DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION - Kame Hame Ha Ha Ha!
DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun Fat, Emmy Rossum, James Marsters and Jamie Chung
Director: James Wong
Time: 85 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: Kame Hame-Ha! If this phrase sounds alien to you, then you are alien to the world of Dragon Ball manga. Listening to it for the first time, it may sound ridiculous and funny, as in "Kame Hame-ha ha ha!" However, if you remember it as a warrior's call to summon mystical martial arts energy, you are back in the company of Goku and Master Roshi, heroes of the Dragon Ball comics (pictured, above) and TV series!
The Japanese Dragon Ball cartoon series was the creation of Akira Toriyama in the Weekly Shonen Jump in 1984. The comics spawned best-selling graphic novels, a hugely successful TV series and role-playing videogames. The Dragon Ball cartoons had more than 500 episodes which were made in Japan, and shown all over the world.
It is from such kiddie cartoons that 20th Century Fox has turned into a live action movie - and that itself is a feat given that Toriyama's Dragon Ball world is a realm where race and colour has no bearing, and the past and future are merged into the present.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Based on the 'King Piccolo Saga', it is about the adventures of Goku (Justin Chatwin) and his bid to stop the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) from taking over the world. After being captured and banished for two thousand years, Piccolo has returned to seek the seven Dragonballs so that he can conquer Earth!
First off, Goku's grandpa's house is destroyed by Piccolo in his bid to find the old man's Dragonball. In his quest to save the world, Goku not only has to train under the eccentric Master Roshi (Chow Yun Fat) but he also has to collect all of the seven magical orbs (Dragonballs) so that he can be granted one 'perfect wish' by the dragon. Later, Goku teams up with the pretty Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and a highway robber named Yamcha (Joon Park) in a race to find the Dragonballs before the eclipse of the sun.
HITS AND MISSES: If you are not familiar with the manga series, this movie will look totally childish to you. Director James Wong (of Final Destination) and screenwriter Ben Ramsey are working on Toriyama's ideas that seem to have been 'inspired' by the Monkey King tales from the Chinese classic Journey To The West. Many of them sound ridiculous now, especially when it involves lighted balls, elusive dragons and 'perfect' wishes.
Another problem is that Wong has not done enough to flesh out the lead roles. Goku, Bulma, Yamcha and Piccolo's sidekick Mai (Eriko) look like cliched cardboard characters. The only exceptions are Chow's Roshi and Jamie Chung's Chi Chi, a girl-next-door-type who can also kick butt when challenged. As for Chow, it is fun to see how he shamelessly steals the show from the others in almost every scene he appears in.
I have no complaints about Chatwin and Rossum's performance. They are just in need of better lines, proper development and more time for the audience to get used to them. Marsters' Piccolo, however, is hopelessly undeveloped - and he remains a gimmick, not a character.
THE LOWDOWN: Given the original comic characters, I would say Dragonball: Evolution is a lot better than Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. At least this one is childishly funny while the latter insults our intelligence.