Ok, so from the title you can guess at least one thing, I hate this film. Not that I’m the only one as many, many people hate this film with as much passion as I do. As a lover of the Dragon Ball franchise (apart from Dragon Ball GT, seriously, that was crap), I was utterly perplexed by this film and, because of the overwhelming bad press about this film, refused to watch something I hold so dear to me bastardised in such a manner. However, to criticise from an ignorant standpoint is not really criticising at all and so, seeing it was on Film 4, I recorded it, watched it, let in all seep into every crevice of my mind, and now I shall share with the internet what I thought of James Wong’s adaptation of the manga and anime great that is Dragon Ball. But first, the overview.
Two thousand years ago, the earth was under attack from the Demon King Piccolo (James Marsters) who wreaked havoc with the assistance of his minion Ōzaru, a giant ape. However seven mystic sealed Piccolo within the Mufaba, an enchanted box, for all eternity. It is now present day and Goku (Justin Chatwin), an eighteen year old martial artist and student is given a four star Dragon Ball by his Grandpa Gohan (Randall Duk Kim). While Goku goes to a party held by his crush Chi-Chi (Jamie Chung), Piccolo returns, killing Grandpa Gohan in the process of searching for the Dragon Balls. With Goku in mourning, he must find Muten Roshi (Chow Yun-fat) in order to train to fight Piccolo and to prevent him from obtaining all seven Dragon Balls before the upcoming total eclipse.
So, what can I say that has not been said by many more reviewers who have lambasted this so much that the film now resembles a rotting horse, laced with maggots and bloated flies whilst a putrid and pungent smell remains forever fixed around what could, and should, have been a superb stallion that would have pranced round the racecourse of cinema in fine style. Well it appears to me to say what I feel rather than worry about what everyone has said and hopefully with all my comments spouting forth in text, perhaps one of them will be a gem of pure originality.
Ok, so Goku is portrayed by a white actor while nearly everyone else is Chinese, Korean or Japanese actors and actresses. The reasoning behind this I cannot begin to fathom. You would have thought that with the source material was Japanese; you would have tried to remain true in casting or, if failing that, tried to make it obvious that the character were from differing parts of the world, thus reasoning a more international cast. However, Wong failed to any of this into consideration and decided to rile Dragon Ball fandom.
Also, if you are going to make a film about Dragon Ball, don’t make Goku, a character of innocence and ultimate kindness, a horny teenage douche. Goku is meant to be simple, naïve and caring, not a teenager who fantasises about Chi-Chi in a field eating strawberries in a sexualised manner, and yes that is an actual scene in the movie! Also, Goku is in high school, a character who is supposed to have no formal education, is in high school. I’m of the opinion he skipped through some episodes of Dragon Ball and went to Dragon Ball Z, mistaking Goku’s son Gohan for Goku and wrote the high school stuff from what he saw in the Buu Saga, and then decided to make a worse version of it. That makes about as much sense as polar bear in the Sahara desert.
To get Goku so wrong kills the movie from the very start, but to also get everyone else wrong as well is just taking a liberty too far. Chi-Chi is a high school popular kid who is a martial artist and knows about ki. No. Just no. Yes, Chi-Chi was one of the strongest women in the world in the original, but in her teenage years she was bossy and prone to violent outbursts, and granted she fought in the turtle school style, she had no real knowledge of ki at that time and, suffice to say, Chi-Chi brought all the emotion to their relationship, not Goku. She was the one who wanted to be with Goku, Goku went in with it so he could keep a promise he wasn’t fully aware of. Chi-Chi is just plain wrong and Wong should have made appropriate changes.
James Marters, at least you made Demon King Piccolo green instead of the proposed grey, but still, Piccolo just had no presence as a villain, and the fact he had Mai, originally Emperor Pilaf’s goon in the series, just confused the matter. No attempt is made to give Piccolo a background story beyond the fact he came to Earth two thousand years ago to take control of it. A great Dragon Ball villain who had legs to stand on as one of the greatest villains in the franchise, and spawned another great villain, has been made generic and bland. Also, Piccolo didn’t have antenna’s which irritated me greatly. He just looked like an oddly shaped, odd coloured human, rather than giving any attempt to give him an alien-esque feel. Also, they don’t call Piccolo a Namek, they call him a Nimik. I’m sorry, but if you can’t even get the name’s right then you aren’t trying hard enough.
