Dragonball Evolution (2009)

The one thing I can really say about this movie is simple. FOX and James Wong. First off the movies James Wong has done aren’t that great and everyone is all over FOX for them doing bad movies. The truth is and I’ll say this again and again. The higher-ups at FOX may have had the rights to Dragonball since 2001, but they do not respect it and would never had even bother to do this movie had the writer’s strike not hit in 2007. I remember reading the news in late 2007 about them doing this and thought it was a joke. Turns out I was part right.

Dragonball, was in truth doomed from the start. Even with someone like James Wong doing this, it could have still be an epic retelling of the Dragonball story, had they put more time into understanding what the anime was about, casting the best people into the roles and giving it a good budget to give the fans, the movie goers am epic live action take of Dragonball. There was many people who bashed it from the get go. “Dragonball can’t be done in live action, it’s too silly and too hard.” Even the former owner of Majin Planet, Majin Mebs even said it would be the worst thing ever and I hate to say this but he was right. At least in what we got with Dragonball Evolution.

I’m not going to get into all the bull shit about why Goku was played by a white guy and all the other countless stupid bull shit that fans all over those blog sites yelled about. All Dragonball fans, both new and old should feel like they where step on. I hear all the time people say “They rapped my childhood” Sure Dragonball Evolution was crappy at best, but did it ruin Dragonball for me? Hell no, now if you’re a Street Fighter fan.. yeah you got rapped.

Anyways, to the review, I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as I can but at this point I don’t think anyone cares if I spoil it. The first thing this movie has a lot of general Plot and Character issues. Lets forget it’s a Dragonball movie, lets for get the source and look at it as its own thing. First the plot, 2,000 years ago a Namek by the name of Piccolo came to earth to destroy it, along with his follower, Oozau. They nearly destroyed the planet. Then 7 mystics join together and seal Piccolo up and his follower Oozau just disappeared. This was the intro to the movie.

They never said who created the dragonballs. In the first trailer they said. “Seven Mystics came together and they created the Dragonballs.” This was not in the movie, so where they came from, how and why is unknown. Which is fine because it was not until Goku met Kami did we find out he made the Dragonballs.

The movie starts with a training of Gohan and Goku, after it what we get is not the Goku we are used to. We don’t get the carefree stupid Goku who wouldn’t hurt a fly. We get a cry baby. “Teach me how to get the girl. Teach me to be normal.” That is not Goku. Why they felt the need to give this movie a pointless Teen High School theme to it was beyond me. The whole high school set up had no point in the movie. The “new” characters they created are all bullies who pick on Goku for no reason what so ever. We never know why they don’t like Goku. He seems like a nice enough guy and yet they pick on him.

Goku tells them I’m not allowed to fight. We don’t really know why Gohan told him not to fight. Maybe it’s because Goku could break them with on punch. Goku never would chase after Chi Chi. In fact it was the other way around. But even with the changes to Goku, Chi Chi, missing key characters like Tien and Krillin (key in early Dragonball) and replacing them with characters I don’t even care about and don’t see again after the 30min mark is beyond me.

Proof the film makers never read Dragonball and simply did not care. There is a scene in which Goku day dreams about Chi Chi. A bit silly but whatever, I’ll live with it and it was sort of funny in that PG silly I’m 14 years old kind of way. He’s in class and the teacher yells at him. They have this theme going threw the whole movie about Goku believing in who he is and having faith and the solar eclipse that will happen in a week. Goku then tells the story that 2,000 years ago the Earth was attacked by Nameks. If I recall.. Nameks where a very peaceful race, it was the saiyans who would have done that. Why they felt the need to change this is beyond me.

Casting for this movie was mid way good mid way bad. The girl they got to play Bulma, I think she is hot and even know I wish they had given her blue hair and not had this, short blue bang, but I can live with it. She seem to understand the role a bit. I doubt she was a fan until she got this role, she says she’s was a fan growing up, but I really doubt she really understood the character until she started filming. The whole she wants to use the dragonballs as an unlimited source of energy is stupid. In the manga she knew they where dragonballs and there was seven of them. She wanted them so she could wish for a boy friend. I don’t see how they couldn’t have done this. They also had to get the name of the movie in there by calling the Dragon Radar a DBE (Dragonball Energy).. its a Dragon Radar James Wong.

