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Dragonball Evolution (2009)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
Genres:
Action, Fantasy Adventure, Martial Arts
Director:
James Wong James Wong
Starring:
Justin Chatwin Justin Chatwin
Yun-Fat Chow Yun-Fat Chow
Emmy Rossum Emmy Rossum
Jamie Chung Jamie Chung
James Marsters James Marsters

2.3 / 10 - 8 votes

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Review by Ginose
Added: February 10, 2010
Holy hell, I can't believe they did it.

Back in, hmmm... around 2002 I heard that there were talks about adapting "Dragonball Z" into a live-action film. "Wow," I thought "that sounds terrible." It's true, it was a bad idea. I mean, can anyone deny that? Though "Dragonball Z" was, and is, still a landmark series and widely considered to be the greatest action-cartoon ever made, how can anyone think that adapting it to a film would be a good idea? First and foremost, there's the problem that what works in animation is not guaranteed to work as a live-action film, and I'd EASILY cite the action in the "Dragonball" series as one of the many things that just wouldn't work. There's just too much happening, too much to see, too much energy to really transfer well as anything other than a cartoon. Secondly, "Dragonball Z" is the SECOND piece of the "Dragonball" series, and, generally, when making a movie based on any material you'd want to adapt something, you know, from the beginning? Sure, they COULD assume that only people familiar with the series would go to see a movie based on such ridiculously verbose material (and they'd probably be right), but it still limits the film in terms of, well, actual film merit. These were things I was noticing, and I had almost no knowledge of film at the time.

So, continuing the story, I was a big fan of the material at the time (still am, fuck off) and I was less than excited for this event, but I kept on wondering what was becoming of it, and while I kept hearing lots of speculation of what it would be about, who would be in it, what saga, etc., but it was all just that: fan speculation. No one was hearing anything from any of the producers or ANY parties involved and, after awhile, people just stopped. Stopped talking about it, stopped looking for info... just... stopped caring. So did I.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when, in late 2008, I'd heard that it was already in production. Whoa. What the fuck? I looked up everything I could: plot, actors, budget, shooting-schedule, hell, everything. Now, slapping myself in the dick as soon as I saw they'd cast Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshi, I started sighing my sighs of relief that they'd not only made sure to set it in the "Dragonball" series, but it would branch a few of the plots together and even try to shed some of its over-the-top style in favor fro an actual martial-arts aspect to be focused on. I was actually a little pumped; sure, I knew it was STILL going to be moronic and a terrible cash-in on the fans' good faith, but it didn't really matter so long as I could enjoy it as a stupid, high-production film with some decent fighting to hold my attention.

Then I saw it.

God-fucking-damnit. I saw it.

On the morning of his 18th birthday, young Goku is given two things by his elderly grandfather Gohan: the promise to finally explain to him the fate of his family and how he came to live under his grandfather and Gohan's one treasure (aside from Goku himself) his mystical artifact, the dragonball, one of seven mystical orbs with unspecified (yeah right) power. Well, after we get the gist of Goku's fish-out-of-water high-school life as well as his romantic interest in his classmate, Chi-Chi, we follow him to Chi-Chi's house party, missing his grandfather's lesson as well as his death at the hands of the, once thought long trapped-away in the center of the Earth, alien king Piccolo. Piccolo, himself, hell-bent on finding the dragonballs and using their power to seek revenge on the planet responsible for his 2000-year imprisonment; with his dying breaths, Gohan tells Goku to find Master Roshi, letting him know of Piccolo's return.

The next day, upon burying Gohan's remains, Goku meets with inventor-come-treasure-seeker Bulma Briefs, who is searching for her own stolen dragonball. Goku seeks Bulma's help in finding this Master Roshi, and thus the true adventure begins.

Kind of. I guess.

Alright, well, I've put off writing this review for quite some time but, the truth is, I'm not sure where this movie stands with me; on the one hand, it's an absolutely horrid adaptation, that transforms what WAS a hapless children's cartoon into a coming-of-age martial-arts CGI-fest, but, on the other, it was pretty much what I expected.

Sure, the transforming it into a teenage, fighting, Power Rangers meets DBZ schlock-fest was a bit of a pressure on my already struggling brain, but it was alright in those regards, not terribly INTERESTING but stupid and fast-paced enough to run past the screen before I stared at its flaws too glaringly... the commendable, I guess... in the most awful of ways. Not much one can expect from James Wong, though, I mean, no offense to the man, I mean, "The One" was okay, but when the only entry to a series you started you DIDN'T direct ends up being the best of the original trilogy, you should probably reassess your directorial abilities. That being said, this may even be his best work since the original "Final Destination", it's easily as memorable, and I'm sure it took a lot of string pulling to get Chow to agree to a script like this...

On note of actors, the performances... weren't actually too bad. I mean, if you go in expecting anything worthwhile (at all) from this movie, then you're bound to be disappointment, but both Justin Chatwin and Chow Yun-Fat pull off their characters fairly well (though, this might have just been against the backdrop of all the other obnoxious bullshit that the performances seemed decent, but shut-the-fuck-up, I'm trying) and even James Marsters turns a fairly great job as Piccolo (for the total of 16 minutes he appears on screen, that is). On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, however, it felt as if Joon Park was told to act like he was doing a 1980s toothpaste commercial rather than a ridiculously campy martial-arts film, which wavers from hilariously bad to downright, fucking-painful to watch as the movie progresses.

Hell, even the martial-arts were good... what there actually was, I mean. I hate to break it to people, but most of what happens in a DBZ fight-scene is not an actual form of martial-arts, so trying to mime it into CGI-fixated, floating ki-blast fights, really doesn't make the leap as well as one could think. However, those are what we see most of the time, in this one, but the bit of fighting there is was enough for me to shrug it all off as padding on the already terribly over-drawn plot... and what the fuck was the point of being attacked by blood-Puddys at the volcano?

Yeah, all the attempted praise shit I'm trying to give this here is coming off as strained as it really is. "Dragonball Evolution" is bad, but it's laughably bad. It's "beer-fueled "MST3K" with buddies" bad, but not so bad that I'll damn it to the lowest circle of "cash-in = shit film" hell, because it has a lot of heart, whether I like to admit that or not.

Truth is, there's nothing so crippling that I won't pop this one in when I'm balls-off stoned for a few cheap laughs, but as a cash-in, adaptation, or film in general, this one is pretty fucking horrid.

3/10.
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steveoutr #1: steveoutr - added 02/17/2010, 01:12 PM
i think a live action DBZ can be done, but its going to take a lot of thought and CGI to do so
Lucid Dreams #2: Lucid Dreams - added 02/17/2010, 09:38 PM
It looks like everyone is Asian, besides the main character.
The Red Clover #3: The Red Clover - added 03/01/2010, 04:45 PM
I didn't expect anything out of this the moment they started releasing the cast choices so as far as being disappointed, I wasn't. In fact I was kind of anticipating how this movie was going to come out. With that said, I think it's a dumb movie you can rent for a good laugh. Something so awful that you can't help but be entertained to an extent. I think a good DBZ movie can be done. The potential is there, it's just going to take a decent studio who wants to take the chance to properly back it financially.

Someone should write a letter to Michael Bay and James Cameron.
Crispy #4: Crispy - added 04/10/2014, 01:36 AM
Like Avatar, I haven't seen to much of the source anime, so we're talking the movie alone. This didn't hold my attention as well as The Last Airbender did, nor did it plant a seed of the interest for the cartoon. Skip it.
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