Dragonball: Evolution is a 2009 American live-action film extremely loosely based upon the Japanese Dragon Ball media franchise. It was directed by James Wong, produced by Stephen Chow and released by 20th Century Fox. The story centers around the adventures of the lead character, Goku, around his 18th birthday, as he is asked to gather seven Dragon Balls to save the world from evil alien forces. On his journey, he meets several different characters who all join the quest and help him in his task. The film stars Justin Chatwin as Son Goku, Randall Duk Kim as Grandpa Gohan, Emmy Rossum as Bulma Briefs, James Marsters as Lord Piccolo, Jamie Chung as Chi-Chi, Chow Yun-fat as Master Roshi, Joon Park as Yamcha and Eriko Tamura as Mai.
Let’s be honest, this film had nearly no resemblance to anything in the Dragonball franchise. I’ve heard of artistic liberty, but this takes the cake. This was a complete rewrite of the entire Dragonball world. My only theory is that neither the director, nor producer nor even the security guard on set, saw any of the Dragonball anime episodes.
They literally should have renamed all the characters and slap the title “White Ninja” on it. It would have been far more believable. For any Dragonball fan, this was a complete slap in the face. And, I don’t understand why Hollywood continues to do this. They take a franchise, with millions of core fans, and bastardize it for some unknown viewer and ruins the entire series.
This movie, in a word, was terrible. The acting was just, so bad, that it wasn’t even laughable. Chow Yun-Fat delivered a career ending performance. If they say that the acting was done to mimic the anime, they are wrong. There is a difference between an animaniacs style of acting and this travesty on film. Randall Duk Kim as Grandpa Gohan started off the entire movie with the most wooden delivery of lines I have ever seen. Maybe he didn’t have his prunes for the day, but he was rather stiff, if you know what I mean. James Marsters as Lord Piccolo couldn’t have pulled off a worse performance, in my opinion. Maybe he should stick to vampires. It seems like it’s his forte. Justin Chatwin as Son Goku, leads the show in “line please”. It was just aweful.
Sometimes you cannot blame the actors, well not completely. You have to take into account what they’re working with. The script was just poor. It was so poorly laid out that one has to piece together what it all meant. That is the main reason I said it should have been simply named “White Ninja”. The Dragonball world was never laid out in prain engrish. I don’t mean treat me like a child and spoon feed me narration, but don’t be so terrible at storytelling that I have to guess what you mean.
Casting was terrible. No actor fit any role, with the exception of James Marsters as Lord Piccolo. For a heavy martial arts film, there was little to no martial arts in the movie and Chow Yun-Fat, whom we all know can deliver in martial arts, did little to no martial arts. After about one scene of him throwing Goku around, we get little to no action. I know he’s getting long in the tooth, but if he going to be in a martial arts movie, he better damn well deliver me from karate chops and judo punches damnit. The star of the show is a white boy with an adolescent body. I’m sure many of you probably saying he was cute or some rubbish like that. Dragonball has to be THE quintessential Japanese anime. It is Japan. Goku is supposed to have 30 inch pythons [arms] on his worst day, and be very japanese. A majority of the characters in Dragonball are drawn with the extreme epicanthic fold, or Asian eye fold. Clearly they wanted the characters identified as Asian. And, lastly, again with the Black monks. As I said in The Last Airbender, I am glad Black people are getting work, but this is just too weird. Why Black monks? Is that the new pimp for Hollywood? “Oh, we need a Black guy, should we make him the monk?” I just don’t get it. And they had to paint extremely white hair on his mustache and beard, because Black people do not age. It was pure comedy.
I knew going in this movie was going to … in a word … suck. But, to not even be recognizable as Dragonball is just astonishing.