Some Things Just Can’t Be Undone

Dragonball: Evolution

Directed by Jason Wong, starring Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum and James Marsters. Released 2009

This movie blows.

Now, I wish I could stop there. I’d like to end it at that, turn around, walk away and try to suppress the memory of ever having seen this thing. But for some reason, I can’t. It was so terrible that I actually want to talk about it; I need to rant about this horrifying Anime adaptation and the crap that goes on in it, for the good of the land.

Dragonball: Evolution is directed by James Wong (Final Destination) and stars Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung and James Marsters. The movie is loosely based on the Dragonball Manga storyline and focuses on the fight between good and evil. Piccolo (Marsters) after previously being held prisoner on Earth for over 2,000 years is seeking the seven Dragonballs so that he can destroy the planet. It is then up to 18-year-old Goku aided by his new-found friends Bulma, Master Roshi, Mai and Yamcha, to find them first so he can destroy Piccolo because…well, because his Grandpa told him to.

As is the case with most Anime/Comic book film adaptations, things are changed and left out, it’s expected. Evolution tries taking the Dragonball mythos in its own direction which, from a directorial standpoint, is no easy task especially when it is a series as loved as Dragonball. You have to give a guy credit for attempting something that ballsy. Unfortunately, the movie changes too much of what made the series so great. I’m a huge Dragonball fan and instead of enjoying the first live-action movie of this awesome franchise, it felt like I was watching James Wong kick my childhood in the nuts for 85 minutes.

I made a list of annoying differences between the movie and the Manga on Screened, but it’s too large to go through in this review so I’ll stick to the ones that were the most drastic.

I’ll start out with the decision that made the least sense in the whole film. No Krillin. If you know DB or DBZ (I’m too cool to type them out) you know that Krillin is Goku’s best friend, and has been by his side for most every mission. The two of them even started out as rivals, right there is a potential source of conflict, but the movie doesn’t have his character at all. Not even so much as a little cameo or a name drop. It’s as if Krillin never existed.

Not only does the movie leave characters out, but the ones it leaves in get revamped to give them a more modern and Western feel. In the original Manga, Goku starts his adventure at age 12 while in the movie he is 18. The naïve child longing to practice and learn more techniques is gone and in its place is a brooding teenager depressed that he doesn’t fit in and that girls don’t like him. You know, the whole loser teenager that becomes a hero shtick which has been used so many friggin times (and with considerably more success). While this choice could’ve been to try to make the main character more relatable to older audiences, it drifts so far away from one of the most beloved characters in the franchise that it screams “I’m making this movie for money, who cares about the fans!”

Artist's interpretation of what I looked like after the movie.

Considering those departures and several other transformations in this film, it is a franchise failure. But it doesn’t stop there. Even as a stand-alone film, forgetting for a moment that Dragonball was ever a Manga series, this film is still terrible. It is overly cliché, with random plot elements disappearing and appearing out of nowhere, like Goku and the gang who happen to arrive at the precise moment Piccolo gathers all the Dragonballs. The visuals aren’t anything appealing and there weren’t any action sequences that blew my mind or really even entertained me, which is depressing considering the fact that the stunt company behind the action was the same for films like 300 and The Matrix.There’s overacting going on right and left, and not in the fun, campy 60s Batman style that makes it seem like a parody, instead the performances come across as uninterested and lackluster constantly reminding you they don’t want to be there either.

I had read some negative reviews for this before I watched it, but had I know it was this bad, I would’ve done the smart thing and watched Team Four Star’s DBZ parody. This is easily one of the worst films of 2009 (right behind G.I. Joe). Not even the power of the seven Dragonballs could resurrect this monstrosity from the grave, and if anyone tells you that you should watch this, slap them in the face. Then when they’re holding their cheek in pain and astonishment, look them in the eye, say “screw you” and slap them again. Oh, and what are you doing hanging out with a person like that in the first place? Slap yourself while you’re at it.

Phew, feels good to get that all off my chest. Hopefully you won’t make the same mistake I did, and you’ll stay away from this creation. I’ll have a more favorable review up here in the next couple of days but until then, here’s a cool picture to look at.

Heading In A Backwards Direction

It Might Get Loud

Director: Davis Guggenheim, Starring: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Released 2008.

It Might Get Loud is a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim about guitar legends Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge. There is no significant connection between these three other than they are deeply passionate about their music and the electric guitar, and the documentary is simply a conversation with these three about their influences in artistic style and their experiences in making music. While listening to three guys ramble on for two hours may sound like a pretty boring documentary, I couldn’t have been any more entertained when watching this movie.

It’s always fun to get into a conversation about something you’re tremendously passionate about. You get so excited that when you can’t hold back any longer,you open up the gates and unleash a stampede of hardly comprehensible dialogue  trying to show how much you know and care about something. Or, if you can’t do that, it’s just as much fun towatch people get into conversations about stuff they’re tremendously passionate about! (Now there’s an idea for a movie!)

It’s obvious these guys love what they do. Watching Jimmy Page rock out to Link Wray’s “Rumble” with a huge, childish grin on his face or listening to Jack White’s stories about capturing soul in his music the way his Son House, backwater blues influences did, should be evidence enough.Fact of the matter is these guys are artists one hundred percent and each story they tell is twice as touching and inspiring as the last.

Air Guitarin'

Documentaries are excellent at capturing real events, thus telling great stories and It Might Get Loud definitely does not disappoint in that regard. The editing and mashing of interviews, original filming and archival footage creates an amazing aesthetic effect, and sure tells one heck of a story. One example that really stands out is when The Edge talks about a point in his life when he doubted his song writing skills and didn’t think he was a very good artist and how he was living in a time where there was “such a disregard for human life”, and then after a brief pause it cuts to footage of him playing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in front of a massive  crowd. Good stuff.

As well as documenting stories, this film displays great camera work. From extreme close-ups of their fingers strumming to various pans and tilts of their guitars. This film not only captures the beauty of the artist, but the beauty of their instrument as well.

It Might Get Loud offers enough technical jargon to keep hardcore guitar fans satisfied and is a must see for documentary and music fans alike. Go watch it!