STARRING: Justin Chatwin, James
Marsters, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Chow Yun-Fat
2009, 84 Minutes, Directed by:
best special effect in Dragonball Evolution has to be actor Justin
Chatwin’s hairdo. We’re still not sure whether the makeup department used
styling gel or animatronics . . .
First, the good news. The
Hollywood live-action version of the once-popular Dragonball Z manga
doesn’t suck. The bad news is that it is lame, very lame. Dragonball
Evolution may not be based on a computer game, but it feels bad enough to be
Goku (Justin Chatwin) is a
seventeen-year-old orphan who lives with his grandpa who can be best described
as a demented Mr. Miyagi, who in-between teaching the super-powered Goku martial
arts, cackles a lot whilst preparing chicken feet for dinner. Goku’s school life
isn’t much better. Movie plot convention demand that he be picked on by a gang of
bullies, and voila! so it is. Goku isn’t allowed to use his super-powers
against his tormentors because . . . heck, we don’t know why. Because using them
will make him a worse person or something.
One day Goku sneaks to a party
where he predictably has a showdown with the bullies and employs a small print
in his “no fighting” clause to take them down. Whilst Luke Skywalker, er sorry,
Goku is gone though his grandfather is killed by a villain named Lord Piccolo
(no, I’m not making these names up) who is searching for seven dragonballs because,
well, he has to. The script demands it. (The term “dragonballs” may give the
wrong impression here. They are orbs with mystical powers; not what you were
thinking . . .) With these MacGuffins in place, it is up to Goku and his new
pals as they set off on a whirlwind adventure to stop Piccolo before it is too
late. Except . . .
"The cinematography is as ugly as the Hawaiian shirt Chow Yun-Fat is
made to wear. . ."
Except while Dragonball
Evolution may be passable entertainment for easily impressed ten-year-old
boys anyone else would probably want to give it a skip. The movie’s biggest
problem is that it is all talk and very little action. The action scenes are all
rather perfunctory and underwhelming. The talk consists of a lot of scenes with
Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel san how to use his powers. Sorry, different movie.
The only highlights are Justin
Chatwin’s hairstyle and the sight of the usually constipated Chow Yun-Fat
loosening up and trying to have some fun for a change. The acting is bad, yes,
but it isn’t all the actors’ fault: the dialogue is atrocious. Here and there
some of them at least try to have some with their roles and inject some humor
into the proceedings.
The other problem is that the
special effects are bad, very bad. Some CG landscapes even look as bad as those
cardboard backdrops they used in old ‘Sixties
Star Trek episodes. (No, really.) Dragonball Evolution is also as
ugly a movie as the Hawaiian shirt Chow Yun-Fat is made to wear. Its color
palette consists mostly of muted and washed out browns. The cinematography is as
flat and uninteresting as the film itself.
Lord Piccolo is played by the
usually charismatic James Marsters, Spike in the Buffy TV series. They
might as well have hired the Easter Bunny for all we know. Masters is
unrecognizable beneath his monster makeup and is about as interesting and
threatening a villain as the dog poo that litters the garden on your way to the
front gate this morning. The same goes for this movie. Chances are that
long-time Dragonball Z fans will also have a tough time recognizing their
own beloved anime TV series beneath this by-the-numbers movie. At least the
anime had some color, damn it!