Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dragonball Evolution Review

Dragonball Evolution opened here in cinemas today, 12th March 2009. I've been tracking the progress of the movie since its official announcement from 20th Century Fox back in 2007. I remember back then, most of the fans were still really doubtful of the actual realisation of the movie, since no actual ground work took place although the licence for the movie was acquired back in 2002. Everything were just smoke and mirrors, till James Wong was appointed the director and more excitingly, Stephen Chow as the producer.

Having walked out of the theater less than an hour ago, I have really strong emotions about this movie. As a kid and teenager in the late 80s and early 90s, I practically grew up with Dragonball. I owned the manga, bought all the movies, and heck I made my own Saiyanjin scouter. Spent a mini fortune on those darn Dragonball cards too. So naturally, I was more than excited when the movie adaptation was given the green light.

I'm not one of those skeptics who scowled at the fact that Goku was going to be played by a caucasian. My perspective is that this wasn't going to be the Dragonball we know, and that it is only based on the series which possibly spawned the most successful anime franchise of all time. Thus, I'm aware of all the changes and will accept them, as long as the characters stay true to the original, and that the overall experience of the movie will still retain the feel of the series, and staying to the roots which have captured so many hearts around the world.
I advise that unless you want to be spoiled for the movie, refrain from reading any further. My thoughts on the movie will inadvertably be full of spoilers for those yet to see the movie, although reading on might lower your expectations a little so the movie might turn out to be more entertaining.

Here goes the hard truth. For the loyal fans expecting the Dragonball story and the characters you've loved for years, you will be sorely disappointed. The movie is only 89 minutes long, and there is a lot to tell within such a short duration. The audience are generally split into half: those who know Dragonball, and those who don't. For those who have never heard of the series, they will be hard pressed trying to piece the pieces together to form a coherent picture and storyline. The entire plot isn't built up properly, and leaves the casual viewer with more questions than answers. It felt simpler than the manga, but somehow more disorganised and stiched up abruptly. Scenes felt forced, and made worse by the horrible writing, with dialogue so bad and cheesy my ears almost bled. Yes, the lines are that terrible.

The acting left much to be desired about as well. Main culprit, sadly is Goku. While I have no problems with Justin Chatwin, whom I think does well in appearance as a live version of the protagonist, he really does need to work on his acting skills. Dialogues seem dead, and his expressions are limited. That's not the bad part too. The sad thing is that the Goku in the manga and anime, you won't find him in the movie. Yes, he's a student in high school as opposed to a wild child living in the woods, but I can accept that. All I needed was for him to be in character, sharing the same traits and having the same values and charisma as the original Goku. Well, that seemed to be too difficult to adopt, according to James Wong.
Of course, there are instances where Justin seemed totally Goku. The way he asked Bulma when they met for the first time "Are you Piccolo?", was awesome. That's one of my favourite scenes in the entire movie. The way he interacted with Bulma and how he ate and offered the huge drumstick, that was Goku. Though, the similarities end there. The original Goku was confident, yet naive. He was serious, hardworking, and never gave up. There wasn't really any romance with Chi Chi, since he couldn't understand the concept of love and couldn't even tell the difference between girls and monsters. The movie version? Serious, but always at the wrong time. Cheats in training, gets his ass kicked by a girl, and getting close to Chi Chi as a motivation for training? Right.

The plot lends itself to too many changes as well, many unnecessary and this is another aspect which most fans will get pissed off upon. The movie stated that 2000 years ago, Piccolo and his servant Oozaru dominated the Earth and cause chaos and disorder upon mankind. So..... the Saiyanjin colony sent someone to Earth that long ago, and this particular Saiyanjin became the slave of a Namek seijin? The movie never really answered this, and only left the viewers with the best answer they could come up with: The Prophecy. It doesn't work this way, and both types of audiences, fan or not, can't possibly accept this as an explaination.

Yes, several elements were retained, such as the Mafuuba and the Kamehameha. But I didn't buy Roshi's explainations, nor how he executed his version of the Kamehameha, which was for some reason not blue in colour. Goku's version was better, but the classic poses were replaced by fancy tai-chi stances. Not good, since little things like these ought to please the long term fans better.

