accept the fact that creating new movies is an acceptable risk? They waste a lot of talent and time on these adaptations that are often doomed to failure given the philosophies Hollywood has about how movies should be made. Those notions tend to go in direct contrast to what the fans want or expect and so yeah, things just don't work out well.


Dragonball Evolution is the adaptation of sorts of the original Dragonball manga and anime series into a movie. Of course the whole addition of the word "evolution" to the title implies that this was somehow a sequel or a reimagination instead of a direct translation of the original source material.

Justin Chatwin at the 2008 Toronto Internation...Image via Wikipedia
As the movie plot goes, an ancient warlord named Piccolo (James Marsters) tried to destroy the world with the aid of his discipline Ozaru. He was stopped by a group of monks who trapped him inside some sort of a magical pot. Naturally he eventually escapes and this time tries to destroy the world by seeking out the 7 mythical Dragonballs. It is said that whoever possesses all 7 balls can ask for a wish from the dragon spirit Shen Long.

In present times, a young Goku (Justin Chatwin) is given the 4-star Dragonball by his grandfather and martial arts trainer Gohan (Randall Duk Kim). Of course while he's away at a party Piccolo arrives searching for the Dragonball and ends up killing Gohan after realizing he no longer had it. As he dies, he tells Goku of the need to gather the Dragonballs before Piccolo does in order to save the world. In his journeys he encounters the tomboy-ish Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and later on Gohan's old master Muten Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat). At the same time they're in a race with Piccolo's servant Mai (Eriko Tamura), who is also gathering the Dragonballs for master.

If we look at the movie on its own merits, it wasn't quite as bad as you'd think. There were some pretty fun fight scenes - the best being the one at the school party - and effects weren't really that hokey. The story sort of had a point on its own and the narrative did decent;y move forward.

The moment you start trying to compare the movie to the original cartoon / manga, then you're going to have trouble. The characters look nothing like their original counterparts. They didn't act much like their original counterparts. And even the story significantly deviated from the original Dragonball mythos. The only improvement in the movie compared the original show is the fact that the fights didn't take a week's worth of episodes (or more) to resolve.

The lead actor was not very endearing and it was hard to get drawn into his portrayal of Goku. He felt mostly wooden and even his budding relationship with Chi-Chi (Jamie Chung) just sort of fell flat on its face and felt all meh. Chow Yun-Fat also seemed confused in terms of how he was supposed to fulfill his role and Emmy Rossum seemed very content in playing her character as an exaggerated stereotype. So sad.

And don't even get me started on James Marsters - I hardly even recognized him under all that make-up and given that horrible performance.

Overall, this movie would have done a wee bit better if it had not been labeled as a Dragonball movie. It could have been one of those weird direct-to-video movies you only find when you're bored out of your mind at the video rental store and you stumble across this movie. And yeah, you'd have to be drunk to even consider picking this up.

Dragonball Evolution is a sad shadow of what could have been and it makes me shudder to think a sequel may be in the works. It gets 2 bastardized anime tropes out of a possible 5.
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