Bulma and Yamcha, the less we speak of them the better, but speak about them we must. Bulma is not a gun toting badass who is a capable fighter. She is a spoiled brat who has great intelligence and is born into a rich family which doesn’t help her brat-ishness, though she does carry a gun to begin with and shoots at Goku upon first meeting him. Also, why give Bulma one stand of blue hair? Decide if you are using or rejecting your source material, don’t flirt in the grey area as it won’t do you any favours.
Yamcha is meant to be one thing and one thing only, get this and you could have at least got one character aspect correct. Yamcha is comic relief. He’s the worst fighter throughout the Dragon Ball franchise, he’s frightened of women to begin with, he has a flying, shape-shifting cat named Puar who bigs Yamcha up for his inevitable fall, and he’s a terrible pilot and will crash anything he’s in control of. Get that right, and you’ve got a good Yamcha who’s believable in the context of the franchise. What is Yamcha in Evolution? A blonde douche, who flirts with Bulma, does no fighting whatsoever and is only used to transport people. There isn’t even any mention of Puar! That was at least seventy per cent of Yamcha’s appeal! Oh, he does crash a helicopter car thing, but that’s it! Yamcha failed harder than original Yamcha and that’s going some.
Muten Roshi… I really don’t want to go into how his depiction was so wrong on so many levels and how Wong tried to make Roshi a pervert by showing he had some dirty magazines, yet didn’t fully exploit how perverted Roshi was in the franchise. Wong also made Roshi use a Kamehameha, his signature technique which in the franchise he used to destroy an entire mountain that was on fire, like a defibrillator on a near dead Goku. Really, all that should have happened was that a Kamehameha sized hole would have been blown in Goku when near death instead of being brought back to life. Wong took a liberty too far with ki. Finally, though not my only gripe but I’m holding back here; Roshi is young. Yes, Roshi drank an immortality elixir, but he is meant to look like an old man. He is three hundred years old and should at least look like an old man. That was the point of Roshi in the franchise; he embodied both the archetypal wise old man and the lecherous old man. It gave his wisdom and humour. Evolution’s Roshi has neither which is such a shame for possibly one of the greatest characters in the Dragon Ball franchise.
I realise how far I’ve gone, so I’ll leave the other characters out, as they may not have irritated me as much as the one I named above. But before I leave you, I’ll just rant about the plot of the movie, though I’ll try to avoid rants about the plot I made in the character descriptions. I promise I’ll be quick.
Demon King Piccolo somehow has control over Ōzaru, a great ape which is what happens when a Saiyan, an alien race, looks at a solar eclipse. One: Nameks cannot control Ōzaru. Two: Wong decides Saiyans transform during solar eclipses, not full moons. Three: No mention is made, until the end in a really bad way that Goku is an alien, and we’re not even told he’s a Saiyan. Four: It’s pretty damn convenient that a Ōzaru is around when Piccolo gets free. Five: Ōzaru can only be stopped by having their tail cut off, not through an emotional speech. So bad from the start then. Also, no attempt is made to explain how Piccolo escaped the Mufaba which leaves you even more confused.
The epic quest for Dragon Balls is way too short. You feel like it’s just a thing that was tacked on because they were expected to talk about Dragon Balls. It feels like Goku’s and Chi-Chi’s deader than Bella and Edward’s romance is more important that Dragon Balls in a movie called Dragonball: Evolution. Makes sense? I thought not. Also, when the Dragon Balls are used, Shenron, the mystical wish giving dragon is all wrong. He is gold, too short, doesn’t talk, doesn’t make the sky go black, doesn’t make lightning occur when he appears, and for some reason is called Shenlong in the film. It’s such a sell-out it almost made me cry. Shenron is meant to make you look in awe, not hide away from pure embarrassment.
Ok, I’m stopping now. I could go on longer, but I’ve gone on way, way, way too long as it is on a film I loathe with a passion. I hope my feelings have come across. Akira Toriyama may have said to look at Dragonball: Evolution as an alternative universe to the Dragon Ball universe he created, but I say fuck that. It’s an awful film that deserves to be forgotten. All I can say is I hope Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods gets an English dub so I can watch my childhood heroes once again in the voice I know so it can obliterate the abomination of Dragonball: Evolution from my mind.