The popular Manga that has become a world wide phenomenom is making its big screen debut
The manga that started a world wide phenomenon has dominated sales when it came to video games, mangas (Japanese term for comic books), animes, trading cards and toy lines over the years but with "Dragon Ball Evolution", that's apparently not the case. Based off the popular manga, "Dragon Ball" created by Akira Toriyama, the mythology tells the story of a young boy, named Goku (Justin Chatwin), that's sent to Earth as a child, to enslave and destroy all of humanity. However, has a change of heart and ends up becoming Earth's greatest savior. The film stars legendary actor, Chow Yun Fat, as Master Roshi in this sci-fi epic; directed by James Wong. For those expecting this film to follow the "Dragon Ball" mythology faithfully, will be sadly disappointed, as James Wong has made several changes for the sake of modernization. Even though, I know whenever any story gets translated onto the big screen, changes have to be made. However, not at the expense of taking away the essence of who these characters are. The action choreography is a lot better than I expected. Plus, the acting performances and the special effects are fairly decent. Since this film is drastically short, the movie does come off as a bit rushed at times and has a fair amount of plot holes. Overall, it's a fairly decent movie for what it is, but it fails to capture the essence of the original manga.
As I've said earlier, James Wong makes several changes to the storyline, for the sake of modernization but in doing so, he takes away the identities of who these characters are. Don't get me wrong, I know whenever Hollywood has to adapt any cartoon character into a live action format, changes must be made as not everything about the character's world would translate well into film. Take another comic book character, Superman, for instance. When "Superman: The Movie" came out, Richard Donner made several changes to help the character's transition into film, like getting rid of Superboy and Superman's pets. He even changed Lex Luthor's origin from being a mad sceintist, whom wanted to kill Superman for making him bald, into a sinister corrupt business man, that was willing to endanger millions of lives, for his real estate business. The rationality behind these changes were to make the film seem less campy, in order for "Superman: The Movie" to translate well onto the big screen.
Then there's a more recent example with "Batman Begins." For those that aren't familiar with Batman's origin, Rachel Dawes was never a part of Bruce Wayne's childhood, in the comics. She was merely added on to represent a part of Bruce Wayne's past that he was leaving behind, for the sake of becoming Batman. This causes the viewer to feel even more compelled to Bruce's plight. As the more he becomes this creature of the night, it causes them too see how it distances him from Rachel, the woman he loves. Or how about the "Spider-Man" franchise where instead of Peter inventing his own web shooters, he gets them organically when he inherits his powers. Thus, saving the film time from having to explain how a normal middle class kid could invent and afford to make web shooters. Like I said, some changes, to a cartoon, are necessary to make the story flow better in a live action format. Although despite any changes that are made to the character's storyline, the one thing that these films never changed were the main character's personalities. Batman, Spider-Man and Superman are still allowed to be who they are, and retain the essence of what made them iconic, in the first place. Batman still representing the dark brooding side of humanity as he tries to maintain order within a chaotic world. Superman, continues to represent the beacon of hope that humanity strives to achieve. And Spider-Man, is still just an average kid struggling to deal with everday life while balancing out his heroic obligations.
In the film, Goku starts off as an everyday nerdy high school kid, that desparately wants to fit in. Unaware of his destiny, as his grandfather, Gohan (Randal Duk Kim) trains him in martial arts and the use of ki energy (an art form that uses and manipulates kinetic energy into powerful blasts). Then one day, after being imprisoned for over two thousand years, Lord Piccollo (James Marsters) escapes from his bonds and tries to once again rule the Earth, along with his shape shifting cohort, Mai (Eriko). Piccollo's master plan is to obtain the seven magical dragon balls, and use its' power to take over the Earth. According to legend, whoever attains the seven magic balls shall be granted one perfect wish. On the day of Goku's eighteenth birthday, he sneaks out of the house to attend Chi Chi's (Jamie Chung) party, the girl of his dreams. While Goku is away swooning Chi Chi, Piccollo inevitably kills Gohan and steals his four star dragon ball. Once Goku finds out, he sets out on a mission to find all the dragon balls before the solar eclipse, to stop Piccollo from taking over the world. Along the way, he meets various allies to aid him in his quest, such as Master Roshi, Bulma Briefs (Emma Rossum), Yamcha (Joon Park), and even Chi Chi gets involved as they race against time, to stop Piccollo.
