Dragon Ball Evolution (2009) – Movie Review (10 Year Anniversary)

IM BACK! Apologies for the sudden absence but you know, holidays wait for no one! But I’ve returned and what better way to start off that with talking about this unholy creation? 10 years ago, a movie was released, like many movies before it and after it. It was called Dragon Ball Evolution, the live action interpretation of the hit Japanese action fantasy show. This movie was…well…not received very well, by critics and fans alike. Critics disliked it for the story, the characters, the pacing, and fans hated it for the same reasons, except they added that they hated the way it butchered source material. I was going to post this around March to match up with the 10th of march release date, but forward planning isn’t a strongsuit of mine so here it is. So what went wrong? Why is this movie seen as bad? Well today we’re gonna find out.

Story (Spoilers)


This movie takes its plot from the first Dragon Ball arc as well as the King Piccolo arc. Some will call it ‘inspiration’ I call it ‘liberties’. This plot is so nonsensical that pretty early the core focus and relation to Dragon Ball is all but lost. The plot sees our heroes travelling the land to find the 7 magic Dragon Balls to get their wish before the evil opponent that’s hot on their trail. This plot is almost every early Dragon Ball plotline, but it has one glaring issue. That issue is pacing, and it really damages the film. The original shows arc this movie takes from were 13 episodes for the original arc and 20 episodes for the King Piccolo Arc. That’s 33 episodes, and with the average anime episode being about 20 minutes (not including opening and closing themes) that makes the total anime run time for both these arcs together around 11 hours. You just cannot cram that much exposition, plot and decent pacing in an hour and 40 minutes. The movie’s plot is just too basic, too rushed and ultimately too poorly written.

dragon-ball-evolution.jpg
Don’t worry guys, the movie’s almost over by this point

Characters


  • Goku (Justin Chatwin) – I feel really bad for Justin, he seemed to vanish after this movie, as many actors in these kinds of films do. I assume he’s trying his best with the script he’s given. Goku in this movie is…well not Goku. His personality is that of a disgruntled highschool boy who’s driven by his hormonal love for Chi-Chi and only goes on the mystical adventure at the behest of his deceased grandpa Gohan. His growth is non existent at one point and then his entire perspective changes seemingly at random halfway through the movie. I do appreciate them giving him Ozaru, or whatever that Werewolf thing was meant to be, but other than that this isn’t the best casting for a character like Goku.
  • Bulma (Emmy Rossum) – Bulma in this movie is just…there. Gone is the spunky, upbeat, snarky girl we’ve grown to know and love over the years, now we’re left with a blue streak of hair with a human being attached. She just shows up to kickstart the plot, then she takes a backseat for the rest of the movie, her sidestory being her budding relationship with Yamcha. I would also like to point out that in the Dragon Ball Evolution PSP game, her surname is revealed to be Enchanto…Bulma Enchanto, which I personally find amazing.
  • Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) – He tried so hard…so hard to make this role good. Chow delivers arguably the best performance of the movie, but for all his charisma he cannot save this movie or his role. As a performance it’s charismatic and ok at best, but as a representation of Master Muten Roshi, it falls short.
  • Piccolo (James Marsters) – Generic, evil for evils sake, and looks more like The Mask than a Namekian, Piccolo in this movie is so bland that I can’t really talk about him, he’s that boring. But here’s some fun trivia, this guy actually went on to voice Zamasu in the dub of Dragon Ball Super, which seems like a big step up.
  • The other characters – Ok…I’m including Grandpa Gohan, Yamcha, Chichi and Mai are all included here. These characters are just…bland to the point where they cannot be talked about. However I want to give a special mention to the actor of Goku’s bully Fuller, played by Texas Battle. That right there is the best name in human history, kudos to you Texas.
Dragonball-Evolution-Writer-Apologizes
These characters just don’t feel right

Presentation


By todays standards this presentation is dated. The CGI isn’t that inspired and many of the effects look poor. The Goku into Ozaru transformation is very badly done. The worst part however is the combat. Now for Dragon Ball, martial arts is important since it is an action / fighting anime. This combat is very bad, it’s floaty, there’s no energy or impact with the attacks. Even the Ki attacks are replaced by ‘airbending techniques’. Like come on, Ki attacks are the most iconic part of the franchise, save for Super Saiyan, and they turn them into airbending powers? Now to the movies credit, I’m of the unpopular opinion that the Kamehameha looks alright in the final battle, but other than that the attacks just look boring, like uninspired balls of flame. That’s how bad this movie handle’s its combat, it made fire attacks uninteresting.

gokukamehameha2.jpg
Kamehame hahaha…man this hasn’t aged well.

Grades


  • Story: 2/5 – This plot has no coherence, no appropriate structure and is paced poorly. Trying to cram 33 episodes of content into 1 hour and 40 min just leads to poor pacing and a rushed plot that just comes off as poorly written.
  • Characters: 1/5 – These characters bear no resemblance to the originals, save for having the same names. Goku is a hormone driven dweeb, Bulma is just…nothing, so is Yamcha and even Piccolo is just a bland piece of bread. The only one even close to being somewhat ok is Chow Yun-Fat as Roshi, but he’ so poorly directed and cast that as a representation of Muten Roshi he doesn’t do too good.
  • Presentation: 2/5 – The CGI by today’s standards is dated and doesn’t look great. The action sequences are uninspired and lack any real energy. The movement is very slow and the combat is incredibly floaty. I don’t get the same scale as I did in the show, these fights feel watered down and very dull.
  • Enjoyability: 4/5 – Ok I gotta say it. This movie is bad, like really bad, but it’s also enjoyable in that badness. It’s so disjointed that I can’t help but find it amusing. The story sucks, the characters suck, the pacing and so much sucks, but it all comes together in a way that if you turn your brain off the whole time, magic can happen.
  • (Unique Grade) Dragon Ball…ness: 1/5 – The only things this movie shares with Dragon Ball is names and that Dragon Balls exist. Other than that it has none of the charm, humour or action packed thrills. It is clear the director had no idea about the source material since any potential winks or nods to the original are dashed.
dragonball-z-evolution-review.jpg
I want to say ‘at least they tried’ but I’m not 100% on that

Final Grade: 2/5


So yeah…this movie is bad. But is it downright hateable? Personally I don’t think so. The movie is so incomprehensible and has missed to point of the source material in such an incredible way that it is enjoyable. Me and my friend watched this movie together, riffing every frame, and we had a blast. It’s unintentionally funny, but that’s not a bad thing. This movie is a bad representation of Dragon Ball, but I think it should be credited for the advent of Dragon Ball Super, since that and Battle of Gods were created in retaliation to Evolution from Akira Toriyama himself, so good job Evolution, you brought the real Dragon Ball back.

Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed it. If you did please consider leaving a like and following my blog for updates on future posts. Also follow me on twitter @joe_reviews for further updates and general nonsense. Till next time.

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