Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

First of all let me say that I’ve never seen a Dragonball Z anime, read a DBZ manga or traded a card. I have absolutely no foundation in the history of the characters in this film ‘Dragonball Evolution’ or the franchise it has erupted from and as such, whatever I think about this movie comes from only the movie itself. All that being said, let me just start off by saying that for life of me I do not, even for a minute, comprehend the movie making machine. If someone one strolls into a big time studio executives office and pitches a movie with this persons idea being a film with lots of wire kung fu, fancy special effects, wall to wall hot Asian chicks, crazy action and plenty of monsters… well that idea gets rejected. Until he pipes in with ‘Hey, I got the Dragonball Z license too!’ Now this idea gets immediately greenlit and 45 million dollars gets funneled into said production. Now here’s what I don’t get. The only reason this movie got made in the first place is because it has the DBZ license so why in the name of Goku do the powers that be take this license, strip it down to next to nothing and make the generic movie that this mythical dude pitched earlier, the one that they’ve just theoretically rejected? That’s what the DBZ fans said about this movie, and I have to go by what they say because I wouldn’t know any different, but they are not a happy bunch.

But on to this movie. Our film opens with some narrating dude going on about how the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) was on the verge of destroying the earth some 2000 years ago until he was put down deep into an earthly prison never to be heard from again… until like today. Quick segue to our hero Goku played by Justin Chatwin, who really doesn’t look like somebody would be named Goku, having a little wire fu session with his Asian grandfather and wire fu master Gohan (Randall Duk Kim). We’re not even going to get into the questionable genetics of all of this. Goku can literally summon the powers of the earth to kick ass but gramps has forbade our hero to use his prodigious wire fu skills and Chi to his own benefit, such as on the bully’s

that constantly pick on him at school, mainly because of his stupid hair-do. Our hero would really like to use his skills to talk to one of the world hottest 26 year old high school students in Chi Chi (Jamie Chung) who as it so happens has a few skills herself, but that’s another story altogether.

But enough of all of that. The real deal is that Lord Piccolo is out and he wants to possess the seven Dragonballs of legend, one of which was given to Goku by his grandfather before Piccolo rudely dismissed the old dude from life. Piccolo wants the balls so that he can perform some wacky ceremony and raise the monster demon Oozaru so he can subsequently destroy the planet earth. Where Piccolo plans to live once he destroys this planet is beyond me. Goku is like ‘dude, you can’t have my balls', and to stop this and to avenge the death of his master Goku has in his assistance the cute as a button PhD in Bulma (Emmy Rossum). What she’s a PhD in I can’t really tell you other than the fact she can make bitchin’ motorcycles appear out of thin air. Also helping the case is professional thief Yamcha (Joon Park) and finally we have wise wire fu master Roshi (Chow-Yun Fat). Together this quartet must make a perilous journey, retrieve the Dragonballs, stop the rise of Oozaru and defeat the Evil Lord Piccolo and HIS hot Asian sidekick (Eriko Tamura) or its toast for the planet earth.

So what can one say about this movie ‘Dragonball Evolution’ outside of the fact that it’s a total mess. The powers that were behind this movie seemed to have somehow found a rare combination of events that have managed to keep in just enough stuff about the manga to completely confuse those of us who know nothing about Dragonball, and excise enough stuff to anger those amongst us who are fans. Outstanding. There’s almost nothing outside of the basic plot of stopping this weird looking cat from blowing up the earth that makes any sense, at least to me. One of the issues with this movie is that it is really, really short. Lord knows I wouldn’t want this movie to drag on any longer than it already does but considering that director James Wong had to cram in a boatload of wire fu action, special effects, monster stomping and a first act that consisted of mostly of
After School Special style teenage angst, this didn’t leave much room to even come close to exploring whatever it is that makes Dragonball so popular.

Since the movie has large chunks of the narrative that appear to be missing, what we have to hang our hats on, at least as far as entertainment goes, are special effects, fight scenes, the Chow-Yun fat comedy show and Jamie Chung’s cleavage. All of those elements with the exception of Ms. Chung’s cleavage – because the twins were literally begging for freedom – were decidedly mediocre. A couple action sequences were pretty good, a few were sorely lacking but most just fell in the category of run-of-the mill with the likelihood being that you’ve seen better elsewhere.

We did get to see a rare Ernie Hudson sighting which is always nice, the movie was mercifully short though this did come at a price, and the ladies that were cast were lovely but that’s about it for the good stuff. I thought after ‘Bulletproof Monk’ Chow-Yun Fat was done with junk like this. I read some comments from some fans of DBZ who were able to accept the movie for what it was and not let the bastardization of their beloved characters get in the way of their enjoyment of this film, but they are squarely in the minority. I just don’t understand why pay the money for the license and then proceed to muck it all up. Seriously, Fox could’ve ponied up the money to make an original fantasy kung fu film ala ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ which really wasn’t all that great but didn’t piss anybody off, saved the DBZ license for another day when it could be placed in better hands, and see what happens from there. Again, I don’t understand how this business works, but making this movie the way that it was made was not a wise move.

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