Dragon Ball Evolution is one of those films that should have been downright amazing. The trailer was decently impressive and the visuals were intense. We were going to see some nice city busting feats and people could finally see how strong Goku is. Unfortunately, the film didn’t really have a lot of budget behind it and the writers forgot to actually read the Dragon Ball volumes. As a result, this is kind of adapting the King Piccolo arc, but very loosely to the point of fanfiction. Was it still an incredible film? Time to find out!
The plot is simple enough as Goku lives an ordinary life with his Grandpa. He is very powerful, but Goku is told not to hurt the bullies. Goku agrees and quickly smashes them into the ground without actually attacking them. Unfortunately, his grandpa is eliminated by Piccolo and Goku must now find the 7 Dragon Balls to stop the world from falling into ruin. He is accompanied by Bulma, a woman who wants to be rich and famous. Will these two be enough to get past tricky bandits and rock creatures of unlimited power? More importantly….can they defeat King Piccolo!!!!!?
Goku is the protagonist of the film and many people around the world have started to call this version of him by the name of Geeko. This is because the bullies of the film called him that and it sums up the universe in general. As a disclaimer, I still like the main character here, I just don’t like him as a portrayal to Goku. It’s even worse than Mario’s live action appearance and America’s first attempt at creating a Godzilla film. Goku simply isn’t Goku and that’s the problem. Unfortunately, one of the few things that they do keep in is the fact that Goku can turn into an Oozaru. This is one of my least favorite parts of DBZ so that was a little disappointing. As expected, Goku just roared a lot before finally transforming back to normal.
Unlike the real Goku, our hero is a very timid person and he lets the bullies have their way in the beginning. Usually the bullying scenes are always sad for the heroes, but at least we know that Goku could defeat them so it’s not as bad. This Goku brags a little more and he always wants everyone to know how strong he is. This Goku is constantly grimacing as if he’s in pain or something and his walk towards Piccolo is now famous. Intentionally hitting a fly into Gohan is also completely out of character and attempting to cheat during training is simply terrible. Goku is also a lot more interested in romance here, which won’t really be helping his reputation.
Now, let’s ignore the fact that this guy is supposed to be Goku. That makes things a lot more interesting. In that case, his personality is basically the same as Peter Parker. Goku’s pretty timid, but he does like to taunt the villains when he has finally had enough. He gets them to knock each other out and destroy a car while using some super acrobatics. I’m glad that Goku taught them a lesson and he looks decent from there on. He doesn’t hold back against Roshi and he confidently goes up against Piccolo. Goku can be a little cheesy at times, but overall he was a solid main character. He always fought to win and he never went down without a fight. This just wasn’t the Goku that I had been expecting and that’s the problem. I could likely go on about Goku, but this is the Dragon Ball Evolution Review and not the Goku comparison story.
Chi Chi is the main heroine of the film and she’s a good fighter. Her role may not be incredible at first, but she’s still a nice person. Her fighting skills are shown once she enters the tournament and then in her fight against Mai. She’s a good character as well and is a little easier to root for than her original counterpart. Chi Chi may be a little overconfident since she believes that she can defeat Goku in a fight, but that’s not necessarily a negative trait. Overconfidence can do wonders and it made Vegeta an awesome character.
Bulma is one of the main characters and her portrayal isn’t bad. She’s usually a good character in the original series as well so I definitely wouldn’t say that she’s better here, but at least Bulma’s character was good. She was one of the few characters who could hold her own in Evolution and I’m glad that they didn’t try to wreck her with a lot of romance. There was certainly some, but it was luckily glossed over. She was a decent fighter with her guns, but the film barely gives Bulma any opportunities to use them. I wouldn’t mind seeing her get some more action in the sequel as the gun fights provide a nice contrast to the hand to hand battles in the series.
Piccolo is the main villain and he’s not that bad. My only complaint with him would be the fact that Piccolo’s goal is vague at best. What does he have to gain from blowing up the world? I have nothing against villains blowing it up for no reason, but I have my doubts that Piccolo could survive this. Piccolo wanted the Dragon Balls and I guess that he would have made a wish, but if they mentioned this, it got lost in the long narration. Piccolo’s voice is appropriately deep and he’s a lot more experienced than Goku. Seeing him fly was pretty intense and he reminded me of General Zod from Man of Steel in appearance and personality. His only sad scene would likely be the post credits moment where Piccolo looks very, very weak. I would have preferred an epic line or a nice zoom in. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that. Either way, Piccolo makes for a solid villain against Goku.
We all knew that Master Roshi would be in the film, but I was still hoping that he would be cut out. He’s not as obnoxious as he tends to be in Dragon Ball, but it could be attributed to his lack of screen time. Roshi is still terrible and his few scenes are pretty bad. He’s easily the worst character in the film and it’s hard to feel bad for him in the climax. He should have trusted in Goku’s supreme abilities. Roshi also says that the heroes must hurry, but then he takes his time in the pit. If he could have jumped out all along….why spend most of the night down there letting Yamcha taunt everyone? The heroes lost a lot of time and Roshi could have prevented it all if he had just jumped. The humanity!
