I recently had the misfortune of watching 20th Century Fox’s foray into the world sculpted by Akira Toriyama: Dragon Ball Evolution. Though the name retains some similarities to the original intellectual property, any fan of the series should steer clear from this abomination of the franchise.
It falls into that category of film which strives to appeal to a broad, specifically teenage demographic. Is it a good movie? I would honestly place it within the same caliber of a high budget Disney Channel film – which are not necessarily the worst films in existence despite their inclination to remain overly rosy and light-hearted (two extremes of the emotional spectrum which should be delegated with extreme care).
Now, for all intents and purposes, movies like this have made their way on the big screen in full force for many years though notable entries into the line of teen-targeted sci-fi movies include the likes of the Spy Kids trilogy. What the Spy Kids films had going for them was the fact that they had at least one actor people could recognize: Antonio Banderas. Correct me if I’m wrong but being a fan of films myself, I couldn’t identify anyone from the motley crue of a cast present in Dragon Ball Evolution who I could have even pretended to recognize from another major film or franchise. Sadly, even if a Taylor Lautner or Taylor Swift would’ve joined the cast, the film would still suffer from its persistent desire to ensue feelings of malcontent within the hearts of its viewers.
Another element of the film which threw me for a loop was its commitment to the original cannon of the manga and television series – or lack thereof.The film’s producers may have been trying to summarize all of Toriyama’s Dragon Ball in a bit over 90 minutes – which is a pretty tall order for any director to accomplish – but they could at least have included some of the finer details of the manga’s storyline. Goku should have had a tail for goodness sake and he should have stared at the moon and gone ape. Instead a slight implication at the moon’s role in the matter took place and, even after re-watching it, the screenwriter seemed to be nudging the audience toward the notion that somehow the Oozaru and Piccolo were related in some capacity.
Now, I’m all for appealing to the largest demographic possible and earning back some of the millions that went into a project’s genesis, however, it seems as though fans should be catered to in some way, right?
Snyder’s Watchmen did a fantastic job in encapsulating the major story arch of the graphic novel while still facilitating some form of movie magic in an effort to bring the Watchmen to life. This was done adequately despite some resolute, yet justified, complaints from some movie critics who mentioned that Snyder’s rendition of the story clung too close to the source material. I completely understand complaints of this fashion because, unfortunately, some franchises are difficult to bring to new fans; meaning that there is great difficulty in ushering in new individuals into the umbrella of a franchise due to either the depth or complexity of the source material. Watchmen fell into this category mainly due to the fact that Moore’s dystopian world represented much more than a simple idea or theme but, rather, brought all his qualms concerning contemporary society to a finely tuned zenith of literary and visual exemplification. This obviously represented some difficulty when Snyder decided to take on the project and, sure enough, fans loved it but those who hadn’t already fallen in love with Watchmen were, for the most part, assuredly lost.
Despite this, bringing in new fans is indeed possible. For instance, Peter Jackson did a terrific job in bringing the stories and characters we grew up with to life while still allowing new fans to enjoy the films he created as well. Dragon Ball is a series which I think could have been brought out to the general public in this same light.
Sure the similarities to Superman are obviously apparent (alien comes to earth as a child… so on so forth) however a talented crew could have made it work.
My point being, Dragon Ball Evolution is a repugnant representation of Toriyama’s source material. It would make any fan cringe and it should be ignored by anyone with any semblance of respect for the medium of film.