Movie Review for Dragonball Evolution (2009)

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Dragonball Evolution (2009) [PG]
W.I.P. Scale™ Rating: $9.50

| Released on: 4/8/2009 | Running Time: 100 minutes |
| official web site | | preview trailer | |coverage of premiere |
| soundtrackBrian Tyler - Dragonball: Evolution (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) | | buy the books|| spoiler || 2cOrNot2c |
During or After the Credits: There is someing to see! Check the spoiler for details only if you want to.

Directed by: James Wong (Final Destination 3)
Screenplay By: Ben Ramsey (Love and a Bullet)
Based on the Book, Dragonball Booksby Akira Toriyama
Unsung Member of the Crew: Special Effects Coordinator – Joe Pancake

Featured Cast: (where you might remember him/her from)
Justin Chatwin (The Invisible) • Joon Park (Speed Racer) • Jamie Chung (“Greek") • Yun-Fat Chow (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) • Ernie Hudson (Nobel Son) • James Marsters (P.S. I Love You)

For starters, it’s not clear how much Dragonball lore one has to have previously assimilated apriori viewing the new, live action adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s beloved book series, but the film is able, loosely, to stand on its own. Beginning with the voice-over instructional tale supplying both the history of the Dragonballs and their purpose in saving the world from destruction by the evil Lord Piccolo and his servant hench-creature Oozaru, the story’s only shortcoming is that the various names of the characters to those out of the know are difficult to resolve. Eventually, however, the names and faces fall into place. The first sight of the hero Goku (Justin Chatwin) comes shortly thereafter placing him and his grandfather Gohan (Randall Duk Kim) on double tightropes, the elder training his grandson in the ways of the ancient martial arts. It’s important to pay attention to everything Gohan says as each piece of wisdom will later be essential not only to the survival of Goku but for all of earth. Goku is a typical teenage boy on the day of his 18th birthday when something, all things, will finally be revealed to him. His birthday present from his grandfather is, in fact, one of the mysterious Dragonballs, of which there are seven in existence. On this day, Goku will defy his father and utilize his mysterious powers to get invited to a party, humble the school bully, and catch the fancy of the young maiden, Chi Chi (Jamie Chung). Evil Lord Picolo, however, has also chosen this exact time, having gotten free of the ancient vessel that trapped him, to seek out the Dragonballs so that no one might prevent his plans to take revenge on the earth. His assassin takes no time in collecting most of the balls with only a few remaining to be found.

Justin Chatwin...does his best with some of the most awkward dialogue ever written.
The energy signature of Gohan’s ball has not yet fluctuated causing her to destroy Gohan’s home but find the ball missing. It is, of course, in Goku’s hands. He senses the trouble and flees home to find his grandfather buried in the rubble but still barely alive. His grandfather manages to instruct him to find Master Roshi and tell him that Piccolo has returned. Then he passes on to the realm of the ancients. Goku is soon aided in his pursuit of Roshi (Yun-Fat Chow) and the dragon balls by by Bulma (Emmy Rossum). They find Roshi and eventually Yamcha (Joon Park) joins their team. Bulma has a Dragonball detector, which aids in their efforts to find the remaining ball. Eventually, they end up in a town where Chi Chi is competing in a martial arts contest, and it is here that Goku’s full potential will be realized.

... film is probably best enjoyed by people more familiar with the Dragonball mythology...
Decent special effects and story, make Dragonball Evolution, directed by James Wong, a better film than non-fans of the books might expect. Despite the considerable acting talent of Yun-Fat Chow, the rest of the cast is a bit wooden. The villainous Lord Piccolo has the worst make-up job in recent times for a powerful villain, and his portrayal by James Marsters is equally horrendous. Justin Chatwin, who can easily carry a film far deeper than this as he did in The Invisible, does his best with some of the most awkward dialogue ever written forcing him, at times, in to an awkward cadence that, sadly, looks like he’s being dubbed. There’s not denying his portrayal of Goku is very, very cool – with on of the more amusing scenes being when he tries to gel down his ultra-spiky hair, and it immediately sproings back up. This is who he’s meant to be. The plot is a bit choppy in spots, something one might expect in an adapted foreign language film, but not in one such as this. There was no reason, for example, for there to be so much confusion surrounding the role of Chi Chi as either helper or enemy. On the whole, the film is probably best enjoyed by people more familiar with the Dragonball mythology and / or a penchant for films adapted from Anime.

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