No matter the source material – be it a novel, comic book, graphic novel, TV show or cartoon – there is always going to be some complaints about the movie adaptation. Even if the changes are critical to making the adapted story work on-screen, fans of the source material get up in arms about simple, unimportant things like changed hair colors or age differences.

One such movie catching that flack right now is Dragonball, which is based on the ultra-popular anime series. In an interview with MTV News, the cast and crew of Dragonball have gone out of their way to try and justify any changes they may have been made from the original cartoon to the movie.

James Marsters (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), who plays Lord Piccolo in Dragonball, is a huge fan of the original cartoon but was adamant to remind fans that the letter “Z” that most people associate with coming after the word “Dragonball,” wasn’t introduced until about 150 episodes into the series. He also says that just because he isn’t the same Piccolo fans know and love for much of this first film, that doesn’t mean that in potential sequels (one of which is in the works already) he won’t become more reminiscent of the Piccolo fans expect.

Director James Wong explains many of the changes made by attributting them as “superficial necessities in pulling characters into the “real” world.” He also compares the project to the X-Men movies. For example, just because the character of Goku wears a bright orange costume in the cartoon, doesn’t mean it will work on-screen (I think he’s referring to Wolverine’s original yellow and black outfit compared to how he looked in the movies). Wong said that they, “shot so many test with so many different versions [of the costume], a hint to fans that the original costume(s) may make a brief appearance.

Justin Chatwin, who portrays Goku, has said that the biggest point of issue (for him, anyway) was to get  the character’s trademark spikey hairstyle right. According to Chatwin, it took forty cans of hairspray to get the right combination between the cartoon and the “real” world hairstyle. Co-star Emmy Rossum, who plays Bulma, also went through a few attempts using blue wigs before the filmmakers settled for using blue dye.

In an overall sense, Wong has said that the major changes come from trying to capture the spirit and tone of the cartoon series. Wong said it was quite early on that they changed to a more family-friendly tone, forcing them to drop some of the more risque elements that were present in the cartoon.

However, the cast maintains that the most important elements of the characters are still very much in the movie, even if they appear to be completely different. For example, when it comes to Chow Yun-Fat’s Master Roshi:

“He kind of embodies the essence of Master Roshi,” explained Jaime Chung (Chi Chi), “Minus being perverted.”

Now, I am a firm believer in the fact that adaptation means that certain things absolutely have to be changed. Not just hair or eye color, but even something crucial like an accent or an attitude should be changed if it needs to be, in order for it to work better on the big-screen.

A prime example is Galactus from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I am not going to say I liked what they did with Galactus – turning him into a storm cloud was a titanically dumb idea that was jaw-droppingly lame to witness in the movie theater. But at the same time, I can see why they changed it from what he originally is in the comic (again,  I’m not saying I like what they changed it to, just that I understand why they did it).

If they had faithfully translated Galactus from comic book page to the big-screen it would have looked bloody ridiculous. A giant man with a purple helmet, floating through the universe devouring planets? No one, not even the most experienced and skilled filmmakers in the world, could have made that look anything other than preposterous.

The same need for re-interpretation goes for any other movie adaptation, including Dragonball. The filmmakers hopefully had good reason for changing the things they did, otherwise why would they have changed them? Clearly there were certain things that just didn’t work, and they made the right decision to change them.

Whether Goku has an orange suit or a green suit; whether Piccolo has green skin or brown skin; whether this character has this hair color or that hair color… It doesn’t matter. Adaptation means exactly that: things need to be adapted, if the original concept doesn’t work on-screen, even if that adaptation means being “unfaithful” to the source material.

What are your thoughts on the changes the filmmakers have made to Dragonball? Do you agree that in any adaptation things have to be changed if they don’t work on-screen? Or are you one of the die-hard purists who believes that the source material is sacred and should never be mucked with?

Dragonball is scheduled to be released this Friday the 10th of April, 2009.

Source: MTV Splash Page