In writing this review, I recall a time when a friend of mine ordered a Caesar at a bar. He described it as the most bitter and horrible drink he’d ever had, and practically pleaded with me to never ever try it. So I ordered one the next minute, and as expected, it was terrible. Why did I do this you ask? Because sometimes you just have to experience something for the sole reason of seeing how bad it really is.
This was my motivation to watch the long overdue live action remake of the popular “Dragonball” anime series, Dragonball Evolution. I grew up watching Dragonball and Dragonball Z, and always really loved the show. Granted it would take like 28 episodes for something big to happen, but the show was still very dramatic and exciting. When I heard about the release of a live action remake, I had my reservations of how such a wild concept could be taken seriously in film. But for the little kid in me, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. When I finally saw the trailer, it simply looked too ridiculous to spend the 13 bucks on. Yet, this feeling in the back of my mind always wanted to see it, just to know how bad they screwed it up. With its release on DVD, I got my chance.
Dragonball Evolution is a very disjointed and poorly executed adaptation of the classic cartoon series. It condenses a large portion of the Dragonball lore into a 90 minute train wreck that fails to garner any single moment of entertainment. It follows a fairly typical format: Unpopular kid in school (who likes the girl with a heart of gold, who is with the jerk bully for some reason) faces a family tragedy. Out of the tragedy he learns he has super powers and must save the world. Along the way, he meets buddies to help him, but in the end must do everything himself. Eventually he saves the world from the evil dude and, of course, gets the girl. Now usually I wouldn’t mind such a generic storyline as long as it’s pulled off well with funny dialogue, interesting characters, and good acting (i.e. Spider-man). Dragonball Evolution fails at all of this to the point that even a Dragonball fan like me was confused. There is an epic journey involved, but because of the uninteresting dialogue and poor character development, you find yourself not caring about it. You will hate most characters out of sheer annoyance, and the rest are just forgettable. I actually liked some of the actors in this film before watching it (Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum and James Marsters), but was severely disappointed with their performances. I can’t really put the blame on them though, because even Marlon Brando couldn’t save this script.
One area where this film could have saved itself was the action sequences. Dragonball was a highly Martial Arts oriented anime, and many badly scripted Kung Fu movies have been bailed out by the amazing fight sequences (i.e. Ong Bak). But, as is a recurring theme in this film, I was once again disappointed. The fight scenes were so poorly done that you can almost see the strings attached to the actors are the fly about randomly. The final action sequence of this film ends up looking like King Kong Vs. the T-Rex from the 1930’s, except lamer.
All in all this one was doomed from the start. Everything from the story to the action to the effects are uninspired and unremarkable. I will say that at least the sound quality was pretty solid, but then again, so is it for most action movies today. It’s unfortunate because a good film making team could have produced a hit with this series (just watch any of the Japanese Anime Dragonball movies, they are spectacular). My final piece of advice to all you review readers out there, don’t make the mistake I did. Its 90 minutes you’ll never get back.