I just need to start out this review by saying I find the idea of hating on Dragonball: Evolution to be immensely difficult. Since the project was first announced in 2002, I’ve been anxiously awaiting what would surely be a monumentally large bag-o-suck. As the trailer and images came out of filming, my hopes only became greater, anticipating what might well be the worst film since another dragon movie, the 2007 master-stroke D-War. But now that I’ve seen what was indeed a really bad movie, I actually feel very surprised about how good it is. Even though it’s bad.
I’ve never seen an episode of the anime this movie is mostly based off of, but because I watch a lot of shitty genre movies, I’m very familiar with the prophosized-boy-learns-to-use-his-super-powers-for-saving-the-world kind of story, which the Dragonball plot retells.
But I’ll recap it anyway – Goku, a very physically fit and attractive high schooler that looks years older, is an absolute NERDFACE! He’s picked on at school and can’t talk to nerds. Then this green dude, who it turns out used to rule the world, comes back to life and seeks to re-rule the world. Viewers hoping for an explanation as to how he came back aren’t going to find any such exposition, and are probably being too demanding anyway.
So he sets off on a not-that-epic journey with some new friends, including one dude who goes from bad guy to love interest in one very stupid, unintelligible scene without any explanation.
The cast is pretty awful here, with the half-exceptions of Chow Yun-Fat as the movie’s less awesome version of Mr. Miyagi, and Park Joon as said bad guy/love interest hybrid. Justin Chatwin, who takes up the role of Goku, is pretty awful in this thing. The few scenes where he’s making it work are the ones where Goku is supposed to be awkward and unnatural, if that tells you anything.
If you’re like me, and you’ve been hoping Dragonball would be a shitty enough movie that it would enter the sacred realm of So-Bad-It’s-Good, then you, my friend, are in for an exquisitely delicious treat. I saw this movie in France, and even though I don’t speak the native language (it was subbed in French), there were plenty of guys from all over the theater laughting at all the same terribly hilarious moments. Suck, apparently, is an international language.
There’s just so much to make fun of in this movie – and I haven’t even touched on the fact that this movie has “Ball” in the title.
Still, as much as I can make fun of the flick, it’s got some charm that keeps it afloat. While not redeeming any of the movie’s failures, it’s nice to see that the filmmakers understood that this was never going to be that good of a movie, and managed to have a fun time anyway.
Who do we have to thank for this? A look behind the camera reveals two pretty good candidates:
First, it’s directed by James Wong. I’d be lying if I said I was very familiar with Mr. Wong’s work, but I can attest that he went into Final Destination with a stupid fucking script, and came out with a not-very-scary but super-entertaining romp of cartoon violence. Dragonball: Evolution is a movie aimed at grade-school boys, so the violence is out; but the sense of entertaining cartoon stupidity is very much intact.
The other is that it’s produced by – get this – Stephen Chow. The very talented filmmaker who so graciously gave us Kung Fu Hustle came on board, and helped to infuse a sense of silliness that, if less pronounced than his own movies, is still very much present.