Dragonball: Evolution (2009) James Wong

Production Budget: $45 million
Worldwide Gross: about $10 million

The evil alien/lizard King Piccolo (James Marsters) used to rule the world.  He was trapped inside a magical barrier for thousands of years until he was released.  Now he searches for seven Dragonballs which when together grant one perfect wish.  Young Goku and his friends must go on a search for the Dragonballs to prevent Piccolo from executing his plan.

To start off the same as my GI Joe review, I will say that I never really saw Dragonball Z so I don’t know where the childhood rape starts or ends.

The main thing that stands out on watching it and my greatest problem with the movie is the running time.  Its only 85 minutes (including credits)!  Now Dragonball Z is probably one of the most (if not the most) popular anime to come to America and it seems logical they would want to establish a big franchise.  Especially when you had bigger directors and bigger efforts with the likes of Speed Racer, Transformers, and even Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Why would you hire a rather untested director and make your debut movie only 80 minutes?  Now normally I’m bitching about a movie being too long but here it is unbelievably short.  It really hurts the movie because we blitz through everything like plot, character development, excitement, etc.

We are given almost nothing about a plot (insert joke about Dragonball Z show).  The entire plot is given by the opening crawl and then next to nothing is given to us.  We aren’t even told crucial plot information like how Piccolo escaped or why he wants to do what he is doing (other than he’s EEEEEEEEEEEEVIL).  Where did these Dragonball’s come from?  Who split them up?  Who made them?  What religion are we working from here?  Who are these people and why are they the only hope for humanity?

Now to go to the elephant in the room which is the casting.  Now, I usually don’t give a sh*t about casting characters in different races.  I could care less if the Punisher was black for example because his race really isn’t relevant to his character.  But with this movie being steeped in Chinese culture and Eastern philosophy, its strange that you cast half of the characters as Asian and the other half as white.  You really can’t explain why the character named GOKU is a white boy.  I was expecting some big things from Emmy Rossum after her great role in Phantom of the Opera.  After Dragonball Evolution, my expectations were drastically lowered.  The only character I really cared about was Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshii.  He perfectly played the dirty old kung fu master and I wanted to see a hell of a lot more from him.  The most wasted casting of the year has to go to James Marsters as Piccolo.  You have one of the most charismatic scene chewers and you put him in so much makeup you cant recognize him and you give him no material to work with.  He literally just stands around and tells people to go places and get the Dragonballs.  He has no long scenes, speeches, or parts to stand out.  Its like putting Bruce Campbell in a movie for two minutes and making him mute.  What a waste!  You could have put anyone in that suit and had them growl lines like “GET THOSE DRAGONBALLS!!!”  That’s another thing.  We are so short on time we are never really given a reason to fear Piccolo.  We are just told he is a bad dude and we are just supposed to accept this on faith for some reason.  He could be a classic villain but is given no time to develop.

The movie is cheap.  I mean, just from looking on the box it looks more like cosplayers than a Hollywood big budget production of Dragonball Z.  The rest of the movie is just that cheap with crappy scenery and special effects.  The whole movie is set right in front of a blue screen.  Its like a slightly better produced version of the Angry Joe show.  The action scenes are sporadic and end just about as quickly as they start.  I still don’t get how a low budget show like Xena can have better fight scenes than most “big budget” Hollywood kung fu movies.  This could have been what made the movie stand out but instead its more of an afterthought.

Now I actually thought there was a good movie at the core of Dragonball Evolution.  I would have actually liked a campy kung fu romp.  But we are so rushed in introducing like 8 different characters, establishing an entire mythology, setting up the action of the plot, and rushing through the whole plot, our heads our spinning by the time the climax comes.  We needed more time and more money (in addition to some serious re-writes) to have salvaged  this movie.  Its terrible, but since its only 80 minutes it didn’t linger in my consciousness as being one of the sh*ttiest movies I’ve seen this year.  It came and went and I’ve already forgotten it.

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2 Responses to “Dragonball: Evolution (2009) James Wong”

  1. There’s one reason it’s ok that Goku’s not asian.. Goku was an alien. A Saiyan child sent from another planet (yeah, it’s basically martial arts’ superman story, with some changes).

    So, for that, I’m ok with it.. However, the movie was ass. The anime was bad, but it was enjoyable form a riffing standpoint. this movie’s over before it starts.

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