Scolding Review Dragonball Evolution

All-ah-wanna-say-issat, they don't really care about us! Aaaaaaah!

Well, well, well. We meet at last. I remember being so busy defending would be turd Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, I barely had time to defend Dragonball. I certainly didn't want to watch it. My Dragonball experience is roughly two weeks of Z, which taught me that the franchise takes it sweet time to make stuff happen. The movie has much less time to develop an arch, yet somehow manages to waste what time it has.

The film opens to narration, but you can skip it. It's repeated wholesale later. But if you must watch it, it says that once there was an alien bad guy named Piccolo, and he and his minion Ozaru pretty much had the earth by the balls. But then some mages did a suicide spell and cast him to the center of the earth. But he just escaped. I would have liked to see the escape.

Antennae? That would look make this green skinned, pointy eared  alien named after a flute...silly...

You know, I really like James Marsters, but he's wasted on this. He doesn't get any real good moments, and doesn't even meet the heroes until the climax. It's not really a problem that he looks like he walked off  an episode of the later Star Trek series, but he's just  a dull character with  a really weak motivation, and no amount of "scary voice mod" will help with that.

Then we get to watch Goku, played by Justin Chatwin, the annoying boy from The War of the Worlds, sweat, before he gets into some elaborate choreographed fight with his grandfather. I've seen worst stunt work, but the old man has been given some terrible lines to work with.

Now, let me hunt down the elephant in the room and make some fine piano keys with it: I don't care if Justin Chatwin is white. I don't. At all. See, thing is, Goku is an alien. He COULD be Asian. Or he could  be a black guy. What in-story reason would he have to  to require being Asian of the South East variety? All this "they should have cast an Asian in the role" stuff is fairly silly to me, as if people somehow expected a Dragonball movie  made in Hollywood by Fox to be an accurate portrayal of the franchise or any good at all  let alone take some kind of high road in terms of casting. Hope in vain, true believers.

That said, Justin Chatwin is not right for the role of lead in an adventure movie ANYTHING. He needed to be upbeat, he needed to be energetic. He can't put passion and emotion onscreen here. And it's painful to see him try.

Back to the movie, grandpa wins an arousing game of "The floor is made of lava" by shooting a wave of transparent energy at  Goku. He and his grandpa proceed to bond, with Goku complaining that  stuff at school is hard, and he feels outcast and he just can't get a girl. So, hey, he's just like you, kids! He can do wirefu and shoot Mamamama energy, but he's still bullied at school! Don't you hate that?

Also, when he made this face to tell Goku to believe in himself, I quit the movie.

So then we see Goku go to high school, turning the first part of a martial arts adventure into a lame and unnecessarily cliche of bullies and classes and bullshit. But I guess the writers must have known this was trite too, so they turn the crank up on those cliches up to eleven. Goku doesn't just have bullies steal his lunch money and embarrass him. They PARK ON HIS MOTORCYCLE, DESTROYING IT(which seems like it should harm the car that does it). He doesn't just have a crush on a girl. He has visions of the girl fellating  a strawberry in a field of daisies.

Maybe they should have called it Dragonball: Subtle.

Now, usually in this stories, the hero doesn't have powers, gets bullied, then has powers. So my question is: How many fucking times would you let people bully you if you could shoot waves of energy? Let's say you have no secret other identity to speak of. Your just some misunderstood soul who happens  to have super powers and mega martial arts. What would keep you from making a big display of them?

But trouble is afoot as the evil Piccolo is using his Final Fantasy brand airship to scour the land for the 7 Dragonballs, the megamaguffins of the franchise that can grant anyone's wish once collected. He attacks some kind of asian village somewhere with his assistant, a woman who always wears magenta.

Goku decides to bail on his grandfather and his huge birthday feast in order to spend party time with Chichi, the love interest from school. So he goes to a party where everyone is, even the bullies. What is it with you Americans and going to your enemies' parties? Stay home! Go to another party!  Don't party where the people you hate are partying!

So the bullies try to murder him on sight. But Goku uses bullet time to make them  beat each other up. Having made the alpha males into beta males, he proceeds to court the female. Mating is a long process in which the thick layers of fat earned in the winter are...sorry.

Also, a bully knows how to do  a flying kick.  Super Bullying at it's best.

Essentially, this becomes, "The day Spider-Man remembered he didn't have to take shit from nobody because he wasn't a superhero and just had to beat everyone up and get the girl". He could have done this  at any point in his life. You don't even have to fight. If a guy shot an energy wave at me, and I fell down, boy, I would STAY down. They're trying so hard to sell him as a downtrodden guy, when he should at least have everyone afraid of him.

But then Piccolo just had to  try and find  Grampa's Dragonball, unaware that he had given it to Goku. You'd think a powerful whatever-he-is like Piccolo would know  who has what mythological trinket, as he doesn't seem to be tracking the Dragonballs based on rumor and speculation. So, not having found the ball he mortally wounds gramps and drops the house on him like Applebloom dropped Twist. This activates Goku's Goku-sense, and he gets there to find some cryptic talk from his grandfather, who points him out to the next useful character and then dies.

She was sweet to you, you heartless bitch!

So, free of his school duties somehow(and if I could shoot waves of energy, only parental devotion could make me stay in school, too.), Goku remains at the ruins of his former house, until Bulma Briefs, one of the most terribly named characters in anything ever, shows up  and starts an action scene. It seems she is searching for a Dragonball that was stolen from her company. However, she is mistaken about Goku and the two join forces to get to Master Roshi.

