There’s a famous little piece of Doom fan fiction, in which protagonist John Stalvern waits, demons are in the base and he plasmas them with “his palsma rifle”. It’s pretty funny. Here’s my favorite version, complete with soundtrack and voice-overs. I bring it up because Dragonball Evolution ends the exact same way.
Our hero Goku, about to face off against the evil green-skinned alien Piccolo, yells about how he is going to defeat him as well as the Oozaru, an apocalyptic creature that will appear during the solar eclipse that’s about to happen. Their exchange follows:
Goku: “NO I MUST FIGHT THE OOZARU.”
Piccolo: “No, Goku. You ARE the Oozaru.”
And then Goku was the Oozaru.
Oh yeah, spoiler I guess.
But who cares, because the live-action Dragonball movie is the enormous joke everyone knew it would be. The really sad thing though? While watching it I could sort of see glimmers of a good movie in there somewhere. There was no evidence of a good movie anywhere onscreen, hell no, but while watching this mess I began to daydream of what a good Dragonball movie could be. An adventure about a small band of young travelers who learn about these special crystal balls that can grant them any wish they want. Along the way they learn more about each other, their preconceived notions shattered as they learn you can’t always get what you wish for, that growing up is about sacrifice. Or something. Something heartwarming and magical. Something like Labyrinth filtered through Chinese and Japanese mythology.
Instead we get high school drama even The CW wouldn’t air and Power Rangers-grade action. Actually, there’s plenty of Power Rangers-grade storytelling all around. Remember the first movie? The one with Ivan Ooze? Okay, remember near the beginning the Rangers are in class learning about some comet or meteor or whatever that’s going to fly by Earth? Remember how that same exact comet plays a really important part in the movie’s climactic final fight?! The same exact classroom scene occurs in Dragonball with the same results, only replace “comet or meteor or whatever” with “solar eclipse.” Yes, the power of foreshadowing. The power of movies.
Really dumb movies.
So, Fox might as well have saved their time and money and re-released the first Power Rangers movie because Dragonball Evolution bears no resemblance at all to the Dragonball mana or anime anyway. Yeah, there’s a kid called Goku but he’s nothing like Goku. He’s not chasing for a good fight or for food – he’s 18 years old and chasing after Jamie Chung’s tail. His signature move, the “kamehameha”, originally a giant mountain-obliterating laser, is now a product of “airbending.” Yeah, and it doesn’t so much obliterate mountains as it is used to put out candles. Literally, that’s part of his training – blowing out candles. I’ve seen martial artists blow out candles with waves of their fist and feet before, but the kamehafuckingmeha?
I mean– RRRGGH. Why would you go see a Dragonball movie? To see dudes duke it out at ridiculous speeds, fly around and shoot fireballs and lasers out of their fists, right? That was the bare minimum they had to get right – the fucking fireball laser. And they fuck it up.
It’s used in so many different ways, too. In one scene someone “blows” a kamehameha into someone else’s chest to resuscitate him. What? There is so much stupid talk about airbending and crap it might as well be Avatar: The Last Airbender, because it sure as fuck ain’t Dragonball.
You know, it doesn’t even matter it’s not like Dragonball. It could be called The Airbender or The Dragon Warriors or Bright-Eyed White Kid With Spiky Hair has the Asian Fever, it would still be a huge fucking mess. The script is the most mundane, meaningless garbage. Nearly every other thing out of Goku is some one-line reaction to something happening in front of him. A motorcycle transforms – “Cool.” A character does some martial art trick – “Whoa.” For a change of pace, a car falls apart – “You got some dings in your car!” Everything else is long-winded explanations of Oozarus, Dragonballs and Piccolos or these lines repeated over and over:
“First rule is, there are no rules.”
“I must have faith in who I am.”
“Don’t let the Oozaru destroy the Goku in you.”
None of the actors seem to have a clue what their character is about with the slight exception of Chow Yun Fat, who might realize Master Roshi is supposed to be some cartoony old man. He plays him as such but it’s still a pain to watch. I just feel bad for everyone involved. Justin Chatwin, who plays Goku, looks lost the entire time. He’s expressionless. And when he tries to express something it’s laughable.
Somehow Jamie Chung, who plays the love interest Chi-Chi, manages to look like she’s having some fun. James Marsters, the villainous Piccolo, reads lines with such deep-voiced, campy aplomb it’s a damn shame he only shows up maybe two or three minutes the entire movie. For some reason Eriko Tamura, Piccolo’s sidekick (I have no idea who this character is supposed to be), gets to do all the villainy, which includes executing a tiresome doppelganger scheme for no reason other than to have two Jamie Chungs onscreen at the same time. Which… actually sounds like a pretty good reason come to think of it.
Joon Park, playing desert bandit Yamcha, is kind of appealing as a moron in that ironic internet meme sense. He’s all “LIKE HEY BRO HIGH-FIVE!” And Emmy Rossum and her stupid hair just annoys. Ernie Hudson also appears in the most embarrassing, pointless cameo. He looks so ridiculous, I almost shed a tear for the poor guy. I hope Ghostbusters III gets greenlit fast for his sake.
You would think a movie based on a martial arts property, produced by Stephen “Shaolin Soccer” Chow and starring Chow-Yun “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” Fat, wouldn’t be so awfully light on the MOTHERFUCKING MARTIAL ARTS. Fights are dealt with so easily, it’s like they didn’t even try. If they actually did try to replicate Dragonball Z‘s insane idea of fighting – man, it would’ve been unbelievable! Instead it’s just a blurry barrage of bullshit.
And that sums up the entire movie – bullshit. Fans of Cowboy Bebop, fans of Akira, Shadow of the Colossus, Bioshock, Wolverine, Deadpool, Gears of War, Halo, My Little Pony, Care Bears, whatever – you have every right to fear and to rage. Dragonball Evolution is the absolute prime example of Hollywood rape, a lazy cynical attempt to siphon even more profit out of yet another much-beloved property. It’s a laughable cash cow that deserves derision. It lacks all the vibrancy and heart that made last year’s Speed Racer such a surprising delight. The live-action Dragonball is bland, dumb, by-the-numbers bunk. It’s the Anti Dark Knight.