‘‘The first rule is, there are no rules !’’
Everyone is beating on this with all the fervour of a gorilla saying hello to his little friend, whilst watching an Asian dubbed version of Scarface (1983) with illegible subtitles. Is it truly a Turkey of such epic proportions that it could likely feed an entire colony on Thanksgiving Day ?. Has star Chow Yun Fat slipped so far into ‘B’ moviedom that the only hope he still has for A Better Tomorrow is to sign up for Hard Boiled 2, even if the role offered is a cameo !?. Did anyone actually bother to tell James Marsters that he was playing the role of a distant cousin to The Hulk when he signed up for this ?. Devouring screen time as Spike on TV’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a joy to behold, but here with a green tan, makes him look better suited to picking corn niblets from a field rather than dispensing evil to the four corners of the Earth.
But … the movie is a blast .. Yes indeed I appreciate I am a lone voice giving plaudit to what is pretty universally designated a turd. One so steaming that even Divine from Pink Flamingos (1972) would use a doggy bag for to dispose of responsibly. This aside, Dragonball Evolution is the most enjoyably zany gig to come along until Kiss support act Miley Cyrus !.
With expectations set so low, on the backlash that the movie has received, anything to constitute entertainment was going to be a reward for dedicated movie viewing. Comparisons to other comic book / video gaming styled movies such as Bullet Proof Monk (2003) and DOA: Dead Or Alive (2006), which truly were painful to sit through, gave hope for at least a compact measure of some entertainment value. Dragonball Evolution is in its entirety a sub ninety minute outing that flies by. That in itself is to its credit, as a two hour excursion would have meant padding out a storyline that pretty much exists of a set of seven magical orbs being stolen by an evil villain, to unite them at the time of an eclipse that will bring about the destruction of the world as we know it.
Justin Chatwin is the young hero Goku, who turns eighteen and his inherent mystical instincts kick in big time. When his grandfather, who has raised him and trained him in the ways of his ancestors, is killed by James Marsters villainous Lord Piccolo, Goku must seek out the reclusive Master Yoshi.
Teaming up with kick ass babe Bulma (Emmy Rossum), Goku follows his intuitive senses and locates Master Roshi (Chow Yun Fat) in a beaten down property that no one would think twice about trick or treating, let alone delivering junk mail to.
A big part of the enjoy ability of the movie for me is easily attributable to Chow Yun Fat, having feared the worst for this once uber iconic king of cool here he gets to kick back to a time where he was able to diversify his roles and pull off with an injection of humour. Not only does he look more relaxed and free from the make up artists who have aged him for too many of his recent movies, but his charm is back in bucket loads. It’s an eccentric role for him, but one that allows a range of expression that he consummately pulls off. A terrific throw back to the Action / Comedy performances that worked so well in his Hong Kong flicks such as Tiger On The Beat (1988). This is perhaps the first time that Chow Yun Fat has been allowed to show off his recogniseable style since moving into the American movie market.
It is unsurprising then that the Asian influence behind Dragonball Evolution is highly apparent and likely influential in affording Chow this overdue courtesy. The movie is a US / Hong Kong production and Director James Wong’s heritage is evident to behold in the flamboyant Action style associated with Hong Kong fantasy flicks from the last few decades.
Having really never seen the animated shows nor read any of the Dragonball comic books clearly has proven advantageous as a casual observer stepping directly into the film. I imagine it is universally the fans of the whole Dragonball concept that are up in arms with the completed movie, and being a fan of similar comic book / anime show cross over developments that have failed terribly I have sympathetic empathy. Those of you who, like me, seek a Fun fuelled, energetic does of unapologetic escapism need look no further than Dragonball Evolution the movie, to satisfy there need to feel good about themselves at the end of a long week. It’s colourful, explosive silliness that rockets along at such a pace to leave you fulfilled in the same way that an episode of your favourite TV show kicks in with that season finale goodness.
Crazy kung fu capers, slightly futuristic landscapes and technology, hot babes with guns and buns a plenty, with vibrant special effects that compliment the piece rather than garishly overwhelm it. This is one of those movies you tune in to whilst skipping channels late at night, and chose to stick with as it leaps out like an obscure find that you can’t wait to share with others the next day. Definitely worth your time if even only as a rental when it hits DVD. The movie will look fantastic on Blu-ray.
If you have seen and enjoyed the energetic fight fu and sci fi slickness of James Wong’s earlier The One (2001), then Dragonball Evolution is definitely a consideration to get back in with the ‘Wong’ guy.
Review: Paul Cooke / Source Theatrical Release
Dragonball Evolution (2009)
Director James Wong
Director James Wong
With Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun Fat, Emmy Rossum,
Jamie Chung & James Marsters
Jamie Chung & James Marsters