"They did not accept my decisions. Maybe they thought the decisions weren't suitable, so they didn't use them."Stephen Chow, producer of the
live-action Dragonball movie
... and more importantly, fan of the manga.
Don't worry about spoilers, by the way. This movie is already spoilt.
As soon as we got out of the exam hall after the very last paper of the semester, my trusty fanboy partner, Shaki, and I beelined to the biggest screen in Malacca with the mindset of someone wanting to get over something very painful as soon as possible (I am fully aware that we're starting to sound a little homo, having so much in common). We knew the movie is going to suck at proportions so epic it'll blot out the sun, collapse some galaxies and cause erectile dysfunction to Dragonballs fans worldwide for the ensuing couple of months at least - but we were still adamant about watching it. It's like driving pass a car crash. Tragic, awful and painful to see, but you simply can't take your eyes off it. Dragonball Evolution is the 20-car pileup cinematic equivalent, all containing dead babies in the front seats and trunks.
I'm pretty sure most people already have some sort of working knowledge of the manga and anime this movie's adapted from (anyone in my age group would almost definitely have grown up with the Malay translation of the comic books) so I shan't waste any space writing about them and go right into the reviewing,
How It Nearly Did Not Suck.
Yeap, boobs. Jugs, tits, tatas, honkers, hooters, handwarmers, bazoongas, chest torpedoes and jigglypuffs. The Weapons of Mass Distraction.
The wily people who made this movie has one simple stratagem. Every time something stupid, ridiculous, or grossly unfaithful to the manga appears on screen - and before anyone can snort in disgust or groan in pain, or cry out loud for our raped childhoods - they distract us with any two of the six tits they hired to star in this movie. Every time I open my mouth to complain to Shaki, I got gob-stopped by some chesticles jiggling into view. The timing of their appearances were impeccable, I tell you. This is just speculation here, but do hear me out.
First examine the theatrical poster up there. Who's in it?
Goku is, naturally, since he's the star of the story. Bulma is too, since she's the female protagonist, at least in the earliest stories.
Then there's Chi Chi, Goku's love interest. You can say that his girlfriend (later wife) should be a pretty important person to him but in the manga, it's a stretch to even consider calling her a tertiery character. She only appeared for like one chapter when Goku was still a kid and for a short period later in one of the tournament arcs. Then they got married and had a kid off-panel. Her role for ever after in the Z series was that of a nagging wife, bitching about how Goku should stop getting himself killed and how their son Gohan should be studying instead of learning martial arts (appearing in less than one panel per volume).
And the last chick in the movie, pretty much proves my little theory outright. She's called Mai, and she's a henchwoman in the service of Pilaf in the earlier stories. Many would not remember her - or even remember who the heck Pilaf was at all (he's the guy who freed Piccolo, if you can't recall, and has a role smaller than even some of Piccolo's lackeys). In this movie, she's Piccolo's right hand woman and sole follower. And get this; she has more screen time than Piccolo!
Also, she wears a formless trench coat most of the time in the manga. In this movie, well, take a look at her outfit yourself,
Eriko Tamura, a Japanese actress and singer, played Mai. Golden Globe Award (which is like an Oscar, only no one cares if you win one) nominee, Emmy Rossum, played Bulma. I admit that I have had little exposure to her past performances but from what I can see in the Dragonball movie, I'd say that her talent is limited. In fact, she only has two talents,
And then there's that Korean-American actress who played Chi Chi, Jamie Chung, whose biggest claim to fame to date is being as a cast member in the MTV reality show, The Real World. She may be an unknown, yes, but for all we know, she might be hiding some real sweet acting skills somewhere,
I bet many of you didn't know that Jamie Chung once appeared in the 2007 Adam Sandler vehicle, I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry too. C'mere, I'll show you,
In fact, the director was so impressed with her performance that he decided that we need twice as much of Jamie Chung's Chi Chi as we were suppose to get. He devised (yes he did, 'cause he rewrote the damn script) a contrived scene in which Mai stole some of Chi Chi's blood and used it to magically or bio-genetically impersonate Chi Chi, and we're all treated to that grand old cliche of the hero not being able to tell his girlfriend apart from the clone,
Funnily enough, this is just about the only thing director James Wong nailed perfectly in concept. In Chi Chi's first appearance in the manga and anime, she's dressed in what I can only describe as a slut-suit, giving many of us hormonal pre-teen male readers at the time confusing feelings in our pants,
And in that same first appearance, Goku touched Chi Chi's crotch to determine whether she's a girl or boy (because Goku is adorably brainless that way). It's obvious that Chi Chi was intended by Akira Toriyama, the author and artist, as a walking fan-service dispenser. Now, for our collective sanity, let us not go into the specifics of Chi Chi's age at the time.
Jamie Chung's Chi Chi in Dragonball Evolution served pretty much the same role as jailbait Chi Chi in the manga. I'm pretty sure I saw her cannonballs more often than I saw the titular dragonballs in the entire length of the movie. Now that I think of it, her appearance in this movie did nothing at all to influence how the main plot goes (except that bit where she seduced a horndog Goku, and in the process, helped him master the Kame Hame Ha - I'm not making this up).
