(20th Century Fox) Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun Fat, James Marsters, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, Eriko Tamura, Joon Park, Texas Battle, Ernie Hudson, Ernie Duk Kim . Directed by James Wong
In the 80s and 90s Japan cranked out an amazing amount of animated material called anime that made it to American shores, mostly terribly dubbed and hard for Western audiences to follow. Some of it was best left forgotten but some of it became cultural phenomena particularly amongst pre-adolescent boys.
Goku (Chatwin) is a bit of an outcast, a young high school student who has few friends. He lives with his grandfather (Kim), a martial arts master who teaches his grandson how to fight, then forbids him to fight with those who pick on him. Goku is also smitten by a beautiful Asian girl, Chi-Chi (Chung) who invites him to a party.
The party happens to fall on Goku’s 18th birthday. His grandfather gives him a special gift; a Dragon Ball, one of seven in the entire world. Assembling the seven supposedly gives the wielder one wish that can be fulfilled. Goku kind of pooh-poohs the thought and sneaks out to the party.
While there, he is attacked by bullies and decides to stand up for himself instead of walking away. He doesn’t actually hit anybody, but he cleverly avoids blows until he has managed to beat his assailants, winning the admiration of Chi-Chi. However, Goku senses that something is terribly wrong and runs home to find his house destroyed and his grandfather dying. The old man’s dying words is to seek out Master Roshi.
In the wreckage there is an intruder, a beautiful woman named Bulma (Rossum) who is seeking the Dragon Balls for her own reasons. She has, however, an invaluable aid – a device that detects the energy signatures of the Dragon Balls.
This will come in handy because someone else is also seeking out the objects; an alien called Lord Piccolo (Marsters), who was imprisoned below the Earth by the creation of the Dragon Balls and now seeks to resurrect his bestial henchman Ozaru and finish the job of destroying the Earth which he had very nearly accomplished thousands of years before.
Roshi (Fat) knows more about the Dragon Balls than anyone alive and is a mighty martial artist in his own right, having trained Goku’s grandfather despite seemingly being much younger. The three, accompanied by a young thief named Yamcha (Park) are in a race to find the Dragon Balls before Lord Piccolo does. Hanging in the balance is the fate of the Earth (cue suspenseful music).
What to say about this movie? Visually, it can be pretty spectacular. The fight scenes are well-staged and Chatwin and his fellow actors are highly likable – or in Marsters case, highly hissable. The filmmakers made an effort to make the action and characters a little more relatable for general audiences.
Unfortunately, in doing so they made some serious changes to the Dragon Ball mythology that is sure to really piss off the fans of the original series. They also make the plot overly complicated and full of inconsistencies and logical flaws that will make you shake your head, and unexplained holes that will make your head spin around on your neck until it detaches and shoots into space like a bottle rocket, exploding when it reaches its apogee.
Basically, the only reason to see this is because its eye candy. It’s a really good looking movie with some thought put into the special effects and action scenes. It’s too bad the same amount of thought didn’t go into the script. This might have been a really good movie if they had done so.
WHY RENT THIS: Some of the fight sequences and special effects are pretty nifty. The movie is a new take on the original anime material, and tries to bring it to a more mature audience.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Overall the movie is a little bit bland and a little nonsensical. Those who aren’t fans of the original will probably not go flocking to it based on this.
FAMILY VALUES: Cartoonish violence and mild language concerns make this acceptable for most audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The script for the movie sat on the shelf for years, until the writer’s strike forced Fox to film some scripts they already had. X-Files: I Want to Believe was another project that happened in the same fashion.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: The Blu-Ray edition has a game, and the DVD and Blu-Ray editions both have a couple of Fox Movie Channel specials that aired when the movie got its theatrical release.
FINAL RATING: 6/10
TOMORROW: Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)