I’m no fan of anime and I’ve never seen a Dragonball cartoon, but Dragonball: Evolution is pretty good. It’s for kids but it looks good and the action is solid.
Review: Dragonball Evolution
It starts out with a prologue about a mystical war that brought peace to our world… until now. Whatever, they’re all the same. The character motivations are simple, but they’re sincere so they don’t come across as totally one dimensional.
What shows that Dragonball has something to offer are the opening shots of Goku (Justin Chatwin). Slow motion sweat in a closeup on his eyes and then nose looks like anime frames. Indeed all of the fights will have anime-style punctuations, but in live-action. The CGI sometimes looks silly, with kicking bodies prone frozen, but it’s supposed to look like anime. The effects of the light pulses certainly look good.
The fights are similar to ones we’ve seen in great martial artist film: balancing on thin lines, evasive non-fighting and the classic fast hitting/slow blocking. The twist is that they’re in a kids’ movie with anime-like effects. The doubles are doing the hard stuff but they’re doing good movies. It’s not totally Hong Kong, but it looks right. It presents the fights in a format fitting to a live-action anime and appropriate for kids. The only thing that’s cheesy is lines like “eat dirt,” but that’s where it’s toned down for kids.
Of course it works, it’s a Ben Ramsay script. He wrote The Big Hit which had the most outrageous Hong Kong style actions scenes of its time, and brilliant irreverence with standoffs over an overdue video tape and chronic masturbation. Of course he can do a magical quest that’s empowering for kids but have fun with the genre. It’s this generation’s Surf Ninjas, and if you remember that at all then you know what I mean.
It’s slow in the middle because instead of fighting, they’re just looking for some balls. They explain what DBE is which must mean a lot to fans of the series or games. It’s still Chow Yun-Fat’s best American movie.