Dragonball: Evolution Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated May 10th, 2009 at 9:41 am,

Short version: Dragonball: Evolution is a badly written film with horrible dialogue, lackluster action and a sense of fun that’s nowhere to be found.

dragonball evolution review Dragonball: Evolution Review
Screen Rant’s Ross Miller reviews Dragonball: Evolution

When you head to the theater to see a movie called Dragonball: Evolution, you obviously aren’t expecting Shakespeare. From the advertising, the whole thing gives off a feeling of light, campy, action-packed fun that you would hope would allow you to just sit back, relax and turn off your brain for 90 minutes or so.

Yeah, well, that’s why we have words like “hope” as a counterpoint to “guarantee.”

Dragonball: Evolution may very well be one of the worst films of the past 12 months or so – I am actually struggling to think of the last movie I thought was quite as bad as this one was. And it’s not one of those cases where it’s just not my cup of tea… No, this is a flat-out bad movie in pretty much every area that makes up a motion picture.

Based on the popular anime series of the same (or at least similar) name, Dragonball: Evolution follows Goku (played by Justin Chatwin) who carries out his grandfather’s dying request to find Master Roshi (played by Chow Yun-Fat) and locate all seven of the powerful Dragon Balls. He already has one of them, but with the help of Bulma (played by Emmy Rossum), Master Roshi and Yamcha (played by Joon Park), he must find the others before the evil Lord Piccolo (played by James Marsters) does, whose intentions are to use them to take over the world.

Now let me just point out that I very much represent those who are not fans of the source material, and in fact know next to nothing about it. I can say without reservation that I am in the majority – if you’re a fan it may feel like everyone in the world is a fan of the cartoon, but trust me, most of the general movie-going population (who will be exposed to this through TV and other marketing) will barely even have heard of it, never mind having seen any of it.

So I then have to judge the film purely on its own merits, without having the prior knowledge to be able to compare and contrast it with the source material. Some fans of the cartoon may get a kick out of seeing such things as a certain costume or a hairstyle appear in some form, but as a movie this thing flat out stinks. And not even in a yeah it was bad, but kind of fun in spite of that” kind of way – in pretty much all areas you can think of, it is awful.

The main problem with the film is the script, meaning both dialogue and the story. First off, I can’t believe how bad the dialogue was in this movie. From the very first scene in the film, which sees the movie starting off with a short back story explanation, the dialogue is painful. Near the beginning of the movie we see Goku being trained to fight by his grandpa while balancing on two ropes – and the back and forth exchange of dialogue is like something written to sound cool, but is delivered and pulled off so poorly that it’s cheesy and downright cringe-worthy.

That’s pretty much representative of the entire movie right off the bat – everything comes off as cheesy, nothing can be taken seriously, not even when Goku is supposed to be upset right after his grandfather dies (which happens within the first 10 minutes, so that’s not really a spoiler). Every time a character opens their mouth and delivers this atrocious excuse for dialogue, I felt like covering my ears and shutting my eyes in embarrassment (which I did do a handful of times, I’m not even kidding).

Well, you might be thinking “so what?” Who cares if the dialogue is bad and high on the cheese-meter? The action has to make up for that, right? Well, wrong. Actually, dead wrong. Action is the one thing that could have saved this movie from the abyss, but they even manage to muck that potential up. The action is not just mediocre or even sub-par – oh no, it’s worse than that - it’s terrible. Director James Wong clearly doesn’t know how to direct the needed action (although he seemed to do okay with Jet Li’s The One), and the attempts he makes are reminiscent of a young kid having fun in a special effects studio, just randomly pressing any of the fancy buttons on display.

They attempt to have 300-esque action scenes of things going from normal speed to slow-motion and then suddenly speeding back up to normal again. But for such a technique to be effective you have to know what you’re doing, and it’s evident from this movie that Wong doesn’t. Zack Snyder, although using it a bit too flippantly in 300, timed the slowing down thing pretty much perfectly, matching up exactly with the action on-screen and giving that extra bit of kick. But here it’s used far, far too often for no reason other than to just have it in there for the sake of it. There’s a strange sense that the movie thinks what it’s doing is cool… but “laughable” is more the accurate description.

You probably want to know how the cast did… Well unfortunately, like the rest of the movie, pretty awful. Justin Chatwin is completely miscast in the role of Goku (for some reason an American playing this character just doesn’t feel right), Emmy Rossum is hot but nonetheless terrible as Bulma, and I feel embarrassed that Chow Yun-Fat has gone from amazing stuff like Hard Boiled and The Killer to eye-rolling stuff like this. The only actor who did all right (and I stress, just all right) was James Marsters as (an underused) Lord Piccolo – he’s not in any way good, but, let’s just say… he was less terrible than the rest of the cast.

The only thing I can think of that’s even remotely positive about Dragonball: Evolution is that the special effects are pretty cool at times. Not during some of the hand-to-hand combat scenes (where the effects are so obviously… effects, if you know what I mean), but when they use what is known as “KI attacks,” which are basically blasts of different colored energy from their hands.

