I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Dragon’s Balls: Evolution

tn_dragonsballsDRAGON’S BALLS: EVOLUTION is the weird story of a young misfit named Goku (Justin Chatwin, the guy who everybody thought ruined WAR OF THE WORLDS by not dying) who has a strange hair do and on his 18th birthday finds out that he has to collect 7 (seven) magic dragon’s balls before the eclipse, or an alien guy named Piccolo is gonna resurrect another guy that’s gonna somehow destroy or conquer the world or whatever. That’s why Goku’s grandfather (Randall Duk Kim, “the Keymaker” from the MATRIX sequels) taught him martial arts and magic “airbending techniques” such as using his ki energy to light torches. I’m not clear though why the grandpa waited until the shit went down to explain what was going on. I guess this kid got his John Connor style childhood’s worth of training, but it seems like getting a head start on collecting dragon’s nuts wouldn’t be a bad idea when the entire earth is at stake. I like the earth.

mp_dragonsballsI’m glad they specified “earth,” by the way, because this place is kind of weird. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be the future or an alternate timeline or what but at least we ruled out “other planet.” Goku goes to an ordinary school with lockers and mean jock bullies, and there’s a city, but some weird technology and alot of desert terrain that could pass for post-apocalyptic. In his journey to collect all the dragon’s nads he Wizard of Ozzes up a team that includes:

1. a princess or something (Emmy Rossum) with cool gadgets such as a Rubik’s cube sized doodad that she throws on the ground and it folds out into a full-sized, working vehicle. It’s great transportation and also pretty cool to throw at a bad guy. She wants to use the dragon’s huevos to invent an alternative energy source because, she explains, she wants to be famous (whatever happened to making a sex tape, like a Hilton or a Kardassian?)

2. a bandit (Joon Park) who tried to rip them off by making them drive into a big hole. But he helps them dig a tunnel so they become friends.

3. Goku’s grandpas’ master, played by badass hall of famer Chow Yun Fat in a Hawaiian shirt. I was kind of sad at first that he was in a movie like this, but you know – he doesn’t come off bad. At least he gets to use his charm and humor. I felt like his talents were put to more use than in PIRATES OF THE 3RIBBEAN, even though I liked that movie. And he does a few tai chi moves he probly learned for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON or something. Good to get some use out of those.

I believe this movie got a– I don’t know, let’s call it a subtle theatrical release. But the only reason I ever heard of it was looking up Ben Ramsey on the Internet’s Movie Database. The guy directed BLOOD AND BONE so he oughta get a medal or a parade, instead he gets a bunch of dragon fondlers on a nerd jihad against him ’cause they don’t like his script for this. Turns out DRAGON’S BALLS is a Japanese comic strip. It went comic strip –> cartoon show –> dubbed into English –> turned into live action movie trying to please fans of the original Americanized cartoon adaptation of the comic book version as well as normal adults or children or whatever. So there’s a definite xerox of a xerox of a xeroxed xerox feel here.

Funny thing is in the opening they got one of those classroom scenes where the teacher asks a question designed to deliver information they want to make sure the audience knows – in this case the definition of a solar eclipse. But then it’s got that STREET FIGHTER syndrome of throwing out a bunch of weird shit that you figure must make sense for somebody who watched the cartoon, but not for anybody else. So the movie assumes you understand all this crazy shit about four-star dragon’s nards and flying cars but not what an eclipse is. Not sure if that’s a fair assumption for most people but it was off the mark for me.

One thing I wonder about villains like this Piccolo clown: don’t they ever change? Like, this guy’s been planning to destroy the earth since at least 18 years ago, but I think much longer because there was something about the master growing up knowing a nursery rhyme that tells them to use the dragon’s bean-pods to save the earth. Okay, I understand you’re pissed off ’cause you were locked up or whatever, you get real vengeful and you want to use a comet to send a kid there that’s gonna grow up normal except for his hair but then when you do something magic with the dragon’s acorns during the eclipse he’ll turn into a wolf monster and that’s somehow gonna destroy the planet, which would obviously make you feel alot better about everything.

I get that – obviously I get that. But haven’t these guys ever heard of “time heals all wounds”? How come there’s never been a prophecy that doesn’t come true just because the Evil One lost interest? He went through alot of shit, grew up a little, learned to forgive and forget, picked up some new interests, got bored of the idea, maybe even forgot he ever planned to do it in the first place? Well, I don’t necessarily demand that in this movie, but there’s nothing very interesting about this villain, and he just looks like an alien from a TV show.