Still, in spite of the valiant efforts the makers of this film, 20th Century Fox, director James Wong and the 6 breasts they casted in this movie in trying to make us forget how much this movie sucks by clouding our faces with boobs (hold a moment, I'm having the awesomest little mental visual at the moment), they didn't quite manage to achieve what they wanted. This movie tried so hard to blow us fans, but in the end, it just blows.
Other Stuff That Nearly Kept the Movie from Sucking
- The "Ki" attacks were quite nicely adapted to live action. I just wish there's more. On a related note, "Ki" is the correct pronunciation (I've read some Malaysian reviewers who complained about it). I know it was "Chi" or "Qi" in our Malay version of the manga, but "Ki" is Japanese.
- Bulma's capsules got interpreted pretty well too, and I wish they feature the capsule tech more prominently. Bulma throwing one at Mai and activating it at the same time was one isolated brilliant stroke in the movie. Too bad they didn't just let the motorbike crush Mai. That would have been a scene beyond awesome.
- Piccolo's airship really reminded me of the one he had in the manga.
- The landscapes they feature in this movie strongly resembled those desolate nowheres the warriors in Dragonball and DragonballZ often fight in.
- Emmy Rossum looked like Bulma. Really. Acted a bit like Bulma too.
- Piccolo is green. The actor who played him, James Marsters, a fan of the anime, insisted on it. Luckily, they listened to him.
- Master Roshi (Kame sennin) is a lech, just like in the manga! And the cheesy bright shirts! They left out his tortoise shell but still.
Stuff That Killed This Movie
- Executive stupidity. I'm betting that it was some fat cat Fox exec who is sorely out of touch with the world and pop culture at large who suggested that Goku should be an American high school kid so that "viewers can relate to him better". Justin Chatwick's Goku in Dragonball Evolution is an annoying piece of shit compared to the Goku we all know and love. He bitched about being different and not being able to fit in at school. He moaned that he has no skills with women. It's a fucking cliche storm. They fucking made Goku a stereotypical high school loser! That's completely missing the point of the character. Goku is suppose to be functionally retarded and raised in the wilderness by his grandpa. He shouldn't even know that there are such things as girls or women! He discovering civilisation was what made early volumes of the Dragonball mangas such a joy to read. The whole high school angle wasted a perfectly good half an hour that could have been used to beef up the Piccolo storyline more. In fact, that's not the only thing it wasted. They actually created two archetypal high school bully jocks (original characters, said Wikipedia - MY ASS) to antagonise Goku. And they said the reason (really good) characters like Goku's best friend Krillin (or Kurin, to us Malaysian fans) couldn't be fit into this movie because they think that there's already too many characters! AND THEY HAD ROOM FOR A COUPLE OF HIGH SCHOOL BULLIES AND A HENCHWOMAN OF A THIRD RATE CHARACTER NO ONE REMEMBERS IN IT!!! God, 20th Century Fox makes my blood boil. They can't make anything good, and they tried to sue Warner Bros. over some rights issue regarding the Watchmen movie. I hope they all contract venereal diseases and die in a lot of agony.
- The fight scenes were short and anticlimatic. Even the final one. Piccolo: punch Goku, punch Goku, punch Goku. Goku: punch Piccolo, punch Piccolo, punch Piccolo. Kame Hame Ha. Piccolo dies. Man, in the manga, a fight can last through several volumes while each combatant kept upping the ante on the other. I heard they got the guys who did the fight scenes in the Matrix movies to do this. What went wrong?
- Chow Yun Fats sucked at being wacky. It's painful to hear him talk and he said things so unfunny that his words can give people cancer. And he has no beard, isn't bald and only wears his trademark shades for a short while in one scene.
- Piccolo had no antennas, wore fake rubber muscles and the actor's hair was clearly visible under all that make-up. Would it have killed him to shave his head? Would it have killed them to motion capture Marsters and build Piccolo from feet up in CGI, like what they did for Doctor Manhattan in the Watchmen flick? Piccolo didn't look like a Namekian alien at all. He looks like a B-movie demon or a television series baddie. Shame on you, James Marsters, calling yourself a fan. The only reason fanboys haven't killed you yet is because you got them to make Piccolo green.
- Goku's grandpa, Gohan, has to be most annoying old man ever to grace the silver screen. I feel like screaming in pain every time he do that daft old Asian guy laugh.
- The dialogues in Dragonball Evolution sounded like they quotes taken from Primary school essay assignments. The character interactions were bewildering, particularly Bulma's romantic side-plot with Yamcha - or Yamu, in the Malay version. Their lines made me want to hurl. The prayer Goku made at the end to summon Shen Nong using the Dragonballs absolutely took the cake. Shaki and I burst out in manic laughter the moment we heard it, infecting everyone else in the theatre when we did. Soon everyone else was laughing too. It was that horrible. You got to hear it to believe it.
- This is a lousy movie even if you're not a Dragonball fan. The quality of production, the actors' abysmal performances... what is there to love?
Or the Japanese should response. They should show these stupid white idiots how to make a real live-action Dragonball movie, and make a bajillion more dollars than Dragonball Evolution ever will. It was an insult to the word evolution. Do they even know what it means?
Angry Dragonball fanboy,
k0k s3n w4i