Props go to Amalgamated Dynamics for creating special effects which are, on their own, quite visually stunning. Also, the movie is really quite short, so at least I didn’t have to sit through the pain for all that long.

However, that’s pretty much where the positive stuff ends – you just know a movie is in trouble when you are literally straining to think of something you liked about it.

I don’t know if the story they used here in any way resembles the original cartoon/anime stories, but how they told it in the movie was abysmal. There were clearly elements taken from the source material, and it is then clearly a story (or one of the stories… I don’t know, I’m not a Dragonball fan) that may work well in a cartoon but it does not work well on the big-screen. Not for even the slightest moment.

I lost count of the number of times I rolled my eyes, snickered, groaned, and shook my head in embarrassment and shame during this movie. I can’t actually believe the filmmakers looked at the script and thought, “Yes, this is good stuff. Let’s go ahead and make it!” It’s probably just one of those cases where they saw the popularity of the source material and thought that they could make a quick buck by just throwing anyone in the roles, sticking together bits and pieces from the cartoon to form something resembling a story.

So needless to say I don’t recommend Dragonball: Evolution. I wasn’t expecting this to be any good, but I don’t know if I was expecting it to be this bad. Please, if you believe in the magic of cinema, avoid this with as much effort as it takes.

Our Rating:

0.5 out of 5

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  1. I’m a Dragon Ball Z fan and know a bit about Dragonball, so here is the back story, from the cartoon. Gokuh is a Saiyan baby that’s sent to earth to conquer it. He looses his memory and is raised by grandpa Gohan. After Gohan dies, Gokuh is taken under Master Roshi’s wing and is trained in martial arts. Gokuh doesn’t remember being a Saiyan and one of the abilities of a Saiyan is to turn into an ape-like creature called Oozaru when they see a full moon. Lord Piccolo is a Namekan dedicated to world conquest but continually clashes with Gokuh. Eventually, Piccolo is defeated and split in 2: Kami being his good half and Piccolo being the evil.

    Looks like I won’t be seeing this, so could you tell me if the synopsis I gave is anywhere near what this movie is about? You can give me spoilers but please put **** Spoiler Warning **** before you do, for the other readers.

  2. What’s really really sad is that the screenplay probably went through twenty drafts before the director and producers went, “THAT’S THE ONE WE’RE MAKING! THAT’S LIKE CRAPPIN’ GOLD! I need to sit down a weep for a sec’… “

  3. Some movies need a certain director for a film. I will say it wasn’t the Actor’s fault but the director. This is the type of film to where you have to follow it origin. For the Simple fact this is a whole different world from what get get from spiderman, superman and batman. So to take a movie like this and try to freestyle something different will result into a failure. Not to mention they are already talking about a sequel. They should stop and re-enter this movie from the beginning. Dragon Ball Could be just as big as Star Wars. With the right director. This movie just shows that the director and the writers need some R&R. From the special effects down, to story, this movie is like the Dog crap i scrapped off my Nike’s

  4. Now that the late viewers have seen it let the games begin.

    @ jb – SORRY BUT EVERYONE FAILS IN THIS MOVIE, and I feel bad For Ernie Hudson (thank god he signed on for Ghostbusters 4) and for Chow Yun Fat (he was duped into starring in this pile of excrement).

    @Kahless – you Sir are way off. Imagine Laguna Beach, mixed in with every BloodFist Movie after 1 (minus), combined with all the “Movies” after Scary Movie 2, with just a dash of Dragonball and that is pretty much what you will sit through.

  5. On a casting note I would of rather had the girl who played Chi Chi or Mai be Chun Li in the other FAIL of the year SF:Legend of Chun Li. These films deserve a 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001

    out of 5 stars


  7. That’s why I said… it’s not Dragonball: Evolution, it’s Dragonball: Trashvolution! From the trialers alone, you can see there was ZERO good points about this cursed movie, from my posts in the past few Dragonball ScreenRant posts, same thing. I’m just glad what I’ve said proved all my points, that this director really was just in there for practice grounds, which he should never have touched this source material, like I said in one of the earlier Dragonball posts, This storyline is never meant for real life actors to portray, simply because it would never work. This story depends on ALOT of exaggeration, and that is one thing that real life actors DON’T do, for obvious reasons. Cartoons are cartoons, people are people. Keep the two paints separated, and for the rest of you who were rooting for the movie, fan or not (I’m a huge fan of the source), please wake up before you go see it and give them an actual excuse to make a SEQUEL!!

  8. oh and yea I’m surprised this got even half a star. This had to have done worse than The Spirit!

