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Add this one to the “How’d this ever get made?” file, and you can CC the “How did this ever get released in theatres?” shelf.  Much negative speculation about the live-action Dragonball movie began before a single frame was filmed and I regret to inform that all the hate was completely justified.

What in the blue heck (- struggling to keep it clean for the youngsters) was Fox thinking when they released this monstrosity of the most famous Japanese anime series ever made and devolved ( - no pun intended) it into this incomprehensible dreck that has nothing at all to recommend it.  How do you make Dragonball into a flat, boring dross?  Well, let me count the ways: 1) Take away the one thing that made your hero special and dumb him down as much as you can.  Son Goku, the mainstay of all things Dragonball, is an alien born of an über-violent race of warriors who was exiled to earth as an infant because he wasn’t measured to be as tough as his peers.  This movie’s Goku is nothing but some kid who’s really talented at Kung Fu, nothing more.  Blah.  2) Age your hero and pattern him after every high-school cliché ever filmed.  Unlike the start of Dragonball, where Goku is a young child fending for himself in the mountains, this Goku is a teenager and as with every textbook teen drama, a lonely nerd, picked on by the cool bullies.  The story then tries to add some Disney-wholesome romance between our boy with the unfathomably spikey hair and the alluring Chi-Chi, also a Kung Fu prodigy (- just don’t tell her father).  3) Make your villain - one of the most memorable in the anime pantheon - a brooding Emo wuss.  That would be Piccolo; in some misguided attempt to get us to take him more seriously, his antennae have been squashed on either side of his head and his origin completely rewritten.  4) Create the worst special effects seen outside of an Ed Wood film.  Really, whoever approved the CGI on this movie should have their licenses taken away.  The team who created the were-ape Oozaru should be dragged out and shot … with spitballs (- remember, keeping it clean).  The Japanese King Kong from 1962 looked like a masterpiece of realism compared to this patchy, rubbery mess. 

Dragonball has done the impossible and made me angry with Chow Yun-Fat.  His choices in Western projects haven’t been particularly inspired, but this is a new low. Trying bloody hard to look like he’s having fun playing a neutered, watered-down version of the perverted sifu, Master Roshi, Chow only succeeds in looking ridiculous and not in the way he’s meant to as the comedic character.  Chow, I need to sit you down for my Lucy Liu career talk.  Maybe because of Chow’s Hong Kong cred, the action in the last act of the film centers more around Roshi, who gives up training Goku (!!!) ostensibly because the Goku team is out of time before Piccolo destroys the world.  Instead, Roshi plots with some random Buddhist monks to contrive something in a jar (- Where’s my rice cooker?) to entrap Piccolo.  Okay, you’ve taken the focus totally off the alleged lead character.  Then again, outside of wide eyes, a square jaw and an amenable disposition, this Goku isn’t all that interesting.

The filmmakers made the alien invader originally sent to destroy earth into an average teenage boy and that decision is a loopy fiasco.  Goku is normal to the point of being inane and totally uninteresting.  He has none of the goofy, fish out of water charm and humour that turns to scary intensity in the face of a battle.  I blame the writers for gelding this great character instead of Justin Chatwin, the unlucky actor given the thankless millstone of playing him.  Even if the intent had been to lure young children into the movie theatres, what little kid is going to watch some soggy teenage romance?  If Goku’s story began with him as a child, then at least the younger audience members could have identified with him.  Anyone who’s ever seen Goku’s first friend, Dragonball hunter Bulma, knows her bright blue hair is a trademark in the anime; apparently director Justin Wong vetoed such tonsorial splendour in favour of Emmy Rossum sporting a Claire’s Accessory clip-on.  Goku’s own famous stuck-out-at-all-angles hairdo looks more like the result of too much tacky hair gel and even his Turtle Hermit uniform looks like inaccurate cosplay.  We get one – count ‘em - one measly, unimpressive Kamehameha wave out of Goku and you couldn’t care less when it finally happens.  For some reason, Master Roshi keeps going on about air-bending for the five minutes we see him training Goku, which was never mentioned in the Dragonball show, but is a big deal for another Asian-esque animated series called Avatar: The Last Airbender, also soon to be a major live-action motion picture.   Did the writers have no faith in Akira Toriyama’s unbelievably popular original storyline that they had to borrow from another show?  The one thing they got right was Bulma’s capsule turning into a sweet-looking ride for she and Goku, but even that looked like a Transformers outtake.  Seemingly, Wong was desperate to take all the magic out of the series and make it more earthbound and realistic.  What a crock.

It’s not fair to lose the lovely Eriko Tamura in the list of horrors; Tamura’s the only one who seemed to have a proper grasp on her character, Piccolo’s alluring, catsuited evil henchman, Mai.  Of course, because it is this picture and it’s a disaster, all the humour so present in the anime has been completely drained out of the bumbling villain.  I can’t even talk about the misuse of Spike from Buffy {James Marsters} without my hair glowing yellow and standing up.  As the leaden, moping Piccolo, Marsters seems to be practicing for the lead in Hamlet rather than having any scenery-chewing fun under the greenface and prosthetics.  I can’t really blame Marsters; if I was stuck in this trash, I’d be depressed too.

20th Century Fox has tried to absolve itself of this disgrace by limited (- re: nonexistent) advertising and writing it off as a children’s film.  If that’s so, this movie should be considered child abuse; surely lowering the IQ’s of movie-going kids is legally actionable.  I pity the child easily amused enough to appreciate anything other than the loud noises generated by the terribly rendered and awfully infrequent battle scenes.  What a waste of a great anime.  Everybody involved with this catastrophe should be put on the receiving end of an Ultimate Kamehameha wave.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

April 12th 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.)

 

 

 

 

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