Although these changes are often made to make the storyline better, "Dragon Ball Evolution" fails to do just that. I know like any other adaptation, this will not be a hundred percent faithful to the source of material. Why should Dragonball be any different? Like I said before, some minor changes are necessary, but it shouldn't come at the price of the main character's personalities.
Some of the changes that are acceptable; like toning down Master Roshi's perversions to a minimum. For those that are unfamiliar with the original manga/anime, Master Roshi is one of the best kung fu and ki masters on the planet, but he's also one of the most perverted. In the show, Master Roshi has been known to commit various acts of perversion, that would often lead to a lot of comical situations on the show. Ranging from molesting some of the female characters, like Bulma, to even dressing up like a girl himself, to trick other girls into trying on lingerie. Don't ask as some things are better left unsaid. Needless to say, since Fox studios probably didn't want to risk a lawsuit from feminist activists, I can see why his perversions were toned down for the movie. However, that's not to say you won't see glimpses of Chow Yun Fat portraying the same Master Roshi, Dragonball fans love. In fact, in various scenes, you'll see Chow Yun Fat portray Roshi as the same loveable goofball martial artist. Like the fight scene between him and Goku when they first meet, the viewer will quickly notice as Chow presents an almost "lack-sick-daisical" style as he fights Goku almost effortlessly while yawning, will make anyone laugh. Then in another scene, he gropes Bulma's butt as he gets onto her motorcycle, in which Bulma ends up threatening him to remove his hand, by putting a gun to his face. Or how about the scene where Bulma finds Roshi's dirty magazine collection while looking for the Dragon ball, inside his house, will make audiences laugh histarically at some of his antics.
And let's not forget about Yamcha and Bulma. Both of whom are still basically the same. Bulma is still a bit of a selfish, smart, naïve, hot, sassy and young girl. And of course, Yamcha is still a wandering desert bandit that only cares about himself, until he meets Goku and his pals. In the original manga, Yamcha was a bit of a rebel at times, but deep down he was really a coward that just talked a good game. Plus, he was extremely shy around girls, and Bulma was a bit of a coward herself as she often hid behind Goku, whenever the bad guys started trouble. In the movie, that's clearly not the case, as Bulma is portrayed as a bit more of an independent girl that can fend for herself. In fact, from watching this film, she's shown throughout the whole movie if you mess with her, she'll bust a cap into you. As for Yamcha, lets just say he has no problems making his moves on Bulma in this movie. These minor changes worked because they didn't alter the character's personalities too much. The thing most fans will have to understand is if you portray Yamcha as a badass to western audiences but make him shy around girls, it simply wouldn't work in a live action format, especially with a timespan of eighty minutes. As for Bulma, I had no problem with her being more independent as I thought her gun toting "Lara Croft" attitude, gave her character an added depth that simply wasn't there in the anime. Although these changes were necessary, in order to adapt this film, James Wong also takes it a step too far.
The problem lies more with the two main characters, Piccollo and Goku. I know James Wong wanted to make Goku more relatable, by turning him into a hybrid of Peter Parker from "Spider-Man." However, what he fails to understand, that simply isn't who Goku is. Goku has always been a "happy-go-lucky" man child that grew up, always wanting to train each day, finding stronger opponents to fight, and constantly seeking the thrill of adventure. He never needed Chi Chi to be his inspiration, because he was already self motivated. In fact, Goku never cared about what anyone thought about him either, and only cared about doing the right thing. Another sad aspect to this, one of the of the most intriqueing aspects to Goku and Piccollo's rivalry, in the manga/anime, was that they're origins were very similar yet contrastly different, that I always found compelling. Yet I'm saddened by the fact, it wasn't exploited for the film.
For those that are unfamiliar with the show's history, Goku came from a race of warriors, that conquer other worlds, and sell them to the highest bidder. In fact, they even send out their own babies to planets, that presumably have weak life forms, to conquer worlds as well. Goku, was sent to Earth as a baby, to enslave our race, but due to an accident that causes him to forget his mission. He grows up with no knowledge of his alien heritage. Eventually becoming mankinds greatest savior, as he continues his quest to collect the dragon balls and keep them away from evil.
Piccollo on the other hand, grew up on a planet of peaceful alien beings, that only used their powers for good. Escaping his dying homeworld, he finds shelter on Earth over two thousand years before Goku's arrival. Unfortunately, due to our violent history that Piccollo witnesses throughout his stay on Earth, causes him to go insane. Eventually, leading up to him wanting to enslave and conquer the human race.
