Dragonball: Excretion

Movie title: Dragonball: Evolution (2009)
Spoilers ahead: No


Dear James Wong,

I regret to inform you that after reviewing your film Dragonball: Evolution, I am left with no choice but to give it a failing grade of F (0 stars). Your attempt at transforming a work of Japanese animation into a live-action movie for international audiences was...to put it nicely...a full-dress failure that had me running for the toilet.

Your efforts to reach across cultures and continents with made-real martial arts fighters to attract mainstream audiences, while remaining theatrically appealing to an Asian fan-base was a total loss—a loss of cinematically epic proportions.

It happens to be the case that many cartoons and comics can be fashioned into great movies (i.e. The Hulk, Superman, etc.), but this requires an immense budget and finesse-full directing. But even then, not all animated source materials can be translated into real-life action. Take, for instance, Mario Brothers.

It doesn't require immaculate intelligence to see that Italian plumbers breaking bricks and stepping on dangerous turtles is not going to translate into our world very well. I think you have the intelligence to see that. Why then did you proceed to make a movie and not see this poor fit? In this drag of a Dragonball, you did nothing but waste the talents of more than one able actor and actress (Yun-Fat Chow as “Master Roshi,” Jamie Chung as “Chi Chi,” and Emmy Rossum as “Bulma”).

How did you miss that beings that destroy planets in the tumult of their wars do not punch each other across living rooms? They level buildings like the Hulk—and that on a backhand! How did it get by you that beings who leap up way into the air to do kicks cannot so much as be inconvenienced by falling into pits in attempts by thieves to trap them? How did it not dawn on you that such transcendent beings like Goku and the masters won't be slowed down by a thin river of lava? They don't need to find stones to hop across. These are big problems. The power curve of the characters in your movie is way off and can't stay true to the original characters. How did you not see that this would be a problem for the fans?

As an addendum to the previous point, your use of special effects was atrocious. The lighting was off, as were the performances of the characters. No one was believable, being that they were trapped in the prison of bad lines from a script with a calling to be flushed down the commode. May I please be excused?

Your decision to have martial arts masters fight, followed by one of them turning around and letting out a prideful laugh would win over no audience above the age of 6. But I know why you did it. You keep fighting this urge to score points with a blithe Japanese audience, and the urge keeps beating you. The result of these defeats is a ruined movie.

Would you like to know why you blew it here, Mr. Wong? It's the same reason as before—you can't see that Dragonball does not translate well into an international, live-action movie. Your run-amuck directing should have been kept in check by a smart writing staff, but you apparently lacked one.

The diarrhea-inducing behavior of the high school punks who pick fights and use stupidly scripted lines like something from American Ninja II is inexcusable. I know you tried to show off Goku's awesome fighting talent, but your inability to see where you blew it shows a massive lack of understanding of human drama, not to mention modern American social behavior. Important note: stop getting inspiration for your dialogue from 1980s ninja movies. Kids (even stupid ones) don't talk like that.

We are never made to develop concern for the three main characters (“Goku” Justin Chatwin, “Master Roshi,” and “Bulma”). The warped acting and uncalled-for theatrics exceeds the limits of human tolerability. Was it really beyond you to see to it that the characters had proper scripts and that the lines were delivered in such a way that the audience would buy into them?

Everything went so fast. Nothing felt real...nothing felt real because you didn't know how to make it real. This poorly edited, film school student material might have worked as a class assignment, but as a movie, it provides another place to get some cheap fertilizer for my lawn. That's about it. You should have known this, Mr. Wong.

Yep, you blew it. You blew it big. You got everything wrong, even Goku's spiked hair. None of it worked. The stretched-out story of Goku, Bulma, and Master Roshi having to find the seven Dragonballs and expel the evil Piccolo from this world was flighty and made to feel cheap and uninteresting. I didn't care who saved what. Nothing, not even the fight scenes, connected with me. When the unfolding of the story wasn't flat-out boring, it was comically bad and at no point did it possess drama or class or make me wonder about anything in the least.

You did a decent job directing your 2001 film The One, starring Jet Li. So I beg of you, look back at that and ask yourself what the difference is between that and Dragonball: Evolution and ask yourself why one was remotely successful and not the other. Take a lesson so that future audiences won't have to suffer like I had to suffer.


A disappointed critic

Joe E. Holman



Grade: F (0 stars)
Rated: PG
Summation: Young Goku seeks revenge for his fallen master at the hands of the evil Lord Piccolo who seeks world domination.
Director: James Wong
Starring: Justin Chatwin “Goku,” Yun-Fat Chow “Master Roshi,” Emmy Rossum “Bulma,” Jamie Chung “Chi Chi,” James Marsters “Lord Piccolo,” Joon Park “Yamcha,” Eriko Tamura “Mai,” Randall Duk Kim “Grandpa Gohan”
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Thriller