Dragonball Evolution (2009)

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Based on the highly popular manga series Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama, Dragonball Evolution is a bastardization as well as an insult. Anyone who loved good ol’ Dragonball more than likely would despise this film – yet, there’s something ridiculously entertaining about the whole thing. When it comes to what makes a film bad, it almost always comes down to execution: Dragonball Evolution manages to actually have good cinematography, entertaining moments, colorful design, and a general sense of fun. However, it also has bad acting, bad scripting, and less than stellar special effects (some of the practical effects are fine, though).

Dragonball Evolution (why is it called that?) tells the story of Goku (played by Justin Chatwin), who basically has to save the world from the evil Piccolo (James Marsters) and gather the seven Dragon Balls which will grant anyone one who has them one perfect wish. The rest of the story and its details are, as one might expect, not at all important or necessary to talk about in a review. Sure, I could talk about Goku’s love interest Chi-Chi (played by Jamie Chung, who’s attractiveness is one of the film’s strengths), about his grandfather (Randall Duk Kim), and other pointless stuff, but that would mean actually talking about the story (which doesn’t do this film any favors), so instead, I’ll point out moments that either showed the film’s strengths or weaknesses. 

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The beginning is nice, showing some insight into Goku’s high school life and how cliché the bullies are (dur hur lameo). These are actually some of the best moments in the film, especially when Goku goes to Chi-Chi’s party and opens a can of whoop ass. Other neat moments are when the characters are in that place with the tournament and temple (I can’t find or remember the location’s name for some reason). Chow Yun-fat as Master Roshi in himself is always entertaining, appearing to have a lot of fun in the role. There’s also an editing technique used early in the film that I found particularly cool.

So where does the film do wrong? In the most important of places: Acting & Scripting. The acting is the most noticeable problem of the two, but I guess it wouldn’t be there without the bad script, either. Awkward moments, terrible dialogue, and strange plot points are at full display. I call out Emmy Rossum (Bulma Briefs) and Joon Park (Yamcha) specifically for her bad acting and his lame dialogue (though I guess his acting isn’t much better). It’s amazing that Justin Chatwin is one of the better actors here – in fact, he’s one of the most likeable characters (for me, anyway). The best actors are obviously Chow Yun-fat and Randall Duk Kim. Here’s the rest of the problem, though: These characters have odd dialogue a lot of the time, the film itself has odd pacing, and a bizarre plot that made me question the entire premise within the first two minutes. 

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It may not be the easiest thing to specify why, but I know for sure that Dragonball Evolution is not a good movie. I could blame it on the acting, the script as a whole, the disgrace it is to the source material, but in the end, all I’m able to really muster is that it’s a bad movie – not an awful one, not an unwatchable one (it’s actually entertaining largely for its badness), but just a bad one. It didn’t fail in its premise at all: I asked for an entertaining, pointless, bad looking film and by God I got one. But that’s the biggest problem of all: It had no reason to be made whatsoever. 

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