After watching Dragonball Z on Cartoon Network years ago, I became hooked and ended up buying the entire series on DVD. As for the original Dragonball series, I wasn’t such a fan (even though I bought much of it, too). As a consequence, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with anticipation to see Dragonball Evolution since it wasn’t soley based on the action intense Z series.
But I suppose non-Dragonball fans deserve to know the origins of Goku just as much as non-Batman fans needed Batman Begins to understand Bruce Wayne’s metamorphosis. Problem is, both of these movies lack what the fans of the franchises want — punch.
And so with that, director James Wong introduces to us Goku (Justin Chatwin), a wild-maned social outcast — he can’t muster the courage to talk to the girl he adores, Chi-Chi (Jamie Chung), and gets picked on by bullies — but, as you can suspect, is destined for much greater things in life. On his eighteenth birthday, his grandfather Gohan, gives him one of seven Dragonballs and explains to Goku their power when they’re combined. In the same explanation, however, he warns of the foretold return of the evil Namekian, Lord Piccolo (James Marsters), and his desire for the destruction of Earth and hence his want for the Dragonballs.
Flatly, Dragonball Evolution then becomes a foot and ATV race to find the Dragonballs — Goku with Master Roshi (Yun-Fat Chow) and Bulma (Emmy Rossum); Piccolo with his disciple, Mai (Eriko Tamura).
Aside from the grand finale, which itself isn’t that spectacularly grand, there is but one eye catching scene — the fight between Goku and the Piccolo clones in an underground volcano chamber. The rest of the movie consists of poorly conceived comedic moments (thanks mostly to Yamcha (Joon Park)), jaw droppingly bad martial arts fighting (why do we care about a tournament Chi-Chi is fighting in?), and special effects and make-up (Piccolo looks like a green Vulcan) thrown together on the cheap.
The lack of special effects was most disappointing (followed closely by the inane dialogue) . If ever you had the chance to watch the cartoon, you would understand — the fights were incredible. Fighters teleporting about for advantageous positions, the earth breaking apart from their incredible energy draws, punches and kicks thrown at the speed of light and all powerful signature kill strikes. The only fight move I recall in Dragonball Evolution was the Kamehameha by Goku. The amount missed should be classified as a crime.
How, with such a worldwide following of the Dragonball anime and manga, 20th Century Fox could put out such an unimaginative movie is beyond my comprehension. Sometimes it is just better for Hollywood to not option source material. Dragonball Evolution is, disappointingly, one of those times.