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Thursday, 18 December 2014

REVIEW - DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION (2009)

Directed by: James Wong
Written by: Ben Ramsey
Starring: Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chun
Music by: Brian Tyler
Release date: April 10th, 2009


Let's get straight to the point here. Dragonball: Evolution is complete and utter irredeemable garbage. It enraged fans of the series who condemned it judging it from set pictures and trailers alone pre-release, and if you're capable of somehow conjuring up the willpower to sit through the entire thing (which probably means you're either a film critic or a masochist), it becomes abundantly clear that they had every right to do so. Think of anything that an adaptation or even basic filmmaking should strive to stay far away from, and there's a pretty good chance that this movie wears it like badge and flaunts it in your face. Lackluster performances, a nonexistent plot stuffed with unexplained elements and concepts, unintentional comedy, bad CGI, horrendous dialogue, and an amount of disrespect for the source material so colossal that even the creator of the franchise has voiced his disdain for the movie, Dragonball: Evolution simply has it all.

The so-called plot here makes little to no sense, so let's just power through the summary. Based on the popular manga/anime series of almost the same name, Dragonball: Evolution follows the story of Justin Chatwin's "Goku" (quotation marks are essential here because this character doesn't actually resemble Goku in the slightest), who embarks on a quest along with a few other forgettable caricatures to find all seven Dragonballs and stop the demon Lord Piccolo (James Marsden) from destroying Earth for some reason. That's pretty much all you need to know.




It's hard to know where to even begin with Dragonball: Evolution, because it fails on pretty much every conceivable level and it's impossible to cover every negative aspect of it in this review. While it's nigh impossible to get through a minute of this thing without finding something to complain about, the characters are an easy place to start. "Goku" is a walking cliche and a parody of the ditzy and endearing manchild from the source material. Here, he has been transformed into an angsty teenager without an ounce of charisma. When he's not giving nonchalant deliveries of the word "cool" in the face of the extraordinary like every other character of his ilk in Hollywood movies, we're supposed to believe that he is socially awkward and gets bullied at school, but as a relatively good-looking guy with no particularly off-putting qualities in his personality, you know there's no way that would ever actually happen. The rest of the characters hardly warrant paragraphs of their own as none of them are interesting or important, and while there are some usually-good actors here, in this case nobody gives a credible performance. But a special mention has to be given to Joon Park as Yamcha, who takes bad acting to the next level.

The high school setting thankfully isn't too prominent, but it nonetheless leads to some of the cheesiest and most cringeworthy scenes in the movie (which is saying a lot, because it's full of them). After a dose of nauseating high school romance, we're treated to a fight scene featuring "Goku" humiliating a couple of bullies - who apparently possess masterful kung fu skills and the power to defy gravity - through one-liners and showing off in front of the girl he's trying to get the attention of (Chi-Chi, played by Jamie Chung, pictured below). You'd think that, in a Dragonball movie, the fights would at least be worth a watch, but every action scene is hampered by lackluster fight choreography, excessive misuse of slow motion and incredibly obvious wirework.




Dragonball: Evolution is a rare case, in that despite its numerous expository voiceovers  - which I've quite frankly had enough of today after also watching Green Lantern - it somehow manages to still be completely nonsensical, running around aimlessly and getting more and more lost along the way. What little plot the movie starts out with quickly dissipates, and so many basic things are left unexplained. How were the Dragonballs created? How can "Goku" fly? Why does Piccolo want to destroy Earth? Who the hell is Piccolo, anyway? Do green demon/alien guys just exist in this universe? And how did he escape his eternal imprisonment? Why is "Goku"'s grandfather Asian? Is he adopted, or is that another thing that we're just supposed to accept? How is "Goku", an inexperienced 18-year-old boy, able to defeat an supposed immensely powerful being with one attack? How does "Goku" have the ability to transform into a giant CGI monkey that looks like it was made on a $20 budget, and how did he not know that he was capable of doing so until it forcibly happened? How does Mai (an associate of Piccolo's, played by Eriko Tamura) have the ability to shapeshift? Why does Mai's costume completely cover her entire body with the exception of a cleavage window? We aren't even scratching the surface here, because this movie bombards you with so many unanswered questions it makes your head spin. If that wasn't bad enough, it does this while simultaneously butchering the source material, as if it's proud of the fact that it fails both as a Dragonball movie and as a movie in general.

The Dragonball franchise is massive, considered by many to be "the grandaddy of all animes", and there are very few things to come out of Japan that are so beloved on a global scale. This movie's sole reason for existing is so Fox can cling to their expiring rights to the Dragonball name, and its lack of originality is evident in a framework that is mostly an Asian-style imitation of 2002's Spider-Man, from the high school setting to "Goku"'s grandfather basically telling him before keeling over that with great power comes great responsibility. But not only did this movie look like it was going to be downright awful pre-release, and then turn out to actually be downright awful, but it's Dragonball in name only, and ended up being a box office bomb. If you're going to put out such a poor product, which people were never on board with in the first place, your only hope left for making any money would be from the loyal fans of the franchise. But how are you going to do that when it looks like you're deliberately trying to push them away?




Whatever the reason, Dragonball: Evolution is empty and a stunningly bad movie. If there's anything positive that can be said about it at all, it's that its short runtime is a mercy, and it will probably stick with you for a while because everything it offers is insulting tedious trash. It isn't even one of those "so bad it's good" movies, it's just woefully bad. Perhaps the most amusing thing about this monstrosity is that it has an after-credits scene. Yup. They thought they were gonna be getting a sequel. Cute.