Dragonball Evolution

Massively juvenile, but seeing as that's who it's aimed at it'd be churlish to complain

Released in 2009, certified UK-PG. Reviewed on 22 Apr 2009 by Scott Morris
Dragonball Evolution image

Now, my knowledge of the long betoothed Dragonball Z series is limited pretty much entirely to a bobbins Megadrive beat-em-up, but it rather has its roots in the sillier, kiddy end of anime rather than the more sensitive, mature and sensible end like Wicked City. Ooh, feel the irony. At any rate it appears to be about a Kung fu prodigy named Goku with the standard issue anime hero daft spiky hair, flying about doing daft fireball slinging chop sockey and, er, stuff.

Given its continued popularity, at least in the cult sense of popularity, history teaches us that a live action movie adaptation is inevitable and lo and behold, that is what we have bouncing around multiplexes at the minute. At the risk of getting your hopes up entirely unwarrantedly, it steals a play from X-Men by giving it a black leather clad reimagining, banishing Goku's distinctive orange gi to a supporting role and bringing his hair back to only the boundaries of stupid, rather than defiantly impossible. The plot, if it warrants the word, revolves around them there Dragonballs. Which is, I suppose, how it got that there title.

Seemingly some ancient evil was sealed by some ancient mystics, and now some evil alien thing called Piccolo is trying to reawake said evil by collecting and using them thar Dragonballs and seeing as Goku happens to be in possession of one of them, Conflict Ensues. With the fighting and the daffy CG and the wire work and so forth.

Essentially devolving into a quest to grab all the dragonballs before the bad guy does, he's aided by a bunch of people to nondescript to mention regardless of how pretty they look and Chow Yun Fat, who you may remember as the guy that used to be in legendary films, of which this is not one. Of them.

Dragonball Evolution image

That said, it's hardly a terrible film, contrary to my expectations. It's just not one even remotely aimed at me. It's not really aimed at anyone older than, ooh, fourteen at a push. It's a fairly slickly put together sequence of action setpieces that probably would be relatively impressive if people as old and decrepit as I hadn't already seen them or something similar umpteen times before.

The plot's bobbins, naturally, but it's not as though even the finest of action films have storylines substantial enough that they wouldn't blow away in a stiff breeze. The cast, perhaps unusually, are likeable enough to evoke at least some level of sympathy for the nonsense they're going through.

The tragedy for viewers of a certain age, as it had been for some years, is the continually failure to find some suitable vehicle for Chow Yun Fat. Elevated to untouchable, legendary status by his association with John Woo, there's never been a Western backed vehicle that's captured the mans charisma and abilities. That the resoundingly mediocre Bulletproof Monk might wind up being the best Hollywood could do is baffling and depressing.

This, however, can't be put down in the 'disgrace' column of his C.V. Sure, there's hardly a damned thing here for some bitter, twisted thirty year old to enjoy, but that guy, and by guy I mean me, shouldn't be watching this. For tweenage lads it provides entirely adequate action scenes, eye candy and overblown escapism. Anyone older looking for the same things will be in the queue to get into Crank: High Voltage. If I had to score this based solely on relevance and interest to me I'd be going a lot lower, but it seems entirely unfair to crucify this for not appealing to audiences it was not built to appeal to. Horses for courses, and all that, and even if fate has you watching the wrong race there's nothing offensive enough in Dragonball Evolution to demand that the horse be shot.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

James Wong
Cast list:
Justin Chatwin (Goku)
Yun-Fat Chow (Master Roshi)
Emmy Rossum (Bulma)
Jamie Chung (Chi Chi)
James Marsters (Lord Piccolo)