At the end the dragon actually shows up. He doesn’t seem that angry about them stealing his marbles, in fact he gives them one wish. His voice doesn’t sound very high either, for a castrati. But it’s not really made clear exactly how many gonads a dragon has. It might be alot more than just the seven they sliced off of him. It might not be a big deal to a dragon to lose seven bean bags.

But like LEGEND OF CHUN LI I thought this was a slicker and more competent movie than expected, and that it benefited from a good lead performance. This Justin Chatwin is commendable trying to make a human out of a cartoon. He seems to take it seriously with just the right trace of humor. Like when Chow gives him some typical “search inside yourself and you will find your secret power” type platitude and the look on Chatwin’s face says “okay buddy, that’s completely meaningless, but thanks I guess.” And he has a weird enough persona to be pretty interesting. He has an intensity in his eyes but also has this silly spikey hair look and even wears a bright orange Halloween-costume-of-a-cartoon-character type uniform at the end. He seems like he knows everybody else thinks he’s a dork, but also that he’s gonna save the world. It doesn’t nag on him too much like most movie characters, he doesn’t have to prove to everybody that actually he’s a tough guy. No, he just shrugs it off and tries to stay true to the James Dean image only he sees in himself. And I mean it’s gotta be hard just to keep a straight face when you got that wig on. I’m sure there were reflective surfaces on the set, it must’ve been real hard.

DRAGON’S BALLS was directed by James Wong, the guy who did FINAL DESTINATION and THE ONE. Stephen Chow is credited as producer, but apparently it just means he was gonna direct it but was too busy, so he signed on as an advisor and they didn’t take his suggestions.

I watched this shortly after the CHUN LI movie, so it’s a fair question to ask which one is “better.” Well I’m not really recommending anybody watch these, but if I had to choose one I guess I’d go with this, ’cause it’s weirder. So if you ever wondered who these movies like LEGEND OF CHUN LI and DRAGON’S BALLS are made for, there’s your answer. They make them for forgiving, open-minded movie fans who can’t tell a Street Fighter or a Dragon’s Ball from a hole in the ground, to watch on a whim expecting total garbage and then be pleasantly surprised when it’s not the worst thing ever.

I give DRAGON’S BALLS: EVOLUTION a score of 7 out of X dragon testicles.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 2:16 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

63 Responses to “Dragon’s Balls: Evolution”

  1. It’s funny, I watched this just a couple of days ago, barely knowing anything about the whole Dragon Ball thing, at the same time expecting some kind of so-bad-it’s-hilarious crap AND something that wouldn’t be as horrible as the Dragon Ball fans say it is, and I have to say I agree with your review: it does seem that they make these “for forgiving, open-minded movie fans who can’t tell a Street Fighter or a Dragon’s Ball from a hole in the ground, to watch on a whim expecting total garbage and then be pleasantly surprised when it’s not the worst thing ever.” If you accept it as a weird and ridiculous kiddie movie instead of expecting a brilliant and faithful adaptation of your favorite literary masterpiece (that I assume the Dragon Ball cartoon/comic probably isn’t), it’s good stupid fun.
    I recommend (again) DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE, which is less weird than Dragonball, but good stupid fun too.

  2. I’m sorry Vern, but the “Dragon’s Balls” joke is so late 90’s, better luck next time

    anyhoo I was a huge fan of Dragon Ball Z as a kid, however by the time this movie came I had zero interest

  3. *came out

  4. oh yeah, I almost forgot, I’m afraid that it’s required by law that whenever someone mentions Dragon Ball on the internet someone has to reference the “IT’S OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND” meme

    so I’ll go ahead and be “that guy”

  5. I’m going to emberass myself but when I was twelve, Dragon Ball was the raddest thing ever. In that cartoon the alien guy, Piccolo actually “went through alot of shit, grew up a little, learned to forgive and forget, picked up some new interests, got bored of the idea, maybe even forgot he ever planned to do it” and joined the good guys. That actually happened a lot. Bad guys went over to the other side for no good reason on a weekly basis. Like a punch in the face was recruitment drive.

    I also recommend DOA: Dead or Alive. It’s MCG’s Charlies Angels mixed with Mortal Kombat.

