movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] [Wikipedia link] Why the hell is this rated 3.2/10 on IMDB? Is that some form of backlash against casting a non-asian Goku? He’s actually an alien, not an Asian, y’know!

HAIKU REVIEW: Japanese manga:
Crazy, convoluted tales.
Now on your TV.

PEOPLE: Justin Chatwin as Goku. This pissed off tons of fans who insist that an Asian character has to be played by an Asian, even though Goku is in reality an alien from another planet (this is not revealed in the movie and happens much later in the story’s chronology). But they almost cast Tom Welling (Clark Kent from Smallville) instead, which would have probably been even worse. Yun-Fat Chow (Pirates Of The Carribean 3, Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon) as Master Roshi. Emmy Rossum as Bulma (oh no! she’s not Asian either!). The very lovely Jamie Chung (MTV’s The Real World) as Chi Chi. James Marsters (Milton Fine/Braniac from Smallville, Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as the green-skinned Piccolo. Joon Park as Yamcha.

QUIRKS: Based on Dragon Ball Japanese manga / animated series, one of the most popular manga series of all time.
And if you’ve read/watched those, you know just how convoluted and crazy everything can be!

VISUALS: They did a good job at capturing some of the visual feel of the original material. Which is difficult if you’re going from 2-color manga drawings to a live action movie.

BAD STUFF: If you haven’t read the manga or watched the anime … This movie may seem very convoluted, even confusing and arbitrary. It’s also a bit rushed. The entire Dragon Ball story takes a whopping *508* animated episodes to tell (Dragon Ball=153, Dragon Ball Z=291, Dragon Ball GT=64). Even if you just want to cover Dragon Ball, 153 episodes is NEVER EVER going to compress into a single movie. It could easily take 25 movies to cover the entire story, and that’s being generous. So of course it’s going to feel rushed.

Basically… Nobody who watches this movie without previous exposure to the franchise is going to enjoy this as much as they would otherwise. I remember the Kamehamaha. I remember everyone saying “Namaste” and thinking “WTF?”. But these things will just seem even more random and confusing to outsiders.

It has been referred to as “surreal mess” that would only make sense to fans of the original series. I can’t necessarily dispute that. But here’s the thing: Carolyn did NOT read the manga, and we both gave up on watching the anime after 30+ episodes. It’s a bit tedious in animated form; what takes 22 minutes to happen in an episode can be read in about 5 minutes. It was a bit juvenile, and there was no way we’d be able to get through all 508 episodes. Yet despite not being nearly as exposed to the Dragon Ball universe as I was, Carolyn enjoyed it almost as much as I did.

Also, they changed some things — thus adding “Evolution” to the title. For example: Goku is supposed to have a tail. And Oozaru is supposed to come out during full moons, not eclipses.

Either way: This is not a series that takes place in *our* Earth! But many will be pissed at seeing depictions of a standard present-day earth alongside sci-fi elements like green aliens and magical elements like chi and dragonballs. But that’s how the original story is!

CONCLUSION: Despite the bad, Carolyn & I were incredibly impressed with this. There were so many ways they could screw it up — and they definitely tried to. But we really enjoyed the experience of watching it, and could only remark afterward that it greatly exceeded our expectations.

Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10. We’ll probably be the highest raters of this movie out of anyone we know. :)

RECOMMENDATION: If you watched Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, or read the manga… Don’t refuse to watch this just because Goku is not played by an Asian! He’s a Saiyan, not an Asian. You should be more mad that he doesn’t have a tail, than that he isn’t played by an Asian. And then there’s the fact that Asian manga draws everyone wide-eyed like westerners anyway! The other characters are all real Asians, just like they are in the manga.

If you have no idea what a Dragonball is… You will still like this movie if you are open-minded and enjoy this kind of thing. But if you are the average American movie viewer, you wont like this.

SEQUEL: I greatly look forward to Dragonball 2: Reborn in 2011. Fortunatley this movie will be driven by Asian consumption, so the fact that Americans aren’t going to like it as much shouldn’t stop the planned sequel from stopping.

MOVIE QUOTE: [presenting the Four-Star Dragon Ball]
Grandpa Gohan: There are only six others in the world, each with stars of one to seven. Besides you, Goku, this is my greatest treasure.

Mood: hungry
Music: Kreator – Toxic Trace