It is a good moment to point out that I don't know what this world is. It's somehow futuristic in design somewhat, but not "flying car" futuristic.  I mean, there IS a flying car, but it's an exception. Mostly it's those small, ugly European cars. I would set this future somewhere beyond Robocop, but before Starship Troopers.

Well, I know it's earth. That's about it.

So Roshi lives in an island with a San Francisco house in the middle of what looks like Neo Hong Kong. Sebulba and Goku walk in, which triggers a martial arts scene between Roshi and Goku. As far as fights go, I've seen worst, but there are two things that bother me. One is that once Goku starts punching at super speed his grunts sound silly, like Videogame spamming. And two, that Goku shoots a wave that misses Roshi and hits Bulma square in the chest...and she has no questions about that. In fact, no character is amazed or shocked at the amazing feats being performed. Like, really? You got knocked into the floor by wind coming out of a guy's hand, and  not even a "what the hell?" It's like this with Chichi too. Is this shit the norm or what? Isn't half of Dragonball people surprised at things?

So, a third party member is acquired, and this one fills the role of mentor left by whatever the old man's name was. Roshi is weird. He's over the top, but I don't get what he's even supposed to be in the first place. A crazy guy? Some kind of wacky uncle? However, I couldn't help but cast George Lopez instead of Chow Yun Fat for some reason. My mind is weird, sometimes.

Then they get to where the Temple where going, but there's a tournament there and Chichi's participating. They really want to keep her in this movie, but don't want to make her anywhere near part of the main plot. They also meet some monks, including that guy who played the black Ghostbuster. I guess he's going for serious roles now.

So our heroes travel through my favorite Dragonball environment:  huge expanse of endless desert. It's here where our heroes meet a fourth  party member:  desert thief Yamcha. And you know what? I don't even remember which one was Yamcha, but I like this dude's upbeat personality and almost cartoon like voice and delivery. This guy should have been Goku. He's probably just as known as Chatwin anyway.
Eventually they find a cave that leads into lavaland, where yet another Dragonball exists. But Piccolo sends his minions after them. They defeat them all easy .Lady in Magenta actually has  a scene in which her punches don't affect Goku.

The stakes are high!

So, she decides to attack the heart and disguises herself as Chichi using her blood because that's something she can do. She steals all the Dragonballs from under our heroes, and then actual Chichi shows up and starts kicking her. But the moves are evenly matched. Goku then has that moment in movies where there's two people that are identical but the hero doesn't know which is the real one and which one is the  impostor. I'm gonna make a gif collection of those some day.  Goku beats one down with no actual evidence but her own word and waits with his back turned until the one he saved reveals her true nature by killing him.

Also, the dress isn't part of the transformation, which leads me to the natural conclusion  Magenta scoured the malls and outlets for the same dress Chichi had and was gonna wear that night.

Goku meets his grampa in the afterlife, but then Roshi revives him. With Piccolo now having all the Dragonballs, it's on to the final act.

Pics uses his 'Balls to cause one of my favorite things to happen: Evil Geography. It's that thing where huge spires of evil rock raise from the ground, symbolizing the villains power to reshape the very earth itself. I've seen it better, but it's good here.

So Yamcha uses his now flying car to crash  into Mt Piccolo, and our heroes run upward. Vulva Girl has a shootout with Magenta, and Roshi tries to trap Piccolo in  a spell. Then the twist comes.

Speaking of Twist coming, she doesn't need you for that anymore because she's found someone else, you ungrateful hick!

Goku turns out to be Ozaru. Despite having been trapped since the days of the early Church, apparently( and really, setting Piccolo's past conquest of earth "2000 years ago?" Jesus must have fled earth when he saw him, right?)  Piccolo recast his monkey assistant as a young alien baby Manchurian Candidate that came to earth just in time for the exact event that required him to. But what little I know of DB being contradicted aside, what matters is that now the film has an excuse to put on film a  7 story high ape, one of the elements of the franchise you'd think would be too "out there" for Hollywood thinking.

Except it is too out there, because the ape is roughly the size of an NBA player. Now, putting aside the fact it's a really bad CG werewolf that happens to be an ape, think about this: The whole plot hinges on that Ozaru's return is a VERY BAD THING. It is referred to as Apocalypse.  It is key to Piccolo's return to power and that involves rivers of lava running free across the earth and the annihilation of entire countries. Now...HOW THE FUCK DOES A 7 FOOT TALL APE HELP WITH THAT? No, don't look to the movie for answers. He just chases people, poorly. Actual monkeys are scarier than that.

Also,  it looks pretty bad.

Either way, they make a Kate Beckingsale-less version of the ending  from Van Helsing, only it's Chow Yun Fat getting killed that makes Goku rediscover his  humanity.  And as such, the final fight between a powered up Goku and Piccolo ensues. It's not a bad fight. They shoot magics at each other  and fly and punch. They do the Dragonball thing, but in live action. Not excellently, but they do it. Eventually, Justin Chatwin Kamehamehas Piccolo into dust and uses the power of the Dragonballs to revive Roshi. Yamcha and Bulto get together, Chichi and Goku get together  and we even get  a hintsie that  the Piccolo I knew is gonna show up in the sequel. I can't wait to see a green James Marsters kick children on the big screen. Is it 2012 already? It is? Then I guess this movie must have been a failure and no sequel is ever coming, then!

This film is marred by bad scripting, cliché after cliché, and some pretty bad acting, especially from the lead who should be CARRYING the movie. Some of the set pieces are good and I liked the fights, but for a work inspired by Akira Toriyama's seminal stories it lacks what the source material had in spades: energy.


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