Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Dragonball Evolution (2009)

Director: James Wong
Starring: Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun Fat, Jamie Chung, Emily Rossum

“Something’s wrong with my grandpa! I’ve got to go.”

Take a look at this picture:

Yeah. If you ever thought that should be made into a live action feature length film…you should probably be locked up for life. But they did it anyway! And it’s a hunk of lameness that I have not seen since the Ghost Rider movie. If you ever liked the TV series it was based on then this review will probably hurt you. People…this is Dragonball Evolution.

I remember watching Dragonball and Dragonball Z like all the time when I was a kid. It was great. It was big and fun and action packed and silly as hell, and it was just great. But there’s the first problem with this movie. For one, that was ten years ago! Talk about poor marketing! The people who watched the show are grown up by now and most of them probably weren’t near as excited now as they would have been if this came out at the height of Dragonball’s popularity. And two, it’s a live action movie; why would you ever want that? It’s so goofy looking in cartoon form that it’d be impossible to ever satisfy the fans when you try to make it live action. Of all the shows you could turn into live action movies, why this one? What kind of freaks would actually watch it?! Oh…well…except for me, I guess. Fuck it, let’s just get started.

Our movie begins with Goku, who in this version is a pasty white teenager with only slightly goofy hair, balancing on some tightropes. He’s being trained by his grandpa, who seems to think that everything is overrated, including eyes and ears, as he teaches Goku – it’s kind of like Mr. Miyagi if he took a class in 9th grade wannabe-hipster. Goofy old grandpa also delivers such earth-shaking parables as “Normalcy is overrated,” which is clearly the answer to all of Goku’s woes about not fitting in and not being able to talk to girls!

…yeah. He whines about not fitting in and not being able to talk to girls. Wasn’t Goku in the cartoon a brash, fearless, headstrong and naïve idiot who was never self conscious about anything? Like…the exact opposite of this? GET IT RIGHT. Oh, and his grandpa gives him a Dragonball after that, because the transition from talking about girl problems to talking about ancient mystical artifacts is just so logical, right?

So then the next day we see Goku going to school on his motorized bicycle, which he parks for some reason in a car’s parking space. It is then completely destroyed by two overgrown sacks of testosterone who run it over with their car – guess that’s what you get, you frigging moron. He tries to pick a fight with them but can’t muster up the courage. What a pussy. Then we see him in class fantasizing about a girl named Chi Chi and what would happen if she was…looking at him and eating strawberries rather sensually while the background outside turned into a rejected Wizard of Oz set with golden cornfields and a blue sky and everything.

The camera then switches to what looks like a flying coffee machine in which Piccolo, here looking more like Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies if he was seasick, is dropping fireballs casually down toward the Earth. I’d like to take this moment to apologize to all environmentalists for Piccolo’s littering problem. He will be duly reprimanded for it. Apparently Piccolo tried to take over the world 2000 years ago, was sealed under the Earth by the Dragonballs and is now…inexplicably back somehow. I don’t know; it’s never really elaborated on at all. He just is.

Why so green?

Then Goku sees that Chi Chi is having trouble with her locker, and so he uses his Ki to make all the lockers open magically from far away. She runs after him and seems to know about the Ki powers somehow – it’s every nerd’s dream; a hot Asian girl who does martial arts and will accept you, smile at you and invite you to her parties even after you completely and utterly botch the process of trying to act cool in front of her. Which is exactly what happens! Don’t you just love implausible wet-dream filmmaking?

So in a true dick move, Goku skips out on his grandpa’s homemade birthday dinner to go out to the party and perform some ridiculous stunts, defeating those bullies from before in a sudden and sporadic burst of self confidence. He then starts to talk to Chi Chi and seems to be doing alright, until the Dragonball he was given earlier starts to glow in his coat pocket. He then delivers probably the funniest line in this movie: “Something’s wrong with my grandpa! I’ve got to go.” I’m serious, just picture hearing that from Chi Chi’s perspective. Isn’t it just…so hilariously out of nowhere? Here’s a piece of advice for all the ladies out there: If some guy ever says this to you so randomly, especially in the throes of passion, it’s time to re-evaluate your choices in men.


But of course, as the laws of shitty, lazy filmmaking dictate, the one night Goku decided to leave is the night that Piccolo tracked down his grandpa’s house and blew it up. However, the movie decides to mire itself in even worse cliché as we see the grandpa live juuuuuuuust long enough to deliver a long, dry monologue about how Goku is the chosen one to defeat Piccolo and save the world, or some shit like that. How is it that every dying character in these movies can always muster up just enough breath to deliver the exact information necessary for the plot, getting all of it out very neatly and tidily, before they croak? I think it’d probably be a lot messier, like this:

“Goku…ugh…you have to…uuuuugggghhh…find the Dragonballs…cough…splutter…gag…and grow a pair of balls yourself to talk to chicks better and…uuuuugggghh…cough…” *Dies*

Yeah, that sounds more realistic. But let us take a moment of silence for Grandpa Gohan, who would probably want us to stop grieving and move on as soon as we could. After all, as he would say…life is overrated, anyway. Like, totally.

