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Monday, April 27, 2009

Dragon Ball evolution

Rated: PG for intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language
Genre: Action/Adventure
Theatrical Release:Apr 10, 2009
Wide Box Office: $4,756,488
Review :
While I am a fan of anime I could never understand the craze over Dragonball and Dragonball Z and all the other Dragonball incarnations reigning out there.I watched an episode of the series and I was simply confused. It seemed like all these super muscular dudes did was fly around blasting each other with massive blasts of ki force. Still, I respected the Dragonball franchise as a beloved fantasy/martial arts legend.
Now that legend has hit mainstream Hollywood with a live action feature brought to us by 20th Century Fox and James Wong (director) and Stephen Chow (producer). While this is not the first live action film based on Dragonball (A Korean adaptation called Dragonball: The Magic Begins was released in 1990) this big screen adaptation boasts an international cast, snazzy effects, and vision blurring stunt work. With Mr. Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer) and Mr. Wong (Final Destination, The One)at the helm plus Chow Yun-Fat (Bulletproof Monk, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in the cast Dragonball Evolution shows some hit making potential.


Overall, I thought it was entertaining. There were a lot of things about the movie that made me not regret buying a ticket. For starters, I loved the diversity of the cast. So many different faces and skin tones and accents helped to jazz up the energy. The majority of us are living in communities mixed up with all sorts of nationalities and its high time big movies like this portrayed that. I was especially glad to see Japanese actors featured since Dragonball is a Japanese product. The effects are good. No complaints there. From Bulma’s hi-tech gadgets to Master Roshi’s ki manipulation Dragonball Evolution has plenty of eye candy that will keep you stimulated for that 84 minute running time.
The stunt work was okay. It varies from "Holy Cow!" to "Eh, that's nice". The opening training session between Goku and Grandpa Gohan takes place on two thin ropes. Watching the two spar while trying not to fall off the wires took me back to those outrageous battles in the classic Hong Kong action films of the 1990s. I was most disappointed by a scene where Chi Chi has to fight her doppelganger. Great concept but it looked more difficult to execute than the filmmakers expected. Couldn’t they just have hired twins? Anyway, for the most part, the wirework and gymnastics are oodles of fun to watch.
Dragonball Evolution starts out as a humdrum high school drama. Poor Goku (Justin Chatwin) is so misunderstood. He has no friends but plenty of bullies. The irony is that Grandpa Gohan (Randall Duk Kim) has trained Goku in martial arts for years so Goku could wipe the floor with his aggressors but he promised Grandpa that he wouldn’t fight at school so he endures the abuse instead. And then there’s the lovely high school hottie, Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), who he secretly pines over but knows he’ll never get because he’s the designated loser. So, yes, at first you’ll have to sit through the good old “high school misfit overcoming adversity” schtick.
Take heart, my fellow “filmfreaks”, because the evil Piccolo (James Marsters) manages to escape his mystical prison and goes hunting for the seven magical Dragonballs. If he collects all seven then he’ll be able to have his deepest wish granted by the dragon god, Shen Long. I don’t think I’ll have to tell you how majorly devastating Piccolo’s wish would be for the rest of us. Still, thanks to the green skinned baddie Goku has no time to wallow in high school theatrics because now he has to go on a cross-country quest to retrieve the Dragonballs before Piccolo does. Goku gets help from Grandpa’s teacher, Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat), plus some additional support from Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and Yamcha (Joon Park).
Yamcha is a thief looking to cash in on the Dragonballs while Bulma is a smart and savvy inventor hoping to utilize the ancient relics as renewable sources of energy. Throughout the journey Goku will have to train and develop his skills so he’ll be able to defeat Piccolo in the inevitable final battle.
Sadly, since I’m not a Dragonball devotee I can’t tell you how much the movie differs from the manga and anime adaptations. At the very least, I think fans will appreciate the attempts at preserving the classic forms of the characters. Even though the origins and outward appearances are drastically overhauled Bulma is still a talented inventor, Yamcha is still a crook, and Chi Chi is still cute as a button but tough enough to brawl with the likes of Goku.
Nothing against Justin Chatwin (and I give him much respect for walking around with that ridiculous hair style. Can you imagine the film’s budget for styling gel?) but I wondered how the movie would be if Goku were played by a Japanese man. Just a small little notion that’s probably not even worth mentioning. But am I the only one that notices the hero in some of these U.S. kung fu flicks (The Forbidden Kingdom instantly comes to mind) is usually Caucasian? Would the hero be less relatable in the States if he were Japanese, Korean, or Chinese?
Another thing that I wondered about is the less controversial emancipation of Piccolo. According to the prologue, a group of monks sealed Piccolo away deep inside the center of the Earth. Then suddenly he manages to break free, obtain a henchwoman named Mai (Eriko Tamura) and snag a massive flying vessel. I realize that 84 minutes meant a lot little things would go unexplained but I would at least like to know who Mai is. Is she human or alien? And if she is human then why is she helping Piccolo in his quest to plunge the Earth in fire and chaos?
And most importantly where did Mai find that fabulous red snakeskin bodysuit? I’m not saying I would wear it all the time. Just when I’m vacuuming or mowing the lawn.
Dragonball Evolution isn’t prefect but it has a lot of good stuff that manages to cover most of the cracks. There’s the always exciting “chosen one must save Earth from total devastation” plot. The action is fierce and the special effects are splashy. The female leads (Rossum & Chung) are great role models for the up and coming independent women out there. Even Tamura’s evil “Mai” is worth noting for her determination and spirit.
The filmfreaks will dig appearances from sci-fantasy film veterans Chow Yun-Fat and Ernie Hudson (you’ll never believe what role he’s playing). Plus, get a kick out of Emmy Rossum and James Marsters' new looks that render them almost unrecognizable. I kept trying to find Marsters’ signature sunken cheeks beneath the latex but I couldn’t find it. And his voice! I was like, wow, is “Spike” really in there?
However, Marsters fans might be a little bummed that his "Piccolo" is kept in the background for most of the film as the evolution of Goku and the Dragonball hunt share center stage. It depends on your perspective whether hiding the villain in his ship until the final act helps or hinders the movie. Personally, I didn't hate the approach but I do wish more was revealed about Piccolo such as why was he so bent on seeing the Earth charred and broken. Is he just sadistic or was he dumped on prom night? There is a chance I missed something in that quickie introduction.
I was also surprised at Chow Yun-Fat's comic talents. If he's not playing a reserved kung-fu master then he's a brooding assassin most of the time. Dragonball Evolution gave me an opportunity to see a completely new side of Yun-Fat and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you’re still on the fence just think of Dragonball Evolution as an appetizer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And stick around after the first volley of end credits. If things go well we could be seeing the potential for a second Evolution.

Dragonball: Evolution is based on the popular Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama, whose work spawned best selling graphic novels, video games and a phenomenally successful television series. ... Dragonball: Evolution is based on the popular Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama, whose work spawned best selling graphic novels, video games and a phenomenally successful television series. The live action adventure centers on a team of warriors, each of whom possesses special abilities. Together, they protect Earth from a force bent on dominating the Universe and controlling the mystical objects from which the film takes its name. --copy; 20th Century Fox

Starring: Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, Chow Yun Fat, James Marsters, Joon Park, Eriko, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson
Director: James Wong
Screenwriter: James Wong

Producer: Stephen Chow
Composer: Brian Tyler

Studio: 20th Century Fox



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