I know I'm way behind on the times here, but I finally got around to watching Dragonball: Evolution. First, let me tell you that I'm nerd raging so hard right now. Oh, and spoilers, but if this actually spoils anything, where the fuck have you been for the past 20 years?
Second, I have to wonder if I hadn't ever heard of Dragonball before, would I be entertained? Would I enjoy the movie? I'm not really sure. The plot is more-or-less solid (Piccolo-daimao condensed to an hour-and-a-half), and the pacing is actually pretty good. The painful high school scenes are in between some nice fights and unarmed Japanese women getting shot after they surrendered, so it's not too hard to sit through. Most of the fight scenes are okay, though there are some times where there's too much slow-mo or they use close ups that obscure the action, but it's counter-balanced by the fact that a lot of the fight scenes are actually pretty damn cool. In fact, the very first one in the movie feels very Dragonball to me, but I'll get to that later.
Now, conflict drives the story, and in this case it's clearly intended to be man vs. himself (Goku against his Saiyan heritage, i.e. he becomes Oozaru), and at once, it is both executed well and poorly. It's established early that everybody hates Geeko and that he just wants to be popular and to play with Titties' chi-chi, which we're all supposed to relate to. But Titties takes to him way too quickly, making it seem a little contrived. Then high school is pretty well removed from the picture (thank God), and Goku's inner conflict simmers. He's really just unsettled. Then, what a twist! Turns out Goku is the mighty Oozaru! What a shock! Goku's reaction to this revelation is pretty weak, which compounds the fact that fucking everybody should've seen this coming. He goes on the typical hero-turned-evil rampage, and when he's got Roshi by the throat, he finally understands what it means to be one with himself, blah blah blah. It does a fair job depicting an internal struggle, but it fails utterly in showing Goku has an understanding of what his grandfather had been teaching him. He parrots lines, and some of them are entirely inappropriate. When Piccolo asks him how he defeated his inner Oozaru, Goku says that the first rule is that there are no rules... What? Ok, I get that you wanted to parrot a line (which was already a parrot of a line), but that's where you need to show that Goku gets it. Something like, "When you become one with yourself, you are truly in control of who you are" or something to that effect. All in all, it just felt the ending was too easy, which included the final battle against Piccolo who seemed content to just lay down and die (which would make the balls inert [though they're still there]). However, it was at least somewhat satisfying. The badguys got beat and the hero got the girl etc. etc. But... There were a lot of plotholes.
How did Piccolo escape in the first place? Did his nameless hench-woman free him? What was Goku doing for 2000 years? Why is there a throwaway mention of "Nameks" (Namekians!) who are aliens, when Piccolo is referred to as a demon every other time? Why does Piccolo need the dragonballs if he's already pretty well the strongest person on the planet, easily capable of wiping everything out, especially with his "disciple" Oozaru? If Piccolo's affinities for his dragon's balls is never explained, how is he able to find them? Does he have a
DBE dragon radar too? Some of these can be overlooked or handwaved, but as Kakarot's son Son Gohan might say, "But they're still there."
Then there's the script, which ranges from average to laughable. As mentioned previously, Goku's lines near the end were pretty bad, and there were some groaners, but a surprising amount of it felt fairly natural. This goes hand-in-hand with the acting: Goku was at times pretty good, at times really hard to stand. Bloomers was okay, and Yamcha was pretty forgettable. What I really enjoyed was Master Roshi; he was capable of a really nice range of emotions, easily the best in the cast. He certainly did the best job of giving a feel for the character. I was going to complain more about the acting, but a lot of it was at least solid and I can't help but admire Roshi.
Back to the script. To anybody who knows the origins of the characters names, a lot of introductions are downright hilarious. For instance, when the topic of Chi-Chi's name comes up, I can't help but laugh: chi-chi is slang for breasts (this should explain who I was referring to when I said "Titties"). Then Bulma introduces herself... "Bulma Briefs". My god. Bulma comes from the romanization of "Buruma", which in itself is an English loan-ward, namely "bloomer" (or "bloomers"). This is a type of woman's underwear, folks, (though it's also used to refer to the bottoms of those sexy Japanese gym uniforms), which is compounded by the fact that her last name is Briefs. It's like somebody saying, "Hi, my name is Panties Underwear." She names her son Trunks and her daughter Bra. Once you're done laughing, I'll point out the obvious: King Flute might be a little more intimidating, but maybe unsuited to the eunuch.
In the end, Dragonball: Evolution is passable as a movie. It's not very good, but it's not terrible either. It at least tries to have a theme beyond 'good guys beat up bad guys', to moderate success, and the comic relief is pretty funny and not overbearing. The action sequences are at times damn cool and aren't ever really boring. The scripting is probably its weakest aspect, and really keeps it from being a good movie. I'd give it a 3/5 star rating.
Oh, and there was one part that stretched my suspension of disbelief, but then I remembered that this was a movie about a green alien trying to take over the world using seven mystical balls to summon a magical wish-granting dragon.
Next journal: Nerd Rage