  9. @ Liam

    Hold on now I agree with you to a point about some things should be left as ANIMEs, but remember The Guyver? True the first live action film was corny, but was still fun, and Guyver 2: Dark Hero was a definite step up for being a low budget flick, and topples most Anime to Live Action films. The fact is that everyone (except Ernie Hudson and Chow Yun Fat) don’t have the acting chops to handle DragonBall Universe. Nor did this director or the rest of the crew. This film only appeals to the “late fans” who came into the whole Laguna beach is something worth watching and Dragonball GT era (my opinion except the Laguna Beach part). NOT EVERYTHING HS TO BE AMERICANIZED to be understood by the rest of America. I wonder if Hollywood is challenging America’s capacity to understand simple things. Hmmmm………..

  10. Fan or not people should realize how dumb this film is… I agree with SIN- how much do we have to dumb down movies for it to be liked

  11. @SIN187UM

    This still hasn’t opened in the U.S…. then again, does anyone really care about spoilers on this? :-P


  12. @ Kahless

    I know that Piccolo is to be Kami’s Evil, but he’s really not ever since DBZ. Even plotting revenge against Goku became pointless and ultimately forgotten through out the series. And though this is based off of DragonBall I can’t take Piccolo seriously when looks like a petrified Peach Seed or Prune if you will.

  13. now i only vaguely remember dragon ball and the part this is based off of was my favorite and best remembered bit, all i can say is from what you people here have said im going to avoid the damn thing like the plague. i would like my few good memories of this show to remain untainted by the utter stupidity that this move apparently was!

  14. @ Vic

    Lol, I doubt they do. But there are many places to get legal imports of films. One case in point was a movie called The Protector with Tony Jaa, while people were shelling out $8.50 plus I simply paid $9 plus $1.75 S&H to get the original R rated version called Tom Yum Goong.

    Oh yes Vic I saw the comparison photos to Rorshach. LOL that is good stuff. Still a great sight you and the rest of the guys have here.

  15. @ Ross Miller

    You mean you didn’t enjoy that failed Ka-Meh-Ah-Meh-Ha.


  16. It’s not big deal, it’s just dragon ball. Really, who cares?

    The cartoon it’s popular but it sucks anyway, i cant remember a bad show evolving into a good movie, correct me if im wrong.

  17. Who do you want to direct this? Ridley Scott or James Cameron? It was produced like a b-movie from a b-cartoon. Get over it. Greetings.

    “Ball Could be just as big as Star Wars. With the right director” <– you’re kidding right?

  18. Hey, at least something good came of this. I can, without a doubt, say that this is the most entertaining review I’ve ever read, on Screen Rant. I’m sorry Ross Miller had to sacrifice himself to bring us such work, but I was laughing the whole way through it. As for the movie, I won’t be seeing it.

  19. Read the John “Kahless” Taylor comment and tell me how can you pull out a good movie with that ridiculous plot.

  20. @JM
    Simple Minded come on here saying blah blah but I’m Speaking Facts Bro… Just Like u my not watch DBZ I could find 30 people to your 1 person That’s the Difference Anime is more popular than you think. So u dont like Db who cares. I didn’t ask u anyway. DBZ has a very strong fan base. Like Star wars Having a strong Fan base. Facts or Facts. So you and your sesame street comments can the Skittles rainbow

  21. @ JM

    Many people care, which is why many people are upset about what has been produced. Actually a crap show made into a somewhat popular movie is Sex and the City. Shudder for when Desperate Housewives goes to Hollywood

  22. DragonballZ is one of my all time favorite shows. I own damn near every episode (except GT which I hate) and many of the movies. I, like millions of others have waited and waited for a live action movie of this. Sounds very disappointing. Many people care about this source material; it’s one of the most popular animes ever.

  23. The trailer was enough for me. I could tell they were shooting for the 9 year olds with that bs writing. 8-)

    The plot sounds like every manga subplot there is… Always with the balls or spikes that the (Power Rangers) have to protect, if not the evil villain assembles them into a doomsday weapon takes over the world.

    Oscar winning material, if your 9 years old, and totally into bad writing and lame action…

    Ross you had me at “Its awful,” :-)

  24. Mr. Ross Miller

    I really thing you should check out the manga or the anime. I can assure you that everything that is wrong with the movie is right in the original: specially the plot and character development.
    I don’t know if this will makes things clearer for you, but imagine if FOX buys the rights to Harry Potter and decide to make the first 4 or 5 books into ONE 85 MINUTE movie. That is more or less what they did with Dragon Ball.

  25. Dragonball Evolution does not follow the same story from the original manga.

  26. @LordThanosX

    I know it’s popular, but it’s NOT THAT popular as you think. Even the reviewer admit that fact and point out that issue in the review, did you read it?

    Comparissons between the ban fase of starwars and Dragon Ball is kind of non-sense. Anyone around the world know StarWars. Not the same with DB.

    So, it’s a b-cartoon, lets face it, its not transformers, its not starwars, its just dragon ball. The studio knew this from beginning, and you as a fan knew that it will never recieve a big franchise treatment.

  27. @JM

    It is non-sense to compare the popularity between Dragon Ball and Star Wars but Dragon Ball is indeed more popular then Transformers.

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