Chi Chi.. all I will say is she is not that hot and don’t even look like Chi Chi and didn’t act like her. A clear on epic fail for her and she was going on and saying how fans should keep and open mind and give it a chance. Please stop acting.. your only known for being in the Real World and that show sucks. If they do some how make another one.. please recast her.

Mai, was shot and she was cast, dressed and given screen time more than Piccolo for one reason. Boobs. With an outfit like that, with this movie being marketed to 14-year-old male age group, can you really tell me they did not do that to get them to come out? Yeah I even notice them a few times and seem like she was only there to take your mind off what was being said, which wasn’t much. Plus they never named her by name and then they killed her so.. she was nothing more than pure fan service.

Goku was in my opinion a good choice for young Goku. Justin Chatwin acting was bad, I don’t fully blame him, the script was crap. I don’t believe he was a fan either until this movie. He said he was never happy with the hair, which bugs me because they didn’t want to make Piccolo Green and James Master out right told them make Piccolo Green. Why did Justin Chatwin not do this for Goku? Why did he not say.. look add some hair we need to get this right and we need to keep it the same. His hair changes far too much in this movie which is not the point to Saiyan Hair, that it does not change. The outfit, the classic gi was the only good thing about him. Even know he had both Master Roshi’s and King Kais symbols on it. yeah if you look at the back, that’s King Kai’s and Roshis is on the front.

Roshi, he was really funny and good and they did a good job mostly with him. He acted the part so I could look past the way he looked. The whole pervert thing was messed up. They got it right in one shot and the next they messed up. There is a part where Bulma falls into his arms and his hands are clearly on her butt. He then drops her and says sorry.. If that was anime Roshi he would have held her until Bulma knocked him upside the head. Oh and they have his house on an island in the middle of the city he’s in. Which was a nod to his house being on an island in the anime.

Yamcha.. this guy is new. Joon Park looks somewhat like Yamcha and when he first showed up he acted like him. I had hope until they started moving on to the next part and it just got bad. They totally messed up his character, he looks far to hold for Bulma and he can’t even fight. If you ask me Yamcha was an epic fail, would have rather had Puar and why could they not have given me a pet cat named puar? That would have been a nice nod to the character.

Piccolo, I believe in what James Master said. About respecting the role, the character and being a fan. I think he was the best part of the movie. Even know the plot as to who Piccolo was, why he wanted to stay over/destroy Earth and how he got that ship of his and stuff. I feel bad because he got nearly no screen time.

The rest of the cast, like Gohan and a few others are for the most part okay. I think Gohan was the only one they nearly got right. He found Goku and raised him, he was a sweet old man. He trained Goku and show him how to fight and he died. Sure they had Piccolo kill him when it was Goku who changed into the Oozaru but whatever.

That brings me to the fighting, how sad is it when the best fight in a movie like this was when Goku basically dodge the bullies attacks at a party he was invited to by Chi Chi? Yes the end fight with Piccolo is short, pointless and was over far to fast. Right when Goku show up to fight him, he has no idea he’s Oozaru. Piccolo reveals this to him moments before he changes and explains he landed on earth by meteor until his 18th birthday. Why does Piccolo know this? Here is where the plot intro has a major hole. If you thought GT was a plot fest this will take the cake.

In the intro its said 2,000 years ago Piccolo and Oozaru tried to destroy Earth. When Piccolo was sealed Oozaru disappeared. 2,000 years go by and Goku from who knows where lands on Earth and 18 years later becomes Oozaru. Piccolo tells him what to do… Oozaru’s are mindless and only high level Saiyans can control themselves in this from and only one seen doing this was Vegeta.

So can you see the issue here? Was Goku the same Oozaru who was with Piccolo 2,000 years ago? It’s so stupid that even a 14-year-old can see how silly that is. Who ever wrote this script should never write again. You don’t understand base plot elements. Speaking of the Oozaru, there was no reason for them to even have Oozaru in the movie. They could have and should have cut it. No tale, not changing at a full moon and being as it looked, fail. And now I bring you the fight itself..