The reason why I loved that rivalry because of its tragic sense of irony. On one hand, you have a powerful alien sent to Earth to kill us, but turns out to be our hero. While on the other hand, you have an alien being that came from a peaceful planet, that inevitably wants to enslave and destroy all of humanity. For this reason alone, Piccollo and Goku's rivalry was always the most intriqueing to me, in the series. Which is why I was sad to see James Wong change that. Instead, in the film, Goku, whom has the power to transform into an unstoppable beast known as Oozaru, is sent down to Earth as part of some acient prophecy to help enslave humanity by Lord Piccollo's side. Also, Piccollo is from a demonic race that wishes nothing more than for humanities destruction.
I understand that Wong wanted to portray "Dragonball" a bit differentally but even his own story lacked consistency, at times. As it is explained in the begining of the movie, over two thousand years ago Oozaru and Piccollo tried to take over the world, but were foiled when the eight mystics imprisoned Piccollo. In the film, it's later explained that the Oozaru that aided Piccollo went into hiding, and reappears as a baby, centuries later. Now for those wanting to know the logic behind how that's even remotely possible, the only thing this film uses as an explaination is the prophecy angle.
Although I've been a bit harsh on this film, this movie does have its' good points as well. Most of the cast like Jamie Chung, Chow Yun Fat, Joon Park, James Marsters, Eriko, and Justin Chatwin, perform their jobs rather admirably. Despite having to deal with a flawed and rushed script, the actors are able to portray their characters rather well, in what the director had invisioned.
The fight choreography and special effects aren't too bad either, as it could easily rival any other film of this year. The only gripe I've had about the special effects is that during the flight sequence, when Piccollo and Goku are fighting, the CGI could've been better, as it just seemed a bit fake. Other than that, I felt the CGI was executed perfectly despite its low budget.
As I've stated before, "Dragonball Evolution" isn't a bad film by any means. It just fails to capture the heart of the series, due to the changes of Goku and Piccollo's story arc. "Dragonball Evolution" is a decent film for what it is, but I doubt this film will dominate in fans hearts like the original manga/anime.
Characters from Dragon Ball's Universe versus their Americanized Movie counter parts
Anime Goku: Goku comes from the Planet Vegeta, where a race of warriors called the Saiyans make their living conquering various worlds and selling to the highest bidder. As an infant he was sent to conquer Earth. However, as luck would have it, he hits his head as a baby and the microchip, that has it programmed into him to destroy humanity, was damaged, so he ends up becoming Earth's mighty savior instead. Along the way, he meets various other warriors that he fights for various reasons either for food, the magical dragon balls and/or to stop them in their dastardly deeds. Some warriors suffering defeat at Gokus hands, while some go to help Goku in his quest for adventure and protect the world when need be. Receiving martial arts training from the greatest martial arts masters in the universe. Goku was always just a happy go lucky manchild even as an adult in the series. Always striving to become the strongest fighter in the world and looking for stronger opponents for fun, while taking time out for food.
Movie Goku: Comes to Earth as part of a prophecy to take over the world alongside the Demon King Picollo. Goku is also a high school kid that desparately wants to fit in with the other kids, while chasing after the most popular girl in his class, Chi Chi. Even though at the start of the film, Goku slacks off in his training a lot as his only desire is to be like every other kid, he suddenly becomes motivated after the death of his grandfather, Gohan, and the love of his new girl friend inspiring him to fullfill his destiny and stop Lord Picollo's reign.
Anime Bulma: In Dragon Ball, she's a spunky, sassy, boy crazy, highly intelligent, sometimes a bit of a coward, naïve, selfish and pretty young girl, whom helps Goku in his quest for the Dragon Balls. However, her reasons were not as pure as Goku's, whom only wanted to seek the thrill of adventure. She wanted to use the magical powers of the Dragon Balls to get a boy friend, at the start of the series. She eventually winds up dating Yamcha, then marrying Vegeta in the series. However, throughout the series she still has a tendency to be a bit selfish and naïve at times, but somehow manages to invent a lot of the gadgets that Goku and his pals need, like the Dragon Ball Radar designed to locate the Dragon Balls.
