Dragonball: Evolution follows in the footsteps of it’s fellow anime film-adaptation Speedracer, in which a beloved series is snipped and crammed into a poorly constructed storyline that cuts and pastes familiar mythos with little rhyme or reason.
It should be first noted that the story of Dragonball: Evolution is blatantly formulaic and arguably cliché. The underappreciated Goku finds himself beginning a hero’s journey after his Grandfather is killed by the evil Lord Piccolo on his vengeful quest to gather the seven wish granting dragonballs. Goku embarks to find his Grandfather’s master Roshi and along the way gathers new allies as they attempt to stop Piccolo’s quest for world domination. I cannot admit to having high hopes for the film and lucky for that because had I placed any desire for a familiar Dragon Ball world and decent Goku story-arc I would have found myself sorely disappointed and met instead with an oddly designed costume scheme and barely noticeable musical score.
Furthermore, Some of my favorite pieces of the original story managed to disappear thanks to Director James Wong’s misguided attempt to approach the story realistically. Which of course brings a question to mind, How do you portray a story which centers itself around inner ki-bending, vengeful immortal aliens, and a wish granting dragon realistically?
Now despite the pages of static dialogue and less then thrilling, slow-mo indulging digital effects the film itself does offer a few highlights. Including the numerous combat sequences, which do manage to capture the series familiar over the top nature. Of course there is also the charming portrayal of Goku by “War of the Worlds” star Justin Chatwin and the spot-on representation of Lord Piccolo by James Marsters of Angel Fame. Likewise there is also a major disappointment found in cast member Yun-Fat Chow who delivers a rather hollow performance as Roshi.
Aside from the shaky feature film the DVD itself does include a few enjoyable features such as a Dragonball Workout-esque video, which goes into a little detail regarding the fight choreography and even attempts to deliver a quick lesson in Dragon Ball themed stage combat. A few deleted scenes which mainly contain more of the film’s chalky dialogue can be missed without loss of sleep.
Interestingly enough the DVD does not provide a director’s commentary, though after viewing the film I cannot imagine I would be willing or able to comment on this film’s directorial decisions either.
Personally, I would discourage fans of the manga, original anime, or a decent storylines to steer clear of this film. On the other hand I may recommend this film to families looking for a on the fly movie night. It will manage to keep the whole gang entertained but shouldn’t keep anyone up all night.
Overall I give this DVD: three Dragonballs out of seven (2 out of 5)