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  Dragonball Evolution Keep The Faith
Year: 2009
Director: James Wong
Stars: Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, James Marsters, Joon Park, Eriko Tamura, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson, Texas Battle, Megumi Seki, Ian Whyte, Richard Blake, Jon Valera, Rafael Valdez, Mike Wilson, Freddy Bouciegues, Shavon Kirksey
Genre: Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: 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.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Review Comments (4)
Posted by:
Andrew Pragasam
Date:
31 Jan 2012
  Squelch! Squish! Splat! That's the sound of Hollywood stomping my childhood to bits. Okay, fair enough, those unfamiliar with the Dragonball phenomenon might get on better with this, but for kids who grew up in Asia this was as omnipresent as Star Wars. Given Stephen Chow Sing-Chi's involvement one would have hoped for something more faithful in spirit, but I suspect the tone was just too alien for mainstream American filmmakers to understand. It's mid-way between space opera, Disney, Jackie Chan movies and Carry On comedies with philosophical undertones. Possibly impossible to convey in a live-action film, though Matthieu Kassovitz tried to persuade Steven Spielberg to back his plans for a faithful adaptation. So instead we got this generic fantasy actioner which reminded me a little of Double Dragon: The Movie.

Could they not find one single charismatic young Asian-American actor to play one of the most iconic characters in Asian pop culture? Justin Chatwin is awful, but bizarrely there are a number of so-called fans out there who praised his performance.
       
Posted by:
Graeme Clark
Date:
31 Jan 2012
  I used to see bits and pieces of Dragonball Z when I had Cartoon Network and was waiting for Space Ghost Coast to Coast to come on, and couldn't make head nor tail of it. One involved storyline right there, which the film opted to jettison I notice.
       
Posted by:
Andrew Pragasam
Date:
1 Feb 2012
  By the time they reached Dragonball Z, particularly the later episodes, there was no story to follow! Just one fight scene after another. I am more a fan of the original Dragonball series (and feature-length animations) that ran from 1986-1989 and are considerably more whimsical, inventive and exuberant. Spinning Image readers may want to check out Dragonball: The Magic Begins, a much earlier Hong Kong live-action adaptation that is scarcely any more faithful to the manga but heaps more fun.
       
Posted by:
Graeme Clark
Date:
1 Feb 2012
  No story? No wonder I couldn't follow it!
       


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