  6. Vern… I know you didn’t think it was awful, but why review this? What’s the point? How on earth did you get onto it? (I’m sure it wasn’t just googling “Ben Ramsay” and picking the first movie that came to mind.)

    Seriously man… there’s no need to put yourself through this. The “Dragonball” movie, I don’t know how you hadn’t heard of it before, but it was received as either mediocre or just bad on AICN. Why go there? This is one of those movies where everyone who hears about it already knows whether or not they’re going to see it.

    The world doesn’t need yet another review explaining why “The Last Airbender” is so bad, the other hundred or so have done it just fine. If you’re looking for an underappreciated classic, maybe look at “The Day of the Jackal” starring Edward Fox, or “Juggernaut” starring Richard Harris. Both of which have been mentioned recently on this site, both fantastic classic critically-acclaimed films that are less well known than they should be and are begging for someone such as yourself to bring them to light. Or review “Roadkill” or whatever the heck it’s called in America, which is a minor gem IMO. Or go the unexpected route and review a film from a completely different genre that not many people know about. Perhaps “The Station Agent” starring Peter Dinklage which was released on all of two cinema screens over here to massive critical acclaim, which was fully deserved. You could take our advice and watch “Kairo”, but hell, half the people here have seen it anyway. Still, adding your voice to that particular chorus has gotta be better than this.

    Basically anything… anything… else.

    I’m only thinking of the common good here.

  7. Plus your own welfare of course. Forgot to add that.

  8. I gotta clarify again… Vern, you know we all love you dude, in a purely platonic way of course. And we all know what you’re going through. Everyone has their little foibles. Some people play with their cat’s nipples. Others can’t go five minutes without rubbing their wallpaper patterns. You watch movies based on kids’ cartoons and post reviews of them on the Internet. I understand, I really do. Self-control isn’t always easy. But sometimes you just gotta take a long hard look at yourself and say “no, I’m not going to do this.” It’s like seawater, it hurts but it cures.

  9. But obviously he kind of enjoyed it. What’s wrong with that?

  10. I was secretly hoping for this review when you did Chun Li because I failed to finish both films. They are both horrible but I think Chun Li is slightly better because the story is smaller and grounded in some sort of reality.

    I watched the dragon-ball cartoons back in the day but had no clue what was going on in this film. How does Hollywood produce this crap? Don’t they look at test scenes or something and decide…….”this is unwatchable, lets can it ” .

  11. ChopperSullivan

    July 13th, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Shutup Paul. Vern felt like watching a stupid movie and writing a funny review. I don’t want you trying to influence him to review your indie midget movie or whatever the hell else. Let the man do his thing.

  12. Vern / anyone else –
    Have you / has Vern ever reviewed any Stephen Chow movies ?

    I’m at work and I can’t look through the archives AND appear to be working at the same time.

  13. Chopper – seriously – I was kidding. If you didn’t “get” that, I think there’s no hope for you.

    I mean, do you think I really think Vern has some kind of secret sexual compulsion to review recently released movies based on kids’ cartoons? The only way someone could take that remotely seriously is if THEY had such a compulsion… wait… oh my God… **backs slowly away from Chopper!**

  14. Also what “indie” movie? None of the films I named are indie movies.

    Plus I share the DOA love, with reservations. Chief among them being that I’ve just seen “kick-ass” and, while I’m not as critical of the latter as some reviewers here (including Vern) have been, I do feel that they’re both rather cynically marketed at a certain type of person. And I’m not sure that I feel quite pleasant to be that type of person. How come girls never bruise in these movies?

  15. Damn, there are some dorks here. True, I mentioned Memories (1995) recently, but that’s one of the very few anime I’ve seen. It got good reviews from reputable sources. I’ll never give Dragonball a chance.

    Vern can do whatever he wants here; it’s his site, ain’t it? Until he starts posting essays on the intricacies of 19th century Greek economic policy, I’ll be a fan.

  16. I don’t know about you guys, but I think making a live action version of a Nickelodeon pseudo-anime about a kid in orange robes directed by someone looking frantically to restore his commercial and critical clout is a really stupid idea. The kind of stupid idea I can really get behind. (Hey, this isn’t theft, this is homage!) So I’m disappointed to hear THE LAST AIRBENDER is supposedly just plain boring. Not saying I definitely wont see it though (it’s not out here yet)

    I’m not into anime of any kind, and when DRAGONBALL Z made it over here I was 12 or 13 and no longer watched cartoons that tried to tell any kind of serious plot, so I never saw it, but I did watch this. I don’t think it was as funny as I was hoping, but it was only 70 minutes or something so it seemed kind of fun.