Movie Bulma: Bulma is still a spunky, sassy, boy crazy, highly intelligent, naïve and pretty young girl. However, that's where the similiarities end as she's no longer the same girl that would hide behind Goku, when things got rough. No, she'll use her guns and bust a cap into anyone that gets in her way of her research. In the movie, her desire is to harness the power of the Dragon Balls, as she truly believes it to be a new untapped source of energy that could help benefit civilization.
Anime Yamcha: Yamcha starts off, in the series, as a desert bandit, whom although talks a good game, is really a coward. Often getting nervous around girls, and has a talking shape shifting cat sidekick, Puar. When he initially meets Goku, he tries to steal his Dragon Balls for his own personal gain until he eventually meets Bulma and falls in love with her. Yamcha becomes somewhat of a ladies man after Bulma dates him for a while, but they inevitively break up.
Movie Yamcha: Desert drifting bad boy, whom traps Goku and his pals for his own personal gain as he tries to rob them. When hears Master Roshi story of how King Piccolo nearly destroyed the Earth over a thousand years ago, Yamcha feels compelled to join them in their quest.
Anime Chi Chi: A warrior princess that lives up in the mountains with her father, the Ox King, whom is a bit boy crazy herself. She falls madly in love with Goku after he helps Roshi extinguish a fire near the Ox King's mountain. Since then, Goku runs into her on occasion, in the show, as her feelings for him grew, while Goku naively doesn't even notice it. In fact, when she asks Goku to marry her, he agrees thinking that marriage is some type of food. Later in the series, she becomes portrayed as annoying nagging housewife that always wants Goku to set a good example for their son, Gohan. Yet, all Goku wants to do is train, fight, eat and have fun which causes a lot of comical situations in the show.
Movie Chi Chi: She's the most popular girl in school and possibly the richest, as she throws a party up on the hills inside her father's mansion. She often dates a lot of the other popular guys, but does take notice of some of Goku's abilities as he displays his various powers of ki, to impress her. Plus, she provides the final motivation Goku needs to take on King Piccollo.
Anime Roshi: Roshi is a perverted thousand year goofy old man, that lives on a small island in a house, dubbed Kame House. Spending most of his time looking at dirty girl magazines, women's exercise videos, and laying on the beach. Although don't let his looks fool you, he's actually one of the best martial arts experts in the world as various warriors, from all corners, come to seek his guidance and teachings. He also trains Goku in the series along with his best friend Krillin, and was the former master of Goku's grand father, Gohan.
Movie Roshi: Although a he's still a bit of a goof ball and a pervert, he's still one of the most formidable fighters in the world. Former friend and master to Grandpa Gohan and trains Goku, so he can fulfill his destiny in vanquishing Lord Piccollo forever.
Anime Grandpa Gohan: Not much is really said about this character on the show, but he raises Goku as his own grandchild after finding him alone in the woods. He's also one of the fiercest warriors in the world, and teaches Goku how to fight.
Movie Grandpa Gohan: Raises Goku as his on kin after finding him alone in the woods and rigorously trains him for his destiny, to fight Lord Piccollo.
Anime Mai: Skilled bounty hunter and goon for Emperor Pilaf, whom wants to use the Dragon Balls to take over the world. Pilaf has no powers as he's somewhat of overgrown pompious, rich, and vertically challenged man that uses his vast fortune and soldiers to take on Goku and pals.
Movie Mai: Fierce shape shifting martial arts expert that works under Lord Piccollo, in his quest to use the Dragon Balls to take over the world.
Anime Demon King Piccollo: Piccollo was born on the planet Namek, inhabited by peaceful warrior Nameks that only thought peace throughout the universe. For reasons unknown, he flees his dying planet, seeking shelter on Earth. Piccollo even as a child was born as one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Throughout his travels, he witnesses mankind's cruelty for war and destruction as this was something that Namekians weren't used to. Thus, causing Piccollo to go insane as he splits himself into two different Namekian beings. One good that vows to protect humanity from itself while the other wants to merely enslave the human race.
Movie Demon King Piccollo: Comes from an evil demonic alien race, known as the Nameks, that once tried to conquer Earth. However, upon escaping from his prison, he enlists the help of Mai as they await to have Goku fulfill a part of his destiny that even the acient mystics were clueless about. Where according to legend instead of Goku defeating Piccollo, Goku is supposedly destined to turn into the evil oozaru and help Piccollo conquer Earth.
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