Dragonball: Evolution – Z Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by James Wong
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 85 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: July 28, 2009
Review Date: July 29, 2009
Graphic novels have been brought to the screen in exciting, involving fashion (think ‘300´or Sin City), but when you’ve got rich, fun material to work with but little in the way of an inspired cast or vivid behind-the-scenes participants, the results can be something as lacking as Dragonball: Evolution. The original Japanese manga series the film is based on was a phenomenon, but fans undoubtedly will find much to criticize about the execution of the story and the casting of some of its characters represented here.
On the anniversary of his eighteenth year of life, Goku (Justin Chatwin), who trains every day under the watchful eye of feisty grandfather Gohan (Randall Duk Kim), has been promised the revelation of a secret. Gohan presents Goku with a dragonball, one of seven in existence, ownership of all seven rewarding the possessor with one granted wish, but Goku’s more serious thoughts are about attending a party being thrown by high school crush Chi Chi (Jamie Chung). While Goku is at the party, Gohan is attacked and killed by the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) and his lethal female henchwoman Mai (Eriko). They’re looking for all seven dragonballs as well and will stop at nothing to get them. With his grandfather dead, Goku’s training falls under the stewardship of Master Roshi (Chow Yun-fat), and on their journey to find the other orbs, their group will be joined by plucky Bulma (Emmy Rossum), the hip thief Yamcha (Joon Park), and, surprise surprise, Goku’s object of affection Chi Chi who turns out to be quite a martial artist.
Pitched at a young audience (note the PG rating), Dragonball: Evolution features very one-dimensional characters. Each of the main characters has a central attribute but little else of substance, and Chow Yun-Fat’s Roshi mixes a serious philosophical mantra with extremely juvenile behavior that seemed to be working at crossed purposes. Youngsters probably won’t care; they’ll be enjoying the nerdy Goku outsmarting some bullies at Chi Chi’s party without throwing a punch or getting grossed out when director James Wong goes in for a close-up with grandpa chowing down on chicken feet. Ben Ramsey’s screenplay includes the necessary adolescent groin jokes and girl-on-girl fighting, but he does get a moment of psychological insight into Goku’s dual personality in a surprising revelation late in the film, the surprise that Goku’s grandfather had waited until he was eighteen to surprise him with but died before he could tell him. Special effects work is all over the map with the film. The martial arts training sequence balancing on ropes is obviously and amateurishly presented, and the melding of CGI with live action calls attention to itself too often lessening its impact.
Performances, however, are the most disappointing aspect of the production. Justin Chatwin looks almost nothing like the Goku of the original illustrations, and while he’s pleasant and professional, there doesn’t seem to be the spark of a leader there. Joon Park seems to be a surfer fresh off the waves at Malibu rather than the cocky master thief he’s supposed to be playing. Both major female leads Emmy Rossum and Jamie Chung do well enough with the material they’re handed, but Chung especially seems to take a too-juvenile approach to her dialog delivery. James Marsters is appropriately commanding as the evil Lord Piccolo.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Image quality is an erratic affair with this title with contrast often too light and images not crisp and dimensional. When contrast is done well, color saturation is often too overpowering with skin tones unappealingly orange. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a very good audio presentation, typical of a better than average modern action movie mix with some imaginative use of the rear channels on occasion, low bass that kicks in at regular intervals, and some infrequent but effective pans from front to back.
Goku’s Quest Game allows a player to rewatch the film and try to find the seven dragonballs which will then reward you with a bonus featurette.
There are eight deleted scenes which may be watched individually or in one 11 ¼-minute grouping. They’re presented in 1080p.
“Goku’s Workout” is a 4 ¾-minute featurette featuring two members of the fight stunt team putting participants through stretching and movement exercises to get into better shape. It’s in 1080p.
The Bruno Anthony’s music video of the song “Worked Up” lasts 3 ¼ minutes and is in 1080p.
A 2 ½-minute gag reel (not particularly amusing) is presented in 1080i.
The most substantial extra is Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School, three USC film school students interviewing star Justin Chatwin about his life, his preparation for the film, and his career for 25 minutes. It’s in 480i.
There are trailers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Street Fighter, and Pink Panther 2.
The second disc in the set is a digital copy of the film with the serial number and instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices included on an enclosed card.
2.5/5 (not an average)
The kids may like it, but Dragonball: Evolution is a merely okay transference of the graphic novel to the big screen. Offering some top names doing often less than their best work, the film’s Blu-ray presentation is also an up-and-down affair.