  17. I would appreciate it if y’all would stop making me feel so fucking old.

  18. Thanks Toxic; I read that review and was relieved to see that Vern seemed to like it as much as I do !

    Vern – as everyone else recommends movies to you, can I recommend every Stephen Chow movie ever made, on the basis all of them are (in my opinion) masterpieces that take elements from every genre yet seem utterly original.

    Gutted he didn’t end up being Kato in the new Green Hornet movie; I can only imagine how good Dragonball would have been if he has directed it, and was given free reign to make it in his own style.

  19. Jareth Cutestory

    July 13th, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Yeah! You kids get off Majestyk’s lawn!

    Also, this DOA movie that’s been mentioned in a few threads now: is that the Takashi
    Miike DOA movies or something else?

  20. Paul- I like when Vern reviews films that Ive otherwise written off. I’ll read reviews of his for movies I know I’d hate just because his style of writing and way of looking at movies is uniquely his and always funny. Hell sometimes he even converts me to movies I would have never seen had I not read his review(Reign of Fire, Universal Soldier 3, Wolfcreek) and I end up really digging them. So yeah I really like seeing shit like DragonBall on his homepage, even though it’s not my cup of tea or beer or whatever, I’ll get some laughs from the read and it might even pique my interest enough to throw it in the ole Netflix que. I don’t think Dragonball will make the cut though, if being better than the Chun Li movie is the best praise it garnered, count me out.

  21. Ooooh boy. I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest here.

    Dieselboy – I completely agree. (Doubt I would’ve looked up “US3” or “Blood and Bone” if it hadn’t have been for this site.) So don’t let me apparently rather failed attempt at humour get ya down. :)

  22. Vern reviewed because, lets be frank, who the fuck else would waste their time and give this a legitimate chance without condescending its genre or origins or whatever?

    Mouth – And what exactly is wrong with 19th century Greek economic policy? It’s rather important to understand the nuances of a country shifting from colonial bitch of Turkey to independent bitch of the West.

    We’re all bitches, but how did we all become bitches?

  23. It took some balls to write that review.

  24. A manga about 19th century Greek economic policy would be killer but Hollywood would mess up the film adaptation.

  25. Darth Irritable

    July 13th, 2010 at 8:55 am

    I was in this little bar in Tokyo when this movie came out (by little I mean tiny. Literally four people filled it up). These four Japanese guys came in – they spoke about a word of English between them. One of the guys I was with spoke Japanese, so he asked them what they were doing. They’d just been to see Dragonball Z. When he said that, one of the guys came out with the only English I heard from him all night:

    “Dragon Ball Z is the suck”

    Awesome. Plus once the four locals came in, the only way to get out to the bathroom was to climb over the railing and batman-drop down the stairs.

  26. is this movie related to that halle berry movie THE MONSTER’S BALLS in some way? sequel/prequel maybe?

  27. It’s funny you go on that tangent about the Villain and how he should just let it go, Vern, because I’ve seen a little of the anime and in that, the guy actually reforms and become best pals with the hero.
    Maybe you could could review some actual Anime now, and not just adaptations?

  28. I think I somewhat remember this cartoon from when I was younger. Wasn’t he supposed to become blond?

    Oh, and Vern, when I start asking questions like, why the hell can’t the villian let it go even though he’s been defeted time and time again, why does the villain want to blow up the world, he’ll die too for fucks sake, or how come the villains stand there with their thumbs up their butts and let the down power rangers take ten minutes to suit up when they couldn’t have just been like, pow! you’re dead, everyone tells me shut the hell up, IT’S IN THE PLOT. Of course if you told youself that, then your reviews wouldn’t be that great and I wouldn’t be reading them almost everyday.

    Remember, next time you do the spock eyebrow raise, or cock your head like a dog and utter the words huh? or why the fuck did/is/was the moron villain doing that (instert confusing action)? Because it’s in the plot.

  29. Next time on a very special Vern Tells It Like It Is: How did we all become bitches?

  30. Better question: when was I NOT a bitch? See my rather overlong rant against “Bad Boys 2” for evidence of recent bitchiness. (Although let’s be clear – when I said I’d rather shove a cactus up my arse than see that movie again, I wasn’t exaggerating.) I’m sure there are earlier posts here for evidence of bitchiness further down the line also.