Yamcha is one of those characters who you can’t help but dislike. Yamcha didn’t appear that much in DBZ and while he was a terrible character in the original Dragon Ball series, he got better for Z. In Evolution, Yamcha really has no point and he never looks good. From the beginning, it’s impossible to take him seriously. He’s not a great fighter and he’s mostly there for the one liners and to get thrown around. The film definitely could have left him out and I would have been pretty happy about that. I can’t believe that the heroes fell for his trap.
Gohan doesn’t get a huge role, but Goku’s grandpa rarely does. He was all right and we don’t get many reasons to dislike him. He helps Goku get stronger and that’s really all that we can ask of him. It would have been nice if he could have looked a little more impressive during the big fight, but I suppose that it wasn’t meant to be. The cake that he baked looked pretty great.
Mai is one of the main villains of the film and she’s Piccolo’s right hand man. At least she is actually a solid character and she doesn’t shame her manga counterpart. I dare say that she is more likable than the original Mai from the manga and that’s saying something. I still can’t say that she is a great character since she gets no development. She’s just a villain who is there to take down the heroes and show them what true power really is. Her hand to hand skills are decent since she was doing well against Chi Chi and having a pair of guns always comes in handy.
The film is really devoid of an epic soundtrack. There should have been a good one for something like Dragon Ball, but it was likely not in the budget. It’s too bad because a few good tunes are always appreciated as they make the fights more enjoyable. At least I can imagine some real DBZ music for the fights…it’s a start.
The film has its share of romance as well. We get a little between Bulma and Yamcha while most of it is between Goku and Chi Chi. It may not be a whole lot, but it’s still more than the film needed. They should have spent more time focused on their training instead of being with each other. Why must these films insist on adding romance subplots that do not strengthen the characters or add anything substantial to the plot? It gives the film an excuse for Goku to fall for the fake damsel in distress trick, but that’s not something that I had been looking forward too.
This is one of those films that really could have used an extra hour. The film is just too short and you’re already in the climax before the film has time to do anything. Because of this, we have to skip most of the “Collecting the Dragon Balls” part and just launch into the action. Fighting the lava creatures was pretty fun, but I would have liked for them to have put up a little more resistance. The whole thing just felt a little too easy for the heroes if you ask me.
The film only has a few fight scenes so you’ll want to saver them. The first fight scene will definitely remind you of Spiderman as Goku pulls off a bunch of acrobatic moves to keep the bullies guessing. He beats them without actually attacking and the fight scene was fun with all of the random slow mo moments that would happen. We got to see Chi Chi fight Mai on two occasions, but one of them barely counted since it was all part of the plan. That fight was good although it was a little on the short side. There was a brief gunfight with Mai and Bulma and then the film concludes with a battle between Goku and Piccolo. That one is easily my favorite since you can finally see a little DBZ in it.
Goku and Piccolo attack each other so quickly that their hands are a blur and they also throw around a lot of ki blasts that destroy many of the rocks in the area. The big moment for fans was when Goku fired his Kamehameha, but it’s more of an air bending technique in the film. That means that we don’t get a cool beam and we only see a blast of air that Goku uses to ride through the sky and blast Piccolo. Well, that’s certainly one way to end the fight, but I simply cannot accept that as a Kamehameha. It just doesn’t work.
I have to say that one moment, which stood out was Goku’s house. After being blown up and smashed to pieces, we find out that a few rooms were still kept intact. The guys who built the house should be proud of themselves! Also, Bulma’s Dragon Radar is very strange. At times, it can sense Dragon Balls that are miles away and other times it can’t sense ones that are very near. They were in the tunnel for a long time before it finally located the Dragon Ball. That’s a little too long and they almost didn’t find it.
Overall, Dragon Ball Evolution was not as amazing as I had hoped, but it was still a solid film. You simply can’t compare it to the amazingness that is the DBZ anime or the Broly film in particular. Aside from that, I did enjoy the fighting scenes and the two main characters (Goku and Bulma) were likable. Some of the supporting characters were pretty bad and the film’s pacing is a little off. The romance and lack of soundtrack isn’t good so the film has a lot of ups and downs. In the end, it’s still pretty fun and I recommend it to any action fan. Trust me, you don’t need to know anything about Dragon Ball since the film writers mostly ignored it as well. There are enough plot holes and logical inconsistencies to make you get out the thinking cap. Oh yeah, make sure to stay past the credits for a bonus scene. It sets up the sequel and I’m sure that it would have been much better, but the actual scene is pretty bad and looks like the budget had been long gone by this time. I guess even post credit scenes can lose their epicness sometimes.