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Dragonball: Evolution (Review)

Dragonball: Evolution (Review)

Rewards short attention spans and not fans
Apr 7, 2009
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Dragonball: Evolution (Review), reviewed by Anders Wotzke on 2009-04-07T01:23:02+00:00 rating 2.5 out of5

Before it was the popular 1990′s anime series Dragon Ball Z, the Dragon Ball franchise started off as a Japanese comic book in 1984. If the title doesn’t make it obvious enough,  Evolution is a live action film (loosely) based on the first volumes of the original comic. What this means is that fans of the original manga are now balding their way through their 30′s, whilst fans of the anime are probably drinking away their prime in their 20′s.

Yet Evolution seems to be more concerned with recruiting the testosterone troubled boys of today than it is rewarding fans of yesteryear. The 150+ anime episodes (of the original series) have been heavily truncated, and repackaged, into an 85 minute film fit for the  attention span of a teenager. This would be fine if the film didn’t feel as though it required its audience to have prior knowledge of the Dragon Ball universe to make any real sense of it all. The plot is simple enough to grasp, but the film launches its audience head first into a muddling universe which surely requires you to be a Dragon Ball enthusiast to truly understand its many nuances.  For those who are not fans and are over the age of 14, Evolution comes across as a mildly enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable, B-grade action flick.

The story itself revolves around high school outcast Goku (Justin Chatwin), trained to fight by his grandfather Gohan (Randall Duk Kim), who gives him an orange-glowing Dragon Ball for his 18th birthday. The ball is one of seven, which when combined, grants the bearer a single ‘perfect’ wish. However Goku’s birthday celebrations are cut short when the evil alien Piccolo (James Marsters) attempts collect the Dragon Balls, and use them to bring forth the apocalypse.  With the help of his grandfather’s mentor Roshi and his ragtag gang of fighter friends, Goku must stop Piccolo before he collects all seven Dragon Balls.

2009 dragonball evolution 0141 275x193 custom Dragonball: Evolution (Review)

Aside from being diluted with the Hollywood treatment, Evolution powers through the general story of the original anime like it’s stuck in fast forward; there’s simply no time for explanations or deeper developments. Anyone who has seen the Dragon Ball series would notice the irony of this; the anime is often mocked for its painfully drawn out sequences that would see a single battle span several episodes. However, Evolution goes too far in the other direction; characters are plucked from thin air and important plot points are reduced to mere sentences.  Hell, the guy practically wins over the girl within the first 10 minutes. Where’s the fun in that?

Although, young teenagers are unlikely to mind. With its rapid-fire progression, the film’s pacing certainly won’t bore and there is an abundance of colourful effects to please young eyes. Some fights are also quite thrilling, despite being edited to disorientate. As long as the film isn’t trying to draw emotion from Justin Chatwin, he’s quite amicable as the film’s title character Goku. However, Joon Park and Emmy Rossum as Goku’s sidekicks Yamcha and Bulma are endlessly cringe-worthy in support; if their dialogue was the cheese, my ears felt like the grater.

Ultimately, DragonBall Evolution isn’t able to decide on who it wants to please. It’s enjoyable enough as a standalone action film for teens, but not likely to be memorable or engaging enough to create new fans out of them. For long-time fans of the original series that have patiently waited for a live action Dragon Ball film, the campiness of Evolution is likely to leave you feeling unsatisfied, as the comic/anime you grew up with hasn’t managed to return the favour and grow up with you.

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