** (out of 5)
April 10, 2009
Justin Chatwin as GOKU
Yun-Fat Chow as MASTER ROSHI
Emmy Rossum as BULMA
Jamie Chung as CHI CHI
James Marsters as LORD PICCOLO
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: James Wong
BY KEVIN CARR
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Every now and then, a film comes around that I sit through in its entirety, and after the fact, I honestly cannot explain what it was about. “Dragonball: Evolution” is one of those films.
This confusion on my part probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am completely ignorant of the original “Dragonball” source material. I’m sure those who have devoured the Magna series from the 1980s will understand all the nuances of the film.
However, for the uninitiated, this movie fails to connect – or effectively explain itself.
As best I could surmise, a teenager named Goku (Justin Chatwin) has been trained in the martial arts by his grandfather. When he turns 18, his grandfather gives him a rare Dragonball. Soon, Goku (or, more accurately, his Dragonball) is targeted by the evil Lord Piccolo. It seems that Piccolo, who has been in a mystic prison for 2,000 years, needs to gather the seven rare Dragonballs, with which he can use to release an ancient evil on the world.
This entire film seemed needlessly complicated to me. And, considering the original source material’s long, rich history, I felt that a lot of the film was left without an explanation. Characters are introduced using extremely weak plot devices. For example, a girl named Bulma (Emmy Rossum) joins forces with Goku. Even though she only looks about 22, she’s got a Ph.D. in Applied Physics and invents awesome gadgets like a Dragonball locator that morphs into a motorcycle.
I’m sure that Bulma is a long-standing character in the original “Dragonball” books, but she just seems tossed into this film because they needed a cute girl.
Other characters – like the beautiful but mysterious Chi Chi (Jamie Chung) – randomly connects with Goku even though she’s the pretty, popular, rich girl at school. Half-way through the film, her character shifts to a martial arts expert who ignores Goku’s school bullies and secretly trains for a martial arts competition.
In many ways, “Dragonball: Evolution” reminds me of the recent 20th Century Fox bomb “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.” This movie has plot holes big enough to fly a dragon through and relies on the audience’s pre-existing knowledge of the original source material for everything to make sense.
Still, the positive aspects to this film come from some pretty neat martial arts action and some bright and bubbly special effects. If you give yourself a frontal lobotomy before seeing this movie, you’ll be distracted and enthralled by all the pretty colors.
But if you try to think through the plot, you’ll be confused by a film that doesn’t know if it wants to be a teen angst movie, a live-action anime flick or a cool sci-fi flick.