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DVD Review

DVD cover

Dragonball Evolution


Starring: Justin Chatwin, James Marsters, Jamie Chung and Emmy Rossum
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: PG
Available 31 August 2009

In a half remembered past, now fading into legend, the earth was nearly destroyed by gods from the sky. Their rampage of destruction was only halted when seven mystics came together to fight the invader and create the Dragon Balls, possession of all seven will give the owner one all powerful wish. Time has passed and only a few remember the Dragon Balls, one of which is Goku’s grandfather who is teaching him to perfect his martial arts skills, a sedate life until Piccolo returns, meaning to steal the Dragon Balls and bring about the end of man. Now only Goku stands between the world and destruction...

Dragonball Evolution (2009 - 1 hr, 20 min, 34 sec) is an adaptation of the manga and anime series, directed by James Wong (Final Destination (2000), The One (2001), Final Destination 3 (2006)). The film was based on the novel by Akira Toriyama and scripted by Ben Ramsey.

Depending on how you approach this film will depend what you get out of it. As an Americanisation of a relative Japanese classic it’s a bit of a poor adaptation. The key problem is the limited time it has to condense what was originally a dense text; this has resulted in a shallow experience, without any character development or subplots. It has also spawned an excess of clichés and time worn story elements. So we have the child with a power he has yet to understand being tutored by a venerable old master. His journey is to go on a quest through which he will realise his destiny and save the world.

Taken on its own merits, without reference to the source material, it’s not a bad kid’s movie. The makers have gone some way, with a bright colour pallet, to create a world of their own. The film is undemanding and the action is quick paced enough so that you don’t get overly bored.

Justin Chatwin takes on the role of Goku, the kid with a destiny. Being an American version we have to suffer watching his social ineptitude, I guess just to rub it in that he is an outsider. To sell to a wider audience this Goku is an all American boy, this kind of creates all sorts of confusion as to how he is related to his grandfather and what country the film is actually set in. Chatwin made his chops in television and, in truth, he neither shines nor does he stink, mostly because the films script is incredibly undemanding for an actor.

After the evil Piccolo (James Masters) has offed his grandfather, he does what every other quester does and starts to gather around him a motley crew who will aid him. Initially he meets Bulma (Emmy Rossun) who thinks that the Dragon Ball which Goku owns was in fact stolen from her father, and as a great source of potential energy could be a benefit to the world. Once again Rossum does what she can which a one dimensional character, joining the growing ranks of spunky girls who know which end of the barrel to point. With her handy DB detector they next meet Master Roshi (Yun-Fat Chow) who steals the scenes he’s in. The final two ciphers are Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), who plays the love interest and Yamcha (Joon Park) a thief who is really has a heart of gold, well I did say that the characters were generic.

The whole thing combines to create a bit of fluffy nonsense which makes little sense, but does have the potential to entertain.

The disc is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles, an English Descriptive Track and an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer.

There is a fair selection of extras which kicks off with eight deleted scenes (11 min, 12 sec) the most interesting of which is Mai’s demise which has obviously been toned down from the knife in the back presented here. Next up is Goku’s workout (4 min, 51 sec) which has the fight choreographers teach a few warm up techniques, an odd piece which will probably find favour with ten year old boys. If you particularly liked the music from the film you can watch the Brian Anthony “Worked Up” music video (3 min, 21 sec) which I am assured by my other half is a fairly average dance track. The Gag Reel (2 min, 18 sec) has the cast mucking around and Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (9 min, 27 sec) which breaks down the fight scene between Chi Chi and Mai. For once this is a piece with a little depth, with contributions from the director, and well worth a watch. The last extra is the Fox Movie Channel presents Life after Film School with Justin Chatwin (24 min, 57 sec) and once again another piece well worth watching as Chatwin is more open about his experience of making the film than one would expect.

So, in the end, this is a great film for kids, especially those who never say the original material. Taken on its own merits it is an uncomplicated piece, but then that what most people want from a kids film.


Charles Packer

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