Piccolo and Mai had virtually no backstory, nor did the existance of the Dragonballs. Chi Chi, was another character which was almost totally out of character. Not as feisty as the original, and too direct. The original was shy, but would almost kick Goku's ass unless he married her (long story). Dragonball Evolution tries to hard to make the romance a key aspect of the show, but really, Goku didn't need love. Not at this stage.
I would say that Roshi and Yamcha, are the ones which were more or less similar to their original counterparts. Roshi still remains a pervert, but wouldn't let Bulma's verbal threats stop him from grabbing her ass. Yamcha, still a thief, had some of the worsts lines of the movie, including this awkward romantic scene with Bulma. Maybe they wanted to retain the love-hate relationship between Bulma and Yamcha in the manga, but Yamcha was never this direct and good with girls. And did Roshi just resurrected Goku with a Kamehameha? That doesn't make sense at all, and Goku shouldn't even have been knocked out by a gun, much less on the verge of death.

Flashy and awesome CGI was promised, yet somehow I must have missed all that. The slow motion sequences had no meaning, and were used purely to try and impress the viewers. The wire-fu was much too obvious, and no one would have thought that this was a Dragonball movie. I was hoping that the fights would stay true to Dragonball, with staring contests, strength demonstrations, the usual evil grin and thrashing of the hero, flashing speed attacks, and over the top ki blasts. And none of this happened. Give me the fight between Goku and Vegeta, or Freeza anyday over this. In short, no aspect of the classic Dragonball bouts are found in the movie.

It could have been so much more with the fiights. At least let Goku and Piccolo go head to head with clashing fists before Piccolo showing a grin and sending Goku into the boulders and appearing behind him using super speed. None, and Goku's final Kamehameha looked nothing like the original. The final fight is one of the most anti-climax fights I've ever seen in any movie, and Piccolo should just hide in a cave in shame if there ever is a sequel (trilogy plans yes, but if this movie fails too hard......).

I've written pretty much now, and to conclude I would say that while you may or may not be a Dragonball fan, it's going to be hard to accept this movie. I'm not as pissed off with it as with Spider-man 3, but that's probably because I didn't expect much from this anyway. It failed harder than I could have expected, and I leave the theatre shaking my head in disbelief, with my wife nagging about wasting both time and money. And guess what, I actually agree with her. See this movie if you love to hate, and to see for youself how not to do a live action Dragonball film.

22 comments:

Arzu said...

Yikes, that's pretty abyssmal. I was thinking of going to see this in theatres just for kicks, but if it's that bad I'm not going to waste my money. There are other better movies I can go see.

Psyke aka Sean (ショーン) said...

Yeah, it's quite bad, but you can watch to rant about it. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't see why you have a problem with a caucasian playing Goku. "Asians" in the Dragonball universe look something like this: http://www.myfavoritegames.com/dragonball-z/Images/HenchmenGuide/GrandpaGohan.gif and this: http://db-asylum.com/db/bio/yajirobi004.gif. Goku looks nothing like them.

Psyke aka Sean (ショーン) said...

Erm, I specifically said I have no problem with Chatwin playing Goku and that he looks good as a live version of Goku..... :)

Think you misread some where.

Anonymous said...

Dude its based on Dragonball, dragonball had ALOT of comedy and the movie too
DB had good but not DBZ hardcore fight, the movie had them too
DB had ki auras, ki attacks, kamehameha, green piccolo, Perverted Roshi, smart bulma, shenlong, bla bla bla, and the movie had them TOO.

So there is no reason for you to bash the movie this much, its not the best movie evar or even of the year, but its enjoyable, its a KIDS teen-ager movie (PG), so you probably was expecting something like DBZ and got your face into the wall, the movie gives u a fun time like DB gave, nothing Epic, DBZ in the other hand was alot more epic, hard core action and alot less funnier than DB, expect that in a sequel that'll hopefuly come.

Psyke aka Sean (ショーン) said...

I would still pay to see Dragonball on the big screen even if it's really disappointing.

kaypain said...

Hey Sean thanks for the review, I personally knew that this wasn't going to 100% Dragonball, to me it's seems like a good PG movie for the kids, nothing more. The problem I think, is Fox needs some serious remodeling. Whoever's decision was to cut the movie down to 89 minutes needs to be fired immediately. That is terrible editing. It should have been the same length of The Forbidden Kingdom or a little longer. And They should have used the coreography from that movie too. Overall it just seems like a rushed product. Very rushed. After all Dragonball is a very hard manga to adapt on the big screen. But with patience, dedication, and loyalty it could be the next fantastical LOTR. I hope they learn from this, and make a way better sequel, or just sell the rights.

dbefan04 said...

quite harsh,i've seen the movie,it's not the worst and it's not the greatest,i'm a dragonball fan.i was 6 yers old when i first saw dragonballs.This movie got it' own premise and nature and i focus more on the main characters,but i enjoyed it very much every second of it,it's one of my favorites too.

