There's a place where imagination runs wild and fans anticipate and buzz about potential, where any movie can be great and unicorns frolic among rolling hills of candy grass and butterflies that pee lemonade. It's called pre-production, and somewhere between days one and two is where the nightmare that Dragonball Evolution came into existence.
There's an executive at 20th Century Fox who thought he had found the next great franchise. There's this once-popular anime franchise called "Dragonball Z," he heard, and fans would pay to see a live-action movie based on the show. You can't really fault the executive for thinking this, because that was all possible at one point in history. That executive is also dead, because when he saw an early draft, he jumped out of his corner office. Unfortunately, he lived on the second floor so he only broke his leg, but managed to convince an intern to finish him off.
Dragonball Evolution is an embarrassment, to say the least. The movie is about a young man who's socially awkward despite being able to kick some serious ass, thanks to the teachings from his dad or grandpa or Mr. Miyagi-esque mentor. He also has a dragonball, a glow-y ball thing that when combined with other dragonballs makes whoever possesses them very powerful. Picture Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, only with really bad special effects, bad wire work and a screenplay written by and for chimpanzees. There's also a bad guy who looks like Jim Carrey in The Mask, only unintentionally funny.
Very little things go right in this film. And wow, I just realized Emmy Rossum was one of the main characters - I didn't even recognize her. How did her agent trick her into signing on for this? You went from Phantom of the Opera to Dragonball Evolution, a $45-million disaster that earned less than $10 million domestically?
Anyway, the only good thing about the movie is the eye candy - played by Ms. Jamie Chung and, apparently, Emmy Rossum. The movie's only rated PG, though, and that's a bad indicator for so many reasons. The action is incredibly stale and inept, highlighted by terrible special effects and shoddy wirework; I'm pretty sure they hired an electrician from Home Depot to do the job. James Wong, who directed the original Final Destination and The One, took his paycheck and paid his niece minimum wage each day to direct for him. The filmmaking is about as lazy as it gets.
But what really hurts the film is the acting and screenplay. The actors are limited by the screenplay and must have realized it shortly after signing their respective contracts, because they don't even try to look interested. You can literally watch Justin Chatwin's realization that his dream of being a star in a blockbuster franchise is crumbling before his very eyes. He is horrible. Rossum is just as bad. Chung, thankfully, is saved by being handed a small, thankless role. At least Chow Yun-Fat gets to grab Rossum's ass several times throughout the film; I'm pretty sure that's how Fox got him to agree to be in the film. He is also terrible. Congrats to Ben Ramsey for writing a screenplay that makes a mockery of the actors so diligently; I thank God Hollywood hasn't signed him to do another movie. Oh, wait, he's writing Luke Cage. Damn.
Dragonball Evolution is a bad movie. A really bad movie. But it's one of those bad movies that is so bad it's almost good. Not quite, but you get my drift. No? Don't watch it, because you'll regret it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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