Two thousand years ago Planet Earth was nearly destroyed by the battle with Lord Piccolo (James Marsters), who was obsessed with gaining as much power as he could, and that force rested in the seven Dragonballs which were scattered around the world once he had finally been vanquished. Fast forward to the present and teenage Goku (Justin Chatwin) was being steadily trained for combat by his grandfather (Randall Duk Kim), although he was unsure of what he was preparing for as he was instructed never to raise a hand in anger...
So what use is that when you're being bullied at school and cannot lift a finger to defend yourself? This was the film adaptation of the popular comic book Dragonball, which had previously been made into cartoon series, but where that small screen incarnation, along with animated features, had been welcomed with open arms by the fans when this movie appeared there was a mighty amount of grumbling among them. This was because, somewhat inevitably, the fans' idea of what the live action variation should have been diverged dramatically from what showed up on the screen.
In the producer's chair was Asian superstar Stephen Chow, once rumoured to direct though he handed those chores over to Final Destination man James Wong, which gave the impression that this would be packed full of crazy, over the top action rather than the ho-hum much of a muchness that turned up. In fact, so generic were the fights which Goku got into that many wondered what this had to do with Dragonball at all, and the judgement that this was a work unworthy of the name was prevalent. However, if you watched it on the level of your average Power Rangers effort, maybe it wasn't quite as bad as all that.
It was just that any imagination that might have been contained in the original was not much in evidence, and the epic sweep many wished for ended up with CGI-filled skirmishes that were pretty small beer when one was supposed to be convinced the fate of the world was at stake. As Goku, Chatwin was willing and able, but rather charisma free, more Luke Skywalker than Han Solo, which was fair enough for the role, but with the tone kept relentlessly light there was no depth to the peril; basically you might as well have played the accompanying computer game for much the same effect, only there you might have had more investment in the characters than you did here.
Goku at the beginning is more interested in winning the heart of school beauty Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), and what do you know, she's interested in him as well in spite of being of a different social strata, very much in keeping with the wish-fulfillment angle many of these entertainments liked to apply. Adding to that was the revelation that once grandfather is squashed by Piccolo demolishing his house Goku had to embark on a quest to find the other six Dragonballs - he already has one - which handily Emmy Rossum shows up to assist him with, handy because she has a Dragonball finding device. They commence their hunt and before long they team up with none other than Chow Yun-Fat, who was perhaps hoping for a blockbuster to lift him out of the doldrums, and you can guess how that turned out. It all dawdles along mildly, even the setpieces colourful but utterly lacking any weight; if you had never encountered the source, it passed the time adequately. Music by Brian Tyler.