The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Dragonball Evolution (2009)

James Wong

Justin Chatwin - Goku
James Marsters - Lord Piccolo
Jamie Chung - Chi Chi
Emmy Rossum - Bulma Briefs
Chow Yun-Fat - Master Roshi
Joon Park - Yamcha
Eriko Tamura - Mai
Randall Duk Kim - Grandpa Gohan
Ernie Hudson - Sifu Norris

Genre - Action/Aventure

Running Time - 84 Minutes

Score - BOMB

The island of Japan has gifted us with many things over the years. I'm talking about automobiles that don't break down once you turn on the ignition. I'm talking about the video games that help us escape from the real world. I'm talking about those wacky game shows that make us laugh at how dumb they are. And in terms of this review, I'm talking about manga and the anime inspired by it. Probably one of the most popular Japanese exports has been the extremely popular Dragonball anime series. The Cartoon Network benefited from it with huge ratings. The video game franchise has sold more than a billion copies worldwide. Apparently watching cartoon characters beat the crap out of each other with their bodies and insane power blasts has captivated many into turning Dragonball into a powerful franchise.

Unfortunately, the popularity of TV shows, cartoons, and video games only lead to really crappy live-action adaptations filmed for the big screen. Dragonball already had two films made based on the manga and anime series, but they were both Asian productions. Since Hollywood feels Western Culture is superior and more revelant, they decided to take a chance at making a Dragonball movie with both American and Asian actors and unleash it onto the unsuspecting public. The result is DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION, a film that was in post-production hell for over a year and during a time when the Dragonball phenomenon is pretty much past its peak.

To be honest, I'm not sure what DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION is actually evolving here. All I know for sure is that it's not evolving anything remotely good and is probably making Charles Darwin roll in his grave as you read this. To think that I thought STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI was the Worst Film of 2009. Funny how that quickly changed within six weeks, because DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION is one of the worst films I've seen in my life - in any year. Let's Kame-hame-ha this fucker into Hollywood obscurity, shall we?

Goku (Justin Chatwin) is your standard high school teenager who seems to possess power that he has yet to tap into. This knowledge [or his bad acting, I'm not sure] has made him an outcast of sorts with his peers, constantly getting picked on, although a girl named Chi Chi (Jamie Chung) sort of digs him and vice-versa. Speaking of Chi Chi, her parents must be celebrities because no normal couple would curse their child with such a ridiculous name. Anyway, Goku's grandpa Gohan (Randall Duk Kim) warns Goku about some upcoming armageddon involving a solar eclipse due to the return of an alien life form named Loard Piccolo (James Marsters) and his sidekick Mai (Eriko Tamura). They both plan on collecting 7 Dragonballs in order to fulfill some legend that will grant them both great power. When Gohan's warnings lead to tragedy, Goku decides to hunt down the Dragonballs with the help of Lara Croft wannabe Bulma (Emmy Rossum), thief Yamcha (Joon Park), and Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat). Will Goku and his new friends stop Piccolo and save the day? Will Piccolo succeed? Does anyone give a flying fuck? No? Alrighty then.

I have three words for DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION:


I'm not a fan of this Dragonball stuff but I've seen some episodes because my cousins love this stuff and play the video games. Hell, they'll debate about Dragonball for hours on end and discuss all the sagas, while I scratch my head wondering what in the fuck they're talking about. But I can tell you that I know enough and have seen enough to say that DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION is NOTHING like the manga or anime series it's based on. Shit, I thought this film was a joke on the fans who made this franchise as big as it is. But this was a serious project and pretty much shows how clueless Hollywood is right now.

The story is, well, how can I say this without offending the screenwriters...okay...it's really fuckin' retarded. Instead of actually taking themes and storylines from the cartoon it's based on [because that would make SENSE!], James Wong and Ben Ramsey decide to use that Hollywood cliche that involves a young man who has a destiny and must go on an adventure to figure out what it is. Of course, he meets friends who join him to help him achieve the answers he seeks, including that old dude who trains the young man to "Wax On" and "Wax Off". The young man doesn't figure out the truth until he confronts the villain of the film, leading to a showdown that reveals his true potential. Happily ever after, right?