  31. Honestly I was trying to fit it in with my recent video game theme. I thought it was a video game, and I knew Ben Ramsey wrote it, and it looked goofy.

  32. Others have already mentioned Dead Or Alive, and I agree that you should review that one to finish up the current video game movie reviews. I actually thought it was a lot of fun, with a lot of hot girls kicking ass in rather good wire-fu action scenes.

    And I guess you have to review Mario as well, which I have never seen myself. But the reputation of that movie is so big, that I can’t see how you could ignore it.

  33. Not to mention that Super Mario Bros was the 1st video game movie ever!

  34. I saw SUPER MARIO BROS in the cinema when I was 6, and what’s more I chose it over JURASSIC PARK! And what’s more I didn’t regret it!

  35. Has anybody shown up and decided to be the IT’S OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAAAND guy yet? Because I’m here and I can totally be that gu–oh…oh, nevermind. :/

    Yeah, anyway. Vern, will you be watching the ol’ Super Mario Bros. movie? I’d love to see your take on that. Especially with the original King Koopa, Mr. Dennis Hopper, recently leaving this world for other levels and castles beyond – I think the time is right.

  36. I actually feel kind of sorry for you deciding to go through these movies like you’re a shit inspector trying to see which one smells the best, Vern. Any reason for it beyond the masochistic ones?

  37. Guys, they’re just movies. An hour and a half and you’re out. It’s not like he’s been flogging himself with a rosebush and then writing about it.

  38. Jareth – DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE is the Corey Yuen adaptation of the DEAD OR ALIVE video game. It’s a tournament martial arts film about Eric Roberts making a pair of sunglasses that will turn him into the ultimate martial artist. As you can tell by that plot synopsis, it’s real good. For an American-ish film it has excellent martial arts scenes including a great homage to the awesome fight at the end of the Korean film NOWHERE TO HIDE. Definitely worth seeing, if you don’t mind your exploitation at a PG-13 level.

  39. I watch the original anime series around late 80s. It’s true that the american version was censored and they put some kind of swinsuit when Goku was naked as a little kid (in the original dragon ball) and the scenes with Bulma in the shower were cut out along with any sexual reference?

  40. I want a DOA review , too !

    I think , Vern , that videogame-movies reviews will become more and more frequent from now on , so be prepared, there’s still a lot of work ahead.
    After all , if they finally decide to shoot this Halo movie , it will be a big-budget movie and , probably , a summer event/cultural phenomenon , because it’s so fuckin’ popular ( just a guess , I never played the games and , just for the sake of argument , how , exactly , were they able to scare off both Jackson and Blomkamp? How can you fuck it up so bad?). Plus videogame movies are mostly action-oriented , one of the most popular topics on this site , so we are almost forced to keep an eye on this kind of movies . There’s still more Uwe Boll to discuss and , as I mentioned in another comments section , the Tekken movie is coming. Directed by Dwight H. Little of Marked for Death fame ! I’m keeping an eye on Tekken because , from what I know , there’s some kind of robot samurai in it , so it’s more Mortal-Kombat-kind-of-stupid than Street Fighter .

  41. …and speaking of Stephen Chow , I like him a lot , but you wanna know what pissed me off ? When they released Shaolin Soccer here in Italy it was , of course , dubbed ….by Italian professional soccer players . Think about that for a moment . They wanted to make it more funny , by having famous soccer players dub it . But they failed . Hard.

  42. ChopperSullivan

    July 13th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Alright, Paul. I just thought the review was funny, and if there’s one type of message board posting I hate, it’s when people complain that the free content they receive on a website isn’t up to their standards. Maybe too much time reading AICN talkbacks has made me sensitive to this sort of thing.

  43. Jareth Cutestory

    July 13th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Jake: Thanks for clarifying which DOA (ie. not the crazy-ass yakuza series) we’re talking about, and for explaining about Eric Roberts’ kung fu sunglasses. When I was a youngster, we only wore sunglasses because the future was so bright. I guess we’ve come a long way.

    CallMeKermit: Is “Tekken” those books written by William Shatner?

  44. In honor of this review I will spend the next 10 minutes standing around in slack-jawed amazement while clouds of smoke rise from every possible direction. After that I will spend the next 10 minutes making Scanner faces and screaming so I can “power up.”

