Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Movie Review: Dragonball Evolution (The Live Action Dragonball Movie)

So, I'm apparently one of the few people out there who actually watched Dragonball: Evolution, otherwise known as Dragonball: The Crappy American Live Action Movie or more simply, Why Did They Make This? Why did I watch it? Curiosity, mostly, and I'm not really sorry I did, either. Don't get me wrong, it's an objectively bad movie by any standards, but there were a tiny handful of really cool moments, which I'll go ahead and spoil for you later in the review.

Also, I watched it on Youtube, so it's not like it cost me anything except 85 minutes of my life.

So yeah, let's be totally honest: no one really expected this movie to be good. From the first moment any of us heard the phrase "live action American Dragonball movie" we all knew it was probably going to suck. What was even the point of making the movie? People who wouldn't watch the original won't care to watch this movie either, and people who loved the original will be pissed off at every minor difference. This is literally a movie with no target audience.

That said, this movie somehow ended up even worse than any of us could have expected. Allow me to explain why by way of example.

In the show, Bulma wants to collect the dragonballs so she can use the wish they grant to ask for the perfect man. It's a childish wish, but it's perfect because Bulma is a childish character. In the movie, Bulma wants to harvest the energy contained within the dragonballs (oh, excuse me, "promethium orbs") to create an infinite power source. That might be a more rational goal, but it's a less interesting one and it doesn't work for the character anyway because Bulma isn't a rational person. She's a spoiled rich girl who has everything money can buy and now wants what it can't buy.

In the show, Goku's mentor is the Turtle Hermit, Master Roshi, an unabashedly perverted old man. In the movie, he's a generic, middle-aged Chow Yun-Fat. He's not a pervert, he's even lost the turtle motif entirely.

In the show, the villain Piccolo is a truly menacing creature who is more than a match for the heroes. He only wants the wish-granting dragonballs to regain his lost youth and power, knowing that with them he could conquer the Earth with ease. When he's finally defeated, he reincarnates himself in the body of his son who he spawned at the moment of his death. In the movie, Piccolo is a generic evil guy who wants to wish for the world to be destroyed, and he gets defeated after about five minutes of fighting and a single attack from Goku. The end.

Really, Dragonball: Evolution suffers from the same problem as Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. It's an attempt at making the show more realistic in order to appeal to a wider audience, but it doesn't work because Dragonball isn't supposed to be realistic. It can't be realistic. Dragonball is the epitome of cheesy cartoonish anime, with its hyper-frenetic action sequences, goofy plots and characters, and ridiculous special attacks.

And you know what? All of those things are why we loved Dragonball and Dragonball Z. Dragonball GT had those things too, but no one loved that show.

Actually, comparing this movie to Airbender is apt on two levels, as for some reason the use of ki - channeling one's own life force into energy attacks - has been replaced with elemental bending, with the Kamehameha move in particular being described as "the ultimate airbending technique." Um...why? Jesus. The one time they decide to expand on the source material instead of reducing it and they just use it for a cheap rip-off.

KR Rating: [2] BAD

I'd love to just rail on this movie and keep talking about how horrible it was, but... I just can't. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and there were a few good things about this movie. All of the actors are well cast (except Chow Yun-Fat as Roshi, but I digress) and genuinely seem to be trying their best, but they just fail. The movie was doomed from the start, but the generic writing makes the characters and story just fall flat and no amount of enthusiasm from the actors can fix that. In the end, the movie only barely made back its 45 million dollar budget, thankfully killing off any hopes of a sequel.

As I mentioned before, though, there were also a few really good moments, which I'll go ahead and spoil for you now, so you can save your time and not watch this movie.

Bulma motorcycle attack!
For those who haven't watched the show or the movie, there are these things called Capsule Cartridges: tiny pill-like caps that somehow hold vehicles or even entire houses. The cartridges make an appearance in the movie, with Bulma owning one which turns into a motorcycle. In one awesome scene, she presses the button on the capsule and throws it at the villain's henchwoman, Mai, letting it open into a motorcycle in mid-air. Mai manages to dodge the attack, but it's still a really clever idea that makes me wonder why Bulma never tried that on the show.

Master Roshi is not happy with your wish.
Near the end of the movie, Roshi is killed after failing to seal the villain inside a magic jar. After the final battle, Goku and friends use the dragonballs to wish him back to life. His response? "I had the strangest dream. I was in a garden that was like nothing I've ever seen before. I felt no pain or longing. For the first time I can remember I was at peace. ...then you all brought me back."

Bad guys make good bridges.
Goku and his friends are trapped in a volcano. The dragonball they need is beyond a river of lava and the villain's monstrous minions are pouring in through the cavern's only opening. The hero's solution? Throw the minions into the lava one by one, creating a bridge of dead bodies that he can jump across to reach the dragonball. Okay, so it's pretty gruesome and would probably never have even occurred to the innocent-to-a-fault Goku from the show, but still, it's a pretty clever idea.

And that's about it
Now you know the only entertaining moments from the movie. You can now safely ignore this godawful piece of trash.

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