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  Publicity Stills of
"Dragonball Evolution"
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Director: James Wong
Cast: Justin Chatwin, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Emmy Rossum, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Chow Yun-Fat
RunTime: 1 hr 29 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.dragonballevolutionmovie.com/

Opening Day: 12 March 2009


Based on the popular Japanese manga created by Akira Toriyama, whose work spawned best selling graphic novels, video games and a phenomenally successful television series, DRAGONBALL centers on the heroic Goku, a powerful warrior who protects the Earth from an endless stream of rogues bent on dominating the Universe and controlling the mystical objects from which the film takes its name.

Movie Review:

Boys will be boys – a live action movie adaptation of a popular manga series like this will only send fanboys ecstatic head over heels, seeing their childhood memories translated into big budgeted Hollywood movies like this on the cellular screen. Well, maybe “ecstatic” may not be the most appropriate term to use, because there would be die hard fans waiting to trash the movie for its sheer ridiculousness and inaccuracies.

Giving the filmmakers credit, the title does include the word “Evolution”, which means that what you see on screen has evolved with times, so don’t you go into the cinema expecting to see an adorably likeable wide eyed protagonist (more affectionately known as “Wu Kong” in this part of the world) and a lecherous kung fu master walking around with his walking stick while having the weight of a turtle shell on his back (fans know him as “Gui Sian Ren”).

In fact, don’t even expect to see characters that you remember from the comic book series, and don’t even get us started on the superpowers used by the characters in the movie.

In this version of the comic series that defined many boys’ childhood days (hands up, those who collected the books so that you can form a picture with their spines by placing them together next to each other on the bookshelf), the tale begins with Goku, who goes on a journey to seek out the great Master Roshi upon his adoptive grandfather’s death. Seven dragonballs will be collected so that a dragon can be summoned to save the world from the evil Lord Piccolo’s wicked plan to destroy the world (why do all villains want to do that?). Along the way, he meets friends in the form of a feisty investor who goes around on her (!) mean bike, a buxomly love interest who delivers a mean punch or two, and a desert bandit who is a mean punk on the surface but a kind hearted soul at heart.

You can already hear fans grunting about the choice of actors chosen to play these roles, even before they rant about the movie’s faithfulness to the original series. Justin Chatwin plays Goku, and although he has a certain level of likeability, there is still a lack of star power in his performance. Emmy Rossum plays Bulma, the female companion who aids Goku on his journey. She may have the look of an aggressive warrior, but we think it goes beyond having a blue streak in your hair. The rest of the B lister cast includes Jamie Chung who looks pretty with her curly locks and Joon Park who looks sleazy with his oily face. But no one beats Asian superstar Chow Yun-Fat in terms of sleaziness – the actor who plays the cheeky Master Roshi gets to pinch Bulma’s butt!

Boasting of some decent computer effects, the movie should please young viewers and keep them at the edges of their seats. Besides, the 89 minute runtime would mean that no one would be tapping their feet impatiently at the pseudo philosophical (cut the crap and bring on the action, folks!) plot which becomes laughably silly.

To be fair, the movie does ignite some nice memories of the past, and may just make fanboys to go dig out their comic books buried in some dusty corner at home.

Movie Rating:

Review by John Li

(The money milking machine will introduce Westerners to the popular manga series, while leaving fans scorning its ridiculous adaptation.)


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