So the next morning his house is broken into by a spunky blue-haired vixen named Bulma, who as we will come to know, is completely devoid of any kind of real character. She tells some bullshit story about how someone stole a Dragonball from her father’s high tech security building and that she thinks it was him. They end up lying next to one another on the floor after a clumsy fight scene and Bulma finally realizes through a very sloppy change of emotion that Goku is not the one she’s looking for! Then Goku says he can “sense his grandpa.” Man, no wonder this kid has problems with girls; he can’t shut up about his grandpa for two seconds! What’s he gonna do when he gets a real girlfriend and they’re in bed together when that Dragonball of his goes off? “Ooh, I can feel my grandpa vibrating real strong tonight! Excuse me a moment!” Ugh. Disgusting…

Goku and Bulma team up and go to find Master Roshi, who is played by Chow Yun Fat. I would begrudge his presence in this movie as a terrible waste of talent or maybe that his character looks NOTHING like the one from the cartoon, but…honestly, he’s like the only person in this movie I kind of like. He’s fun and energetic and he actually seems to be trying, which is more than I can say for half the rest of the cast. The three of them set out to go find the rest of the Dragonballs. Roshi reveals that the end of the world is coming in just a few days – wow, this whole thing is just excellently timed, isn’t it? Right on time for the friggin’ end of the world!

We see Piccolo saying that he needs to step up his game and get serious, and so he straps himself into this weird chair thing that somehow creates…shitty special effect monsters that they could barely afford! After a very silly fight scene in which they end up using the monsters as a bridge to get across a lava-filled volcano to get a Dragonball…I know, just go with it…Master Roshi reveals that there is another way they can get the Dragonballs. So wait, after all that shit, NOW is when he decides to tell them?! Don’t they have like 2 days left till the END OF THE WORLD? Well, fuck, I guess he was just waiting until the very last possible second to tell them there was an easier way to do this. What a douche.

Yeah, THIS is what you think of when you think of Dragonball. Right. It looks like something out of the Matrix or some shit like that.

Apparently they go to this temple where Ernie Hudson is playing a wise old mystic with some mystical kind of secre…wait, Ernie Hudson? He’s in this movie too? What happened, did they kidnap him? What a waste of a cool actor! Goku somehow finds Chi Chi at the temple too, because I guess they really couldn’t find a better way to write her character back in. She finds him in this templar room with a bunch of torches all around, and tells him that he has to use his Ki to light them all in order to make out with her. He does, and they make out. But wait, Goku! You forgot to mention your grandpa five times during this scene!

This chick that works with Piccolo disguises herself as Chi Chi through some weird unexplained science bullcrap, and steals the Dragonballs, resulting in a fight scene where Goku gets the real Chi Chi and the fake one confused, kicking the real one in the face and getting blasted with a laser gun. But luckily his Ki power is a substitute for CPR now, I guess, and he wakes up after a few seconds. They say goodbye to Ernie Hudson – who ya gonna call? Not him anymore – and leave.

And now the final battle with Piccolo is beginning, as he evokes the Blood Moon or something and turns Goku into a horrible special effect. Notice how you don’t see much of it? That’s because they don’t want you to. For very good reason.

Yup, that's Dragonball alright!

They kill Piccolo through a barrage of uselessly colorful special effects and, has anyone noticed that he barely got any screentime? The grandpa got more lines than he did! I mean what the hell? Why was he even in this movie if they were barely going to utilize him at all? Maybe they just…couldn’t even pay the actor to stay on screen long enough and so this was all they could get. Makes about as much sense as anything else, I guess. Goku kills Roshi by accident while in his Berzerker mode – oops! – but they bring him back with the Dragonballs, so I guess it’s OK. Trivializing death is fun.

The movie ends with a sappy, melodramatic romance scene between Goku and Chi Chi. The way they talk about their mishap with Goku hitting her makes it sound like they just had really kinky sex the night before. Then the credits roll and you all breathe a sigh of relief. And what a soulless adventure it all was!

This just sucks. But I don’t even have to say that – you know it sucks. I knew it would suck before I even saw one minute of it. Anyone who gets angry over the fact that this sucks is pretty much missing the point, as it is futile. It’s one of those movies where you don’t ever consider watching it expecting anything redeemable so much as…well, you just don’t ever consider watching it, period. The audience for this is limited to a very niche audience of inbreds and weirdos who actually wanted to see Dragonball translated to the silver screen, but even then, nothing about this movie is redeemable. So go spend your time doing something else. Like sticking your head in a blender and pressing the ‘on’ button.

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