Are you choking my chicken!?

Dragonball was about action. It was about violence. It was about wacky characters blasting each other with their inner energies all for the sake of seven Dragonballs. Instead, DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION decided to turn the franchise into a badly done THE KARATE KID meets THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK hybrid that doesn't work the moment it's implemented on celluoid! The characters are badly written and developed. Maybe fans would care about them, but what about those who aren't familar with this franchise? They have nothing to hold on to. No origins. No setting up events properly. Why should I care for these idiots? Goku was loved in the manga and anime series because he was motivated to become a better martial artist and unlock his full Super Saiyan potential. Instead, he's a love sick puppy out for revenge. Even that isn't developed all that much. What's the point then? And the rest of the characters aren't even like the characters they're based on. Yamcha doesn't know any martial arts, although he and Goku have a rivalry in the cartoon. Bulma is an annoying Lara Croft ripoff with a voice that made me regret not putting on earplugs. Even the environment of the cartoon, which was a character in itself, has been replaced by generic North American visuals. If you're not gonna make a film right, then don't spend $100 million on it.

Also, there is an actual love story in this film and it's pretty much forced on you. Maybe if Goku's and Chi Chi's attraction to each other was actually developed into something believable, it would have been okay. But the filmmakers pretty much expect you to root for these two together even though you have no idea WHY they should be together in the first place. Plus, they're barely in the film together much anyway, so what's the point? Same goes for Bulma and Yamchi, who seem to dig each other even though they were trying to kill each other an hour before. Did I miss something?

Even the whole concept of one's "ki" was screwed up. It's never really explained how it works and/or its purpose. Nor is it a plot point that one would care for. Sure, they set up the whole Kame-hame-ha thing, but it's all exposition and not of it is interesting. I learned more from THE LAST DRAGON than I did here. At least I know what the "glow" is!

The action sequences are absolutely horrible here. These scenes could have been the saving grace of the film, but they're just as bad as the development of the screenplay. They're short and don't leave much of an impression. They're not even exciting or fun to watch. They're hacked in the editing room, giving us close-ups at random moments to the point where we don't see what the fuck is going on. I'm not sure this was done to look cool or hide the fact that stunt doubles probably handled the physical stuff, but they were shot horribly all the same. The best fight scene was near the beginning between Goku and some of his High School peers. The sad thing is that Goku didn't even raise a fist the entire time, letting the bullies beat each other up. Dragonball is about the action and DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION did not deliver at all.

What also doesn't deliver are the special effects. They were Sci-Fi Channel calibre - really unconvincing and not at all impressive. The Kame-hame-ha is supposed to be the most powerful move in the Dragonball universe, yet it's only used to light lanterns during a training sequence. And when used on Lord Piccolo, it barely left a scratch on him. Really? This is a Dragonball movie? I think the HANNAH MONTANA movie probably has special effects superior to this one. Where in the hell did the $100 million go, guys? Oh yeah - for Bulma's ball turning into her motorcycle. And Goku transforming into some CGI beast that makes The Hulk realistic. Smallville has better effects than this film. That's fuckin' pathetic.

James Wong, who directed 2001's THE ONE, was the wrong person to direct this. The pacing was totally off and the film felt rushed as hell. Wong seemed more concerned with moving from one set piece to the next without the need of a narrative to make it flow properly. Also, Wong has no handle on action. The scenes are badly chopped up to the point where you don't know what the hell is going on. The framing is awkward at times as well. THE ONE is a much better effort than DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION could ever be and that's sad when the former was made 8 years ago. Aren't directors supposed to get better? Yeah, the script sucks but a director is supposed to overcome that with cool visuals. This film is a total failure.