GutterBall said...

Meh, that's about what I figured. I was turned off when I heard that Piccolo killed Grampa Gohan instead of Goku. I mean, that's pretty crucial.

Not only does it show how out of control he was at Oozaru, but it shows how his friends treat him all the way through to the very end of it all -- basically like an idiot savant who's an awesome fighter but not smart (or grown-up) enough to be able to handle the knowledge of his own actions. Geez.

As for the high school thing, it seems like they're trying to merge Gohan's teenage years with Goku's rough and tumble childhood. Bad mix, dude. It changes everything. Once they make that leap, anything else seems expendable, which is just sad.

So yeah. Thanks for the 411, dude. At least I won't be horrifically shocked when Goku winds up on death's door from a gunshot while he fell off a cliff onto his head as a baby and only lost his memory.

EDouble said...

I don't understand why everyone who never had good expectations for this movie are always telling everyone "don't go see this movie." I understand you have bad feelings about it, but you shouldn't try to convince others to feel how you do.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, MAN.

Anonymous said...

the truth is simple...

if ur a fan of DB then
DBE SUX!!!!! big time....


if u have no clue what DB is then
DBE still SUX!!!!!

damn you hollywood!!

Waldo said...

Ok wtf .. Dragon Ball / Dragonball Z is hands down one of my favorite toons of all time. Dragon Ball evolution was a crap sandwich .. First off what in the hell are "Nemeks" as i know it was "Nameks" secondly, Granda Pa Gohan did not die that way nor did he day at that point in Goku's life. Bulma, one streak of blue hair .. are you kidding me ? thats pathetic. Master Roshi as I remeber was a short, bald head, perverted man, who lived on a little island surrounded by ocean not in a lake in the center of a gigantic city, by the way, why is the dude from bulletproof monk playing him, though they stuck to his perverted ways he has a full set of black hair and a nice crisp golden brown tan .. wtf. I just want to throw it out there .. PICCOLO HAS ANTENNA WITH BIG POINTY EARS. Ladies and Gentlemen what the hell was Mai doing in this movie, who the hell cares for Mai. By the way she could never make herself tranform into other people like Chi Chi. Who by the way never met Goku in high school as a matter of fact Goku never attended school .. Also I dont remember Piccolo having a flying spaceship of doom , and what the hell was that machine he straped himself into and made those four useless abomanations wtf were those. Through out all this where the hell is Kami. Yea Kami you know the guardian of the earth the one who made the dragon balls not some monks in a temple. OK here we go Yamcha .. where is Puar ? Yamcha fist off was not blonde and when he and Goku first meet is an exceptionally good fighter not some clown with a roll out ladder, wolf fang fist ring a bell to anyone out there ? Now when it comes to the dragon balls besides the origin they had it pretty down packed, except for the point that when you look into them they do not produce images in your head about .. "the future" ? wtf is that. where did you pull this one out of ? I cant believe im actually sitting here writing this comment but this movie has disappointed me. I feel as if I just caught my wife cheating on me with my dog. For anyone who has not yet seen this movie .. Go watch it but before you do forget anything that you know about the entire series and start from scratch. By the end of the movie I was surprised Cell and Buu didnt show up do the fusion dance and destroy the world. On top of all my other problems with this movie I think my two biggest disappointments were, 1. when goku turned into the great ape he grows a foot taller ... wtf, and as i remember it was the full moon that trigers his tranformation not the solar eclipse. 2. Goku needs a tail to transform he had no tail, in addition he was not able to transform back at will he had to wait until the moon had set or until his tail is removed. This movie made me so mad, if a sequel comes out it better be amazing to make up for this disaster .. oh and by the way Master Roshi never had to be revived by the dragon.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I have been wanting to know all of things that are wrong with this movie. This seems NOTHING like the original DBZ and DB. Me and my brother wanted to see it when it first came out and I'm so glad we didn't waste our time and (our moms) money. They should've at least made Bulma and Piccolo look the same. I'm gonna rent it and see how stupid it is.

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