Dragonball Evolution (2009)

dragonball evolution poster 2009 movie
1 Overall Score
Story: 1/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 1/10


Not even-so-bad-it-is-good

Movie Info

Movie Name: Dragonball:  Evolution

Studio: Dune Entertainment

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Comic Book

Release Date(s):  March 10, 2009 (Japan)/April 10, 2009 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

dragonball evolution justin chatwin goku

Finish Him!!!

Goku (Justin Chatwin) has grown up an outsider among his peers. Reaching his eighteenth birthday, Goku finds his life ripped apart by the death of his grandfather Gohan (Randall Duk Kim), and Goku suddenly finds himself on an adventure that could determine the fate of the world.  Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) has returned and he and his lackey Mai (Eriko Tamura) are trying to collect the Dragonballs to return Ōzaruto life, and Goku finds himself teamed with Bulma (Emmy Rossum), Master Roshi (Chow Yun-fat), and Yamcha (Joon Park) in a race to stop them.

Directed by James Wong, Dragonball Evolution is an action-adventure comic book film.  The movie is a live action adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s manga Dragon Ball which ran from December 3, 1984 to June 5, 1995 in Weekly Shōnen Jump.  Previously adapted into an animated series from 1986 to 1989.  The film was met with harsh criticism and is often considered one of the worst films of the decade.

dragonball evolution lord piccolo mai eriko tamura james marsters

Man…I thought I could do better

I know the basics of Dragon Ball.  I’ve read some of the manga, but I never watched the TV series.  My first encounter with the story was actually the NES video game Dragon Power which was a port of the Japanese game…and I remember being weirded out by it then.  Watching Dragonball Evolution, I was disappointed that it wasn’t even funny-bad.

A big criticism of the film is that it isn’t like the story or the TV series.  Goku is completely different than the character from the page (though it could have been kind of hard to bring the character to life as a monkey boy).  All of the characters are kind of transformed into hip versions of themselves, but they are still involved in a goofy plot involving magic ball.  The movie should just have committed to the series and tried not to make it palpable for a larger audience.

The casting is rather meh.  Justin Chatwin is bland as the lead and delivers his lines like he’s reading.  It is too bad that Chow Yun-fat is wrapped up in this monstrosity but it is interesting to have him play a bit of a goofball character.  James Marsters fortunately was unrecognizable as Piccolo so it is easy to forget he’s in the film..unlike the other members of the movie.

dragonball evolution goku ozaru

I’m feeling a bit weird here guys…

The visual effects for the film also are quite poor.  If the movie had taken the approach of 2008’s Speed Racer that completely tried to create a live action manga, it might have worked.  To do this, once again, the movie would have had to really dive into the source material to do it…simply giving Goku the right costume at the end didn’t work.

Dragonball Evolution is an awful film.  The movie doesn’t even land in so-bad-it-is-good territory and instead is just bad.  If you are a fan of the series, you’re going to be disappointed, but you might enjoy watching the film just to mock it.  Plans for sequels were scrapped after the poor performance, and Disney acquired the rights to Dragon Ball with the purchase of FOX in 2018.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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