The acting in this film is really bad. Justin Chatwin, who most probably remember as the lead in last year's THE INVISIBLE, is horribly miscast as Goku. Chatwin looks nothing like the character or even acts like the character. Plus he's not the type of actor that can really carry a film of this nature. He was bland, I felt. James Marsters, who's best known as Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, plays one of the most boring and misused villains in cinematic history in Lord Piccolo. For the main antagonist, he's barely in the film and he doesn't do anything or even talk all that much. You have a good actor who can play a great villain [judging by his past roles] but you don't throw him a bone to chew on? Terrible usage here. Jamie Chung is cute as Chi Chi but is nothing but the token girlfriend character. Emmy Rossum annoyed me as Bulma, speaking in a cutesy voice that was supposed to sound tough but just made me want someone to smack her around and shut her up. Talk about overacting. And Chow Yun-Fat may be the best of all the actors here, but even he's embarassing to watch as Master Roshi. At least he looks like he's having fun hamming it up. Or maybe he was acting while intoxicated. I wouldn't blame the guy if he was. Just wished he would have shared some with me for this review.


- Goku received a ball for his birthday. If he didn't suffer through testicular cancer or is completely hetero, then I feel that this gift is really inappropriate.

- Lord Piccolo was so upset about not finding Goku's Dragonball that he crushed Gohan within his own home. Now I know who to blame for the mortage crisis.

- Bulma considers Master Roshi to be a dirty old man, after seeing his swimsuit issues and him grabbing her ass. I don't see why she's so offended. Britney Spears experienced the same thing and she turned out okay, didn't she?

- Goku had to focus his ki to achieve the Kame-hame-ha ability. I wish James Wong would had focused his ki to make a better film so I wouldn't have to suffer through 84 long minutes. I guess some ki is stronger than others.

- Piccolo had Mai shift-shape into a doppelganger for Chi Chi. Two Chi Chi's? And he's supposed to be the villain? Shit, give the guy all the Dragonballs and a medal!

- When the 7 Dragonballs are placed together, one can make a wish. I wish I didn't have to watch this crap for a review. But apparently that didn't come true. Fuck you, DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION!

DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION is by far my top pick for Worst of 2009 so far. It's just a really stupid movie that's nothing more than a huge waste of time, money, and energy. Dragonball fans should stay away. Everyone else should stay away. This film will leave no one happy. I'm blasting DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION into the WTF? Vault where it belongs. If only Bernie Madoff had stolen the $100 million used to make this crap. Sigh...


  1. Lol, yep, The worst Film sounds about right for this movie, I havnt watched it, but read so many reviews that its getting repetative, Every1 saying this movie sucks

  2. Hey Fred,

    I was getting ready to e-mail you, just to make sure all is well - I decided to check your Blog, once more, before doing so, and lo and behold another rip tearing WTF Review.

    You mentioned Street Fighter II in this review, yet there was no review on that film :-(

    I figured both of these would be wait for television - sounds like my instincts were dead-on.

    I don't really know anything about Dragonball, however I was a bit intrigued do to the casting of Chow Yun Fat and James Marsters. . .

    Now I know to stay away - thanks for saving me the time.

    P.S. Good to have another review from you :-)

  3. "Watch Dragonball" - Yeah, it's really bad. I'm not a fan but I've seen enough and heard enough to know that this film is a slap in the face to all Dragonball fans. The POWER RANGERS film is much better than this will ever be.

    Jason - Yeah, I've been away because I was shooting a film for one of my classes. Plus I was a bit burnt out and needed to recharge my batteries. Now that I feel much more motivated, here I am.

    And yeah, no STREET FIGHTER reviews yet but it's coming in a double review format. I think the original STREET FIGHTER is actually superior, which makes me sick to say.

    Thanks for your comments, guys!

  4. I can understand the whole 'burnt out aspect' :-)

    Off shooting a movie - sounds pretty cool!!

  5. Just think about it the conservative Fox Channel who complain about wasteful spending while their own company wastes 100 million dollars on this crap. Goku should throw a Damn Tea Party!

  6. Just to thin that Fox news complains about wasteful spending yet their company is funding 100 million dollars into the turd department for this crap. Goku needs to throw a damn Tea Party!


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