As many of you know, Dragon Ball started out as a comic
(manga) in Japan,
and went on to be a world-wide phenomenon. Translated
into several languages the manga
has sold over 150 million copies and the anime adaptation of the series
been broadcast in dozens of countries. The
writer and artist of the series, Akira Toriyama, is widely cited as a
influence by the current generation of manga artists including Masashi
Kishimoto (Naruto) and Eiichiro Oda (One
Piece). Okay, what I'm getting at is
that, good or
bad, the original story is very, very, popular.
Which begs the question: Why was
most of that thrown out for this movie?
I mean they even got the name wrong (it is two words, "Dragon
Ball".) For whatever reasons, in the
2009 movie Dragonball Evolution the
story that entranced a generation was discarded, the character's
were changed, and just to make sure they alienated everyone, they made
story confusing to those who weren't familiar with the manga or anime.
Goku (Justin Chatwin) is a nerdy high school student who is
constantly bullied by a gang at school.
What makes this so infuriating to the young man is that he's
fantastic fighter, trained by his grandfather Gohan (Randall Duk Kim)
made him promise never to battle bullies.
(For heaven's sake why?!?) On his
18th birthday, Gohan gives Goku a very special present, a
Ball. There are only seven in the world,
and when they are brought together the Great Dragon, Shenron, may be
and he will grant one wish.
Unfortunately, there is someone else who knows about the
dragon balls and their power, the evil alien Piccolo.
He attacked Earth 2000 years ago and was only
defeated when 7 mystics sacrificed their lives to seal the alien away. Now he's escaped (they never say how) and he
wants to use the seven balls to become ruler of the world.
Somehow knowing that Gohan has a dragon ball
(again, it's never made clear how he knows.
Magic I guess.) Piccolo attacks and kills Goku's grandfather,
discover that the ball is not with the old man.
(Goku took it to a party of all things....)
When Goku gets back home, he discovers his father
dying. With his last breath, he tells
Goku to seek out Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) for more training and then
the dragon balls, since their wish is the only thing that will stop
Along the way Goku teams up with an assortment of friends
including Bulma (Emmy Rossum), an electronic genius who wants to use
balls as a source of energy, Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), a hot high school
dates the biggest bully in the school and is secretly a martial arts
but has trouble opening her locker at school, and Yamcha (Joon Park) a
thief. Together this rag-tag band has to
stop the evil alien from taking over the world.
Where to start? There
is so much wrong with this film that it's hard to get all the
organized. For the Dragon Ball novice,
this film will be rather hard to follow.
They establish at the beginning that the story takes place on
the present day, but Earth they show is nothing like the one we inhabit. With futuristic machines and strange cities,
the planet doesn't look like Earth, and what about Piccolo attacking at
time of Christ? Surely someone would
have noted that.
For fans of the series this movie is just a huge
disappointment. Not because the story
has been changed, that was just dumb since they couldn't come up with
more entertaining, but because they changed nearly everyone's
personalities. Goku is the biggest
offender. Dragon Ball is a character
driven piece and the star is Goku. In
this movie he's not the happy, upbeat, inhumanly strong person he was
manga. In this movie he's awkward,
afraid to talk to girls (Goku, afraid of something??), wants to be
his peers at Unitech
High School, and
know how to handle bullies. That's the
exact opposite of what he should be. The
same goes for most of the other characters.
None of them have the charm or appeal that made the original
Okay, so how about we forget that this is based on Dragon
Ball and look at it just as an action movie?
It still sucks. From the opening
shot of a close up of Goku's face, with sweat dripping off and
sound effect dubbed over it, you know this is going to be a painful
affair. Every thing is overdone: The
sound effects, the visuals, and especially the acting.
Most of the main characters need to turn it
down a notch or two, especially Justin Chatwin.
(He should take some Karate lessons too.) Chow
Yun-Fat, normally an excellent actor,
phoned this one in and looked embarrassed to be in the film at all.
The dialog is horrible, laughable at times. I
mean really, really, bad. Here are a few of the choice lines from
the film, you can judge for yourself: "In order to defeat you, I
one with myself.", "With this Dragon Ball, I take my vengeance... upon
Earth." and my favorite "Prepare punk, for your clock is going to be
cleaned!" Wow, what is that, straight out of a
80's cop show??
One of the biggest offenses is that the fight scenes, something that
you'd think they'd put a
lot of time into, are very lame. They are
really, incredibly bad for a major Hollywood
studio production. The battles looked
more like the fight scenes from a 30's Western than a modern movie. They lacked excitement and drama, and very
few of the actors looked like they had ever practiced martial arts
before. Added to that was the
grand finale that was
very unimpressive. Even when the Great
Dragon is summoned at the end it is small and wimpy, that was a huge
disappointment. The cartoon version was
much more awe-inspiring!
This movie opened to negative reviews, but I though that was just
because the writers didn't 'get' the movie. It takes some time to
enjoy the anime, so I was hoping that the critics were wrong.
They weren't. This is a bad film.
While the film itself left a lot to be desired, the
presentation was pretty good. The 5.1
DTS-HD Master Audio mix was very nice which made good use of the entire
soundstage. The rears got a lot of
action, especially during the fight scenes.
The dialog was clean and clear and the sound effects were crisp. Over all this audio track did a fine
The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p disc preserves the original aspect
ratio of 2.4:1 and looks pretty good, I have to admit.
The colors are bright and warm and the level
of detail is excellent. There are
several scenes that pop well, such as when Piccolo is watching the
orange Dragon Balls float just before he attempts to summon the dragon. There was a bit of digital noise in some night
scenes, like when Goku is going to the party at Chi Chi's house. There was some barely noticeable banding too,
but aside from these minor quibbles the disc looks great.
Since I didn't like the movie, I was excited about wading
through the bonus features. Luckily
there aren't that many. We start off
with Goku's Quest Game is a
very simplistic game (you press a button whenever a dragon ball
has no entertainment value. There are
11-minutes worth of deleted scenes, none of which really add much to
the story. I can understand why they were
cut. That is followed by the five-minute Goku's
Workout which illustrates some of the moves from the movie.
The Fox Movie
Channel was kind enough to plaster their name over the next two
featurettes: Fox Movie Channel
Making a Scene and Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film
Justin Chatwin. The former is a
nine-minute look at how they shot the fight scene in which Chi Chi
doppelganger. Eh. The
latter is a nearly half-hour discussion
between some film students and star Justin Chatwin.
The disc wraps up
with a music video and a fairly lame gag reel.
There is also a second disc that contains a digital copy of the
Incredibly predictable (with a final scene stolen from Rocky
III), poorly written, badly acted,
and nothing like the anime or manga that it was taken from, this movie
a waste of time. There wasn't any aspect
that I thought was well done. Even if
you're a fan of the original material, stay away. Skip