Well, I did it. I bit the bullet and saw Dragonball Evolution. I know, it’s weird, right? Like, it doesn’t feel real. How could this movie not only really exist, but be out there in theaters? Well, it’s time to face facts and see what this little bastard is all about.
Basically you’ve got this scawny white teenage, Goku, who lives with his Asian grandfather, Gohan. Now Goku is “special,” in that he is a very talented fighter. Which makes him different. I guess. It’s a little vague. Anyway, one day Gohan gives Goku this thing called a dragonball. It turns out there’s this bad dude Piccolo who wants those balls so he and his buddy Oozaru can destroy the planet. On his journey to stop Piccolo, Goku meets Bulma, the badass gunfighter, Chi Chi, a fellow “special” fighter, Master Roshi, the man who trained Gohan, and Yamcha, the loveable rogue.
First, I guess I should just address this as a film. It is a failure. Not a complete failure, more like one of those movies that gets a lot wrong but you could still kind of laugh at it. The effects are competent, the story largely makes sense for what it is, and the performances are goofy bad. Poor Chow Yun Fat. I guess if you were a baby who hadn’t seen Dragonball yet, this could be kind of fun.
But here’s the problem, this isn’t just another action movie. This is the Hollywood Dragonball movie everyone’s been clamering for for about a decade now. In that regard, it is the most gargantuan failure I’ve ever seen. It’s like the people working on this barely had any idea what the show was like. Maybe they read about it, but I doubt they saw any of the show or actually read the manga. The similarities are in name only.
Justin Chatwin is easily the worst cast member of the crew. He’s puny. He’s white. He’s somewhat smart-alecy. It’s not just his performance, the character written here is not Goku at all. This is a character that goes to school and has to deal with the jocks calling him “Geeko.” He’s concerned about getting the girl and fitting in. That’s not what Goku is like! What makes Goku a great leading character is his purity, for fuck’s sake! All he cares about is making himself stronger. Oh my God, he’s like the Japanese Superman.
The story here is just nothing like Dragonball, save for the vague similarities in character roles. And I guess the dragonballs do the same thing. I just find it really frustrating. The execution is so horrible. The film opens with a narrator setting up the history of the dragonballs (which is completely different from the Dragonball I know). Then, about halfway through the movie, Master Roshi makes the exact same speech while creating the exact same special effects in a fire! What the fuck is that! How can they get away with that!
You’d think at least the fighting would be fun to watch. Nope. There are only a few fight scenes and they lack any tension or excitement. They’re relatively boring. The final battle is like 15 seconds long and it’s just dude throwing special effects at each other. That’s another thing that bothered me. They completely changed what ki is, which I guess should be expected from something written by an idiot. But they also changed the motions of the kamehameha to make it lamer. What the fuck is up with that? Is there anything more iconic that the kamehameha? Why would you change that? What were they thinking?
In closing, this is a movie where a character says, “DBE, catchy.” Really? You have to tell us the initials of the movie are catchy? You know, now I get why Stephen Chow distanced himself from this project. Because he probably could have made it work. But instead we got one of the most infuriating, lame pieces of shit I’ve ever seen.
I honesltly believe Dragonball could have been made into an acceptable live action movie. Probably would be easier to do Dragonball Z, since that’s more sci fi and a lot more violent. But this is about as far from the mark as a human could get.