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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

REVIEW - "Dragonball: Evolution" (2009)

Uninspired. Cliché. Underwhelming. Wasted. Poor. Embarrassing. All of these are choice words that one might describe “Dragonball: Evolution.” It’s clear that 20th Century Fox sat on the rights for the franchise with no idea what to do with it; and before their licensing on the franchise ran out, they slopped something together just to fulfill their announcement of seven years ago. The only relief I can give to fans of the franchise is that it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Let that sentence sit for a moment.

Goku, played by Justin Chatwin, meets up with Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and Master Roshi (Chow-Yun Fat) to find all seven dragonballs and stop Piccolo from destroying the world. It doesn’t get simpler than that folks. Without any further explanation that’s really all there is to it. I suppose that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the movie weren’t quite as boring as the sentence that describes it.

Watching this movie I felt an irrational need to compare this with another animated-to-live action adaptation: “Transformers.” My hatred for the film is no secret, but whereas Bay’s adaptation was an overblown mess, “Dragonball” is an underdone hack job. Everything is half-baked with its lightening fast pacing, poorly developed characters and uninspired battles.

Before I continue any further, I’ve noticed a lot of defenders of this little movie are under the impression that if a person dislikes “Dragonball: Evolution” it’s because they don’t like all the changes from manga/anime to Hollywood production. Whereas most of the changes in “Transformers” I felt were largely unneeded, I firmly believe “Dragonball” is a franchise in need of changing if it is to transition to live action-- So elements like Goku in high school didn’t bother me at all. No, what bothered me was the painful delivery Justin Chatwin would put in to several of his lines—Not that the script gave him, and the other actors, a lot to work with anyway.

“Dragonball’s” script calls for either the very least amount of development or simply wishes fans to rely on their knowledge of the franchise to fill in the holes. The characters shudder at the fact that Piccolo has returned after two thousand years, but do they ever question how he escaped? Of course not! That would call attention to the fact that the film fails to explain how he returned. How about his control over “Oozaru the Destroyer?” Why does he have control over it? And who was the Oozaru two thousand years beforehand? Who is Mai and why did she join Piccolo? Did she free him? Why didn’t Roshi jump out of the hole sooner? I could list another fifty questions the movie decides to ignore, but it wouldn’t help bring them to light any faster.

Outside the atrocious structure of the film’s events is the wonderfully amateur sense of character development. While the characters tend to grow, (surprisingly) the reasons for their development just aren’t there. At one moment Bulma is disgusted with the newly recruited Yamcha, and not a few scenes later are they contemplating a kiss. I don’t know what happened off screen during those few scenes, but it must have been more interesting than what I was watching. Meanwhile, the idea of developing Goku rests solely in the act of repeating cliché lines his grandfather and Roshi have told him about twenty times each. I wonder if doing this cut down the cost of writing the script?

After putting up with all of this, “Dragonball: Evolution” ends with the most anticlimactic fight between Goku and Piccolo. For a series later known for long-winded battles it was disappointing to see something so rushed as the “big” finale. Although, since the special effects were really starting to waver by this point, I suppose it was for the best.

Behind this would-be, gung-ho of an action flick is the source material that is “Dragonball / Z.” I maintain the idea that it is possible to transform the franchise in to a reasonably good movie. “Dragonball: Evolution,” however, isn’t it. It is an example of Hollywood at its most shrewd and a blatant middle finger to not just fans, but general audiences everywhere. I really do wonder what goes on at Fox.

½ out of ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your reviews are very good, Gman, and honest. I thank you for that.