Oh my fucking god it was like watching Dragonball GT. There was no hand to hand fighting in this. Remember when the Matrix came out and everyone was like.. fuck yeah.. they can do Dragonball Z now. Not even close, in fact the current Power Rangers shows have more fighting in them then this did. It was nothing but ki blasting and then a jump in the air and they punched each other a few times, which looked as if they where on wires. Really low-budget here and it was sad to say the least.

Kamehameha Wave… it looked good but they did it wrong. Why they felt the need for Goku to jump in the air is beyond me. Why they had Piccolo do a Death ball is beyond me.. why they turned ki blast into something called “air bending” I did not feel any sort of power from these things, the sound effect used where wrong. Why could they not use the ones form the show? I felt as if Goku hit me with a Kamehameha Wave that it would do nothing. Again, proof that the film makers did not research the manga: Kamehameha Wave means Deamon Turtle Wave and when Mai shoots Goku and nearly kills him.. so I didn’t know a Saiyan could be killed by such a weak type of weapon. Anyways, Roshi brings him back to live by doing a Kamehameha Wave… again that’s not what the Kamehameha Wave is and the way he does it is totally wrong and even more silly looking then how its done in the anime. So in two words for the Kamehameha Wave.. Epic Fail!

Shenlong, many people will say no its Shenron. No its Shenlong. In the manga and anime his name is Shenlong, the English dub renamed it, and the film makers seem to use the Japanese versions of spelling over the dub versions. This is I guess because they seem to care more about this doing well in Japan then the US. For the most apart the dragon was okay looking. he does not talk and has a glow around him which makes it hard to really see. Plus he is like a baby compared to the real Shenlong in the anime. What I don’t understand is if they made him so glowing to hide him due to a weak CG budget, why did they not make the sky grow dark? how hard would that be? Again fail if you ask me.

Overall the movie may not be your cup of tea, after all it bomb in the US market, only opening in 2100 theaters and came in at a painful $4,650,000 Million opening at 8th place and will likely be gone form theaters in the next few weeks. Why FOX marketed it this way is beyond me and it brings up the question. Why did this fail? Yes the movie itself is really crappy, but I’ve seen far worst movies that seem to do much better at the box office. So why did this fail? Was it because its Dragonball, base on an anime? No I don’t think so.

Key in point they marketed this to the wrong crowed of people. PG rating 1 hr. 25 min running time how many 14 year olds can really say they are fans? Had this movie been marketed better in the US, given a PG-13 rating and gear to the people who watched this growing up, people who sat home everyday at 5pm watching Toonami, people who are now 25+. Given it more money, 150 Million could have easy given this the touch it needed to be epic, time to explain the base story and characters, given us a number of fights. I thought there was going to be a fight between Yamcha and Goku.. but there was none. And maybe someone who understood what this was, had a passion to do this, maybe it would have been better.

I don’t by the whole “Dragonball is too silly to be done in live action.” that’s the same as those who said that Watchmen could not be done and it was done. Sure it failed in its 2nd week due to bad word of mouth. But those who read it, know they where true to it. This movie also failed because FOX made the stupid mistake of releasing it a month early in a market that is bound to online bootlegs.

Overall I give the movie a 3 out of 5 Majin’s for trying to bring the classic manga to the big screen. I liked the guy they picked to be Goku, the gi looked good and the ki blast where some what cool to look at. The world itself had a very dragonball fill to it. They did have a number of easter eggs and nods to the manga, such as names, places and things. Such as Roshi’s island. Had they tried harder to please the fans, and every fan out there who points out the story flaws and changes has ever right to do so. Some of the changes yes I can see, others I have yet to understand why they changed it. I say give DBE a chance, just enjoy it and if you’re not one to waste money, wait for the DVD release.

Richard Arellano is the founder and webmaster of the NeckarUnrivaled.com, HunterMastery.com and Majin-Planet.net. Currently studying HTML/CSS and enjoys playing MMORPGs, Magic the Gathering writing and Roleplaying.