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Movie Review

Dragonball: Evolution a.k.a. “Dragonball,” “Dragon Ball Z,” “Dragon Ball,” “Dragonball Evolution,” “Qi long zhu: Quanxin jinhua,” “Chat lung jyu: Chyunsan jeunfa,” “Deuraegonbol ebollusyeon,” “Dragon Ball Evolución,” “Dragonball—I exelixi,” “Dragonball: Evoluce,” “Dragonball: Ewolucja”

MPAA Rating: PG for intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language.

Reviewed by: Taran Gingery

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family, Teens, Kids
Sci-Fi, Action, Thriller, Adventure, Fantasy, Live action
1 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 8, 2009 (wide—2,181 theaters)
DVD: July 28, 2009
Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
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Copyright, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

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Featuring: Justin Chatwin
“War of the Worlds,” “The Invisible”

Yun-Fat Chow
star of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”

Emmy Rossum
star of “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Day After Tomorrow”

James Marsters
“Smallville” TV series, “P.S. I Love You,” “House on Haunted Hill”

Joon Park
“Speed Racer”

Jamie Chung, Luis Arrieta, Texas Battle, Richard Blake, Ernie Hudson, Randall Duk Kim, Shavon Kirksey, Julian Sedgwick, Eriko Tamura
Director: James Wong
“Final Destination”
Producer: Dune Entertainment, Star Overseas, Twentieth Century Fox, Stephen Chow, Rodney Liber, Jose Ludlow, Rich Thorne, Tim Van Rellim
Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

“Master your destiny”

Goku (Justin Chatwin) is an ordinary teenage boy. He goes to school every day. He dreams about his crush, a girl named Chi Chi (Jamie Chung). He goes home and practices his martial arts moves with his grandfather.

So, maybe he’s not so ordinary. But his life is about to become extraordinary. For on his birthday, he receives from his grandfather a strange gift—a mysterious orange sphere called a Dragon Ball. When Goku comes home that night from a party, he finds his house destroyed and his grandfather who, near death, tells him as his last words that there are in fact seven Dragon Balls and an evil force has returned to find them.

The evil force is one Piccolo (James Marsters) of an alien race, who was imprisoned hundreds of years ago for trying to use the Dragon Balls to destroy the Earth. Now, he has escaped and is eager as ever to find the Balls to fulfill his mission. With the help of Bulma (Emmy Rossum), a girl who is on the same mission to find the Balls, Goku must seek out Master Roshi (Yung-Fat Chow), who will in turn help him finish his training and find the Dragon Balls before Piccolo does, and so prepare him to face his destiny in battle.

As far as spirituality goes, there isn’t anything Christian about this movie. Goku, Roshi and others rely on the powers of something called the Ki, a mystical force that resides in everything in the universe, but can be used by a focused and skilled warrior as a weapon. The Ki is similar in many ways to The Force in “Star Wars.” This New Age-y spirituality isn’t necessarily the center of the story, but it can be problematic nonetheless. Also, when combined, the powers of the Dragon Balls can be used to summon either the destructive demon Oozaru or Shen Long, a dragon with healing powers.

There is also quite a bit of violence, although none of it is bloody. Several martial arts fights take place, with kicks to the face, and there are several shootouts, particularly involving Bulma, who enters fights usually with two guns blazing. One fight takes place against several nasty-looking alien warriors, who are killed by being thrown into a lava pit (and then used as stepping stones!). Piccolo uses his own blood to give life to these warriors in a frightening scene and later, another character’s transformation into the demon Oozaru is quite scary. Very brief flashbacks show Piccolo annihilating whole cities.

There is also language in the form of mild swearing and misuse of God’s name. A few female characters also show some cleavage and mild innuendo is scattered throughout the dialogue. Two characters kiss passionately.

“Dragonball Evolution” is based on a popular Japanese anime series of which I know little, so I cannot say if the spirituality and/or violence present are consistent with the animated show. I will say that, as a film, “…Evolution” fails in the areas of character development, acting, and screenplay, but succeeds with some impressive action and special effects, and it does give us characters that are noble, self-sacrificial, and courageous. As a movie marketed towards families, unless the kids are familiar with the animated series and the movie is similar enough, there is too much martial arts and mixed New Age spirituality to warrant a recommendation.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—I grew up watching DBZ. I *was* (hence at one time) vaguely aware of Dragonball Z’s backstory; i.e. Dragonball. Between muddled recollections of being 13, watching toonami weekday afternoons and this fuzzy awareness of DB, it suffices to say DB Evo falls somewhere ‘twixt the two in the DB chronology. Do I like it? I like that it’s clean. I appreciate knowing the characters ahead of time; I can’t imagine an outsider trying to watch this subpar piece of celluloid. I also like the particle effects scattered throughout. Heck, I even like Justin Chatwin as Goku. The guy’s awesome in The Invisible, and he pulls it off as the big lovable oaf Goku. Emmy Rossum is a plus ‘swell. So would I see “Dragonball Evolution” again? Probably not. I paid my dues, good faithful patron that I am. The scripting is worse than the worst of Alfred Gough/Miles Millar’s yarns (cf. “Smallville,” “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”)! The story… too childish, an outright lampooning of the show it derives itself from (and the show, being a children’s anime, has its share of really ridiculous moments)! The special effects? Too much is a bad thing kinda thing. Poor acting! On and on… ad nauseam. It’s unfortunately not even “so bad, it’s good” like the ol’ Mario Bros. movie. It’s just plain bad. But, to counteract the otherwise low rating this flick is doomed for, I have to give some credit for being purty clean. That makes a diff in this polluted day ‘n age.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Keenum, age 22 (USA)
Comments from young people
Neutral—this was a fun movie to watch. it was very cool, but it did have some problems, it had a some praying(to false gods),it had a little mild cursing, and master rishu to put it short is a pervert(in one seen this girl found a bikini photo book in rishu`s home and in two scenes he toched the girls butt). overall this was a cool movie I recomend this movie for teens 13 and up
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Alexander, age 11 (USA)