    This will be followed by 30 seconds of awesome fighting, and a “Next time, on Dragon Ball Z!”

  45. Jareth : I don’t know about any William Shatner books and , to tell you the truth , I don’t know a lot about Tekken either. I remember the arcade machine , but when it comes to fighting games I was more interested in Mortal Kombat . It’s the cast ( and director) that’s really interesting for me : Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa ( straight from MK! ) , Luke Goss ( Nomak from Blade 2 ) and Lateef Crowder ( the “go-to-guy” for capoeira-related movies…and rightfully so ) . Plus , the trailer looks awesomely retarded , a neon colored fighting tournament that looks like a mix of Mortal Kombat and Tokyo Drift. This could be fun :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st6dHmDSkhY&feature=related

  46. Jareth Cutestory

    July 13th, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    The frequent use of the phrase “awesomely retarded,” and the fact that we all know and appreciate the concept behind the phrase, is why I spend more time on this web site than I do on Salon.com.

  47. Vern, I have to ask. How could you provide an entire review of Dragon Ball: Evolution and not mention the scene where the asshole jock’s car blows up, just to put him to shame? That almost redeemed the movie for me. Otherwise, I haven’t gotten around to Chun Li, yet but it’s on my list. And, I’m fine with going without a DOA review personally.

  48. CallMeKermit : re: Shaolin Soccer, that dubbing sounds painful ! The version I watched had the badly translated subtitle style we all know and love – one that me and my buddys use on a regular basis being “Pass me the soccer!”

  49. Mr. Majestyk- I’m sorry but that attitude is simply not alowed on the interent. Sitting through a bad film is worse than any kind of physical pain and bad directors are the scum of the earth. Them’s the rules

  50. But if you only watch films that are generally agreed to be ‘good’, how will you ever come across the hidden gems and films that surprise you ?
    Surely one of the attractions of watching a broad variety of films is that every now and then, a film comes along that surprises you – even if it is just because you thought it was quite competent, rather than the disaster everyone else (i.e. ‘the mainstream’, occassionally referred to as ‘the man’) agrees that it is – I’m thinking of you, Streetfighter:Chun Li !
    One of my philosophies when watching a film of apparently dubious quality is that if there was just one scene in it that was funny, original, awesomely retarded, or otherwise noteworthy, I think it was worth watching.
    I will probably watch Dragonball to see the guys car exploding (thanks for the heads up Francis).

  51. I wonder though why they gave this film a title that makes it sound like a sequel, when it isn’t? “[Title]:[Sub-Title]” is typically the formula for sequel naming, right? The only way it could have sounded more like one without adding a number would be if it was “Dragon Ball: Dragon Ballsier”

  52. Here’s my review from my college paper —

    Over the holiday weekend I found myself cornered at the Passover Seder table by a five-and-three-fourth’s-year old cousin determined to tell me a story.

    His narrative seemed to center around his life-changing trip to the International Museum of Spy History in Washington DC, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was just a list of bits and pieces of different exhibits he saw, and items he purchased in the souvenir shop.

    Sunday afternoon I found myself cornered in the movie theater by an even more amateurish bit of storytelling.

    “Dragonball Evolution” is a live-action adaptation of the perennial Cartoon Network favorite, “Dragon Ball”, or maybe it’s “Dragon Ball Z”, or maybe “Dragon Ball GT”. Or maybe just a coke binge. I couldn’t really tell.

    The story concerns a not-even-remotely-Asian kid who is somehow the grandson of a very Asian grandfather, living in a weird multi-cultural Asia-ish place where everyone speaks English, but all the signs are in Japanese. There is some sort of evil green guy who attacked earth 2000 years ago before being imprisoned in a big urn at the planet’s core. Now he is mysteriously not in the urn, which is also no longer at the center of the earth. Instead he is on a warpath, seeking revenge against…someone…for something.

    I have literally no idea how to describe “Dragonball: Evolution” in a more coherent manner than the above. Nothing makes sense. Is the hero a kung fu master, an alien, or a monkey? Hell, is the villain an alien or a demon? Why do the Dragon balls keep giving the alien kung fu monkey hero visions of the future? Why is that future so much cooler than anything that actually happens?

    Come to think of it, why does the bad guy even need the Dragon balls?

