Hang on! It's a Dragonball: Evolution Review!

Dragonball: EvolutionI finally got to see what the fuss was all about yesterday (thanks to HERO TV for the tickets!) during the advanced screening of Dragonball: Evolution. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that there exists two schools of thought pertaining to this movie: the one that thinks it’s gonna be one big clusterfuck that will violently rape an anime franchise beloved by millions around the world, and the one that thinks it’s gonna be an alright movie.

After seeing it with my own eyes, guess which one I subscribe to?

Thankfully for you, dear reader, this review is not written by a rabid animu fanboy, so I won’t go on a tangent about Akira Toriyama and home-made Molotov cocktails halfway through. With that comforting thought, read on!

Dragonball: Evolution

Despite the Americans taking some liberties (and, depends on who you ask, pretty fucking big liberties) with the story, Dragonball: Evolution still tries its best to get the most basic feel of the show it was based on. The hero’s still named Goku, and he still sports the ridiculously upright hair. Master Roshi’s in it and he’s still a pervert. And this movie wins alone on Emmy Rossum’s deadpan delivery introducing herself as “Bulma Briefs”. They’re also still after the Dragonballs, seven mythical crystal balls of power that could grant someone’s one true wish. Unfortunately for them, an alien warlord named Piccolo (played by James Marsters) is looking for the ‘balls too, and judging by his demeanor and predeliction to violence, you can probably guess that his wish isn’t exactly gonna be ‘world peace.’

Dragonball: Evolution

The cast does a pretty good job giving life to their two-dimensional counterparts, given the circumstances. Justin Chatwin’s got the anime looks and mannerisms down pat. Chow Yun-Fat might not actually pull off a perverted old man (Samo Hung would have worked better), but damn if he didn’t give it his all in every scene he’s in. And the girls kicked ass as much as the guys in this picture, but the slight abundance of cleavage (especially on Jamie Chung…I mean, wow.) distracted me to no end. But that’s probably just me.

Visually, it’s pretty stunning. Goku powering up looks pretty awesome, and the energy effects are obviously big-budget. Copious amounts of slo-mo for fights didn’t help much, but it got me into thinking that people in Dragonball are pretty fucking fast. And despite almost everything having been modified to cater to a wider audience, I kind of liked the nods here and there, like the (kame) symbol on Goku’s sweatshirt (Goku wore a uniform with that symbol in the anime), or Emmy Rossum’s blue streak of hair (the anime Bulma had blue hair). And I would be lying if said I didn’t geek out hearing Chatwin scream “Kame-hame-HA­­AAA!”

Let none say it sucked for lack of trying.

Take all that away, though, and what you have left is a pretty jarring storytelling experience, where the villain, despite being said to be banished somewhere forever, appears out of nowhere with no explanation on how he escaped…to Goku being connected to the villain’s past without any previous clues as to how and when it happened to be. Standing on its own, Dragonball: Evolution suffers a lot because of these. It’s like a roller coaster ride: lots of scary highs and lows, but you’re hurtling towards the ending at about 100 miles per hour and you haven’t even savored the experience when it’s all over too soon. It didn’t help that the dialogue plays out like an amateur fansubber’s dream…or maybe it just doesn’t sound right when an American monologues about “loving who you are” and “true power comes from within” while fighting in mid-air using ki blasts…

Still, I pretty much had fun watching this movie, but it probably helped that I had friends to laugh with me at the cheesy dialogue and scenery-chewing acting. Watch this alone, and prepare to cringe like hell. For me, Dragonball: Evolution is an okay movie that has its moments, but ultimately falls short of memorable.

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