    But story questions are clearly a waste of time with a movie like “Dragonball: Evolution”. Everything is wrong with this movie. The cinematography is cheesy, the acting is Sunday school pageant level, and the character arcs are non-existent. All of the action scenes are shot about 3 feet too close so that it is almost impossible to tell who is doing what to whom.

    Even the most basic level of competence is beyond the filmmakers’ collective grasp. They got the title is wrong for chrissakes. Dragon Ball is two words, not one. I have never watched an entire episode of this show, and even I know that. And it’s not just a general disregard for franchise continuity, it’s as if the filmmakers had a personal grudge against quality. Like quality took them out to a nice dinner, spent the night, and then never called back. Statistically speaking, no film should get this much this wrong. Not even a few charming moments courtesy of kung fu comedy master, Stephen Chow can save this dreck.

    Even the below the line work is terrible. The sound editing and mixing is shockingly awful. The costumes look like they came from a post-Halloween clearance sale. Half the scenes don’t even have establishing shots so it is impossible to discern any kind of geography. I bet the catering sucked too.

    At one point director James Wong was on my list of talents to watch. He did some of the best episodes of “The X-Files” and his directorial debut “Final Destination” is amongst my favorite black comedies. His action romp, “The One” proved that he is a more than capable action director, but what happened? Between this film and his abysmal “Black Christmas” remake one is left to ponder, how does one go from X-Files mythology to being outdone by a 5-year old, in a genre designed to appeal to 5-year olds.

  53. Tango : Believe me , it was painful ! But at least I can see now that I’m not alone in badly-translated movie adventures , or , more specifically , badly-translated Shaolin Soccer adventures.

    I’ve got nothing against athletes making the jump from sports to cinema ( look at the Rock , I like him , even if almost all of his movies are “the suck” ) , but the dubbing in that movie was criminal , man.

  54. CallMeKermit : I first saw Shaolin Soccer on a bootleg with the dodgy subs, loved it, bought the region 2. Very disappointed to see it had ‘normal’ English subtitles, and the dubbed option was terrible. So I only ever watch the bootleg. Just watched it last Friday, as it happens – my mate wanted to show it to his new girlfriend…her reaction was priceless, she thought what the fuck is this these guys are into. We watched Kung Fu Hustle the day after, she seemed a bit more comfortable with that. Love On Delivery this weekend !

    I know what you’re sezzin about the Rock – he has a kind of charm that I think deserves better movies than stuff like ‘The Tooth Fairy’. If you haven’t seen it can I recommend the film of Reno 911 – he has an absolutely priceless cameo.

  55. Jareth Cutestory

    July 14th, 2010 at 10:50 am

    KUNG FU HUSTLE is so awesome. It’s not every action hero who can tactfully weave Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS into his kung fu epic, and to create real pathos amid robost, cartoony set-pieces.

  56. ***”I bet the catering sucked too.”***

    Harsh, Hunter D.. Probably others have used this line before in mean reviews, but still, that’s a good one I’ll be borrowing sometime.

  57. Maybe the catering was TOO good. Made everybody sleepy and complacent.

  58. Majestyk – you stole the words right out of my mouth. I mean you stole the keys off my keyboard. Give those back. I’ve done PA work for some baaaaaaaaaaad movies and TV shows with excellent catering. So excellent that I gorged myself and cat napped instead of watching whatever parking lot I was supposed to be keeping an eye on.

  59. Hunter D. – I’m just curious what kind of class that was for? I did a Film Studies minor and something like that reads too much like a casual review (as opposed to an academic essay) to be accepted in the type of classes I took. Except for this one class where the only two assignments were a “film journal” where the first assignment was to write 250 words each on 10 movies the prof picked, and the second assignment was to “do something film related” (the prof’s favorite assignment from previous years was a tape in which the student filmed the outside of his house, LOST HIGHWAY/CACHE style). Each assignment was 50% of our mark. I got an A.

    Not a diss as your review is up to snuff for an internet critique, I’m just wondering.

  60. I think Hunter D was referring to a college newspaper, not a term paper or something like that.

  61. Jareth : ditto for me; wacthed it again the other day and that ending just slays me, it’s so fucking (POSSIBLE SPOILER) romantic yet doesn’t seem out of place in a film that is such a perfect homage to old gangster, western, slapststick comedy and kung-fu flicks (and Road Runner cartoons).

  62. it still boggles my mind to think that this movie is real, I should watch one of these days just out of pure curiosity

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