Dragonball: Evolution is a 2009 Japanese-American action-adventure science fantasy film directed by James Wong of The X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond and Final Destination fame. The film is loosely based on the Japanese Dragon Ball manga created by Akira Toriyama as well as Toei's 1986-1989 anime series and stars Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Chow Yun-fat, Joon Park, and Eriko Tamura.
On his 18th birthday, Goku (Justin Chatwin) receives a mystical Dragonball as a gift from his grandfather. There are only six others like it in the whole world, and legend has it that whoever possesses all seven will be granted one perfect wish. When the arrival of a dark force triggers a tragedy, Goku and his companions (Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum) are propelled into an epic quest to collect the seven Dragonballs and save the Earth from destruction.
Why It's KAMEHAME-HORRIBLE
- Very, very poor acting, such as Justin Chatwin and Emmy Rossum, who are laughable as the iconic characters Goku and Bulma.
- Terrible fight choreography. For example, in one fight, Goku somehow slides across a car using his head.
- Extremely poor grasp of the source material. For example:
- The film doesn't follow any of the plots of both the manga and the anime series at all.
- In the original manga and anime, Goku is a naive, midget-sized 12-year-old kid who has no idea what a girl is and never had any proper schooling, but in this film, Goku is a tall, angsty 18-year-old bullied high school student who already has a crush on Chi-Chi (Chung). He also is a disrespectful team captain who is racist and sings in high school instead of the iconic character from the show that would never do.
- In a scene where Goku uses the Kamehameha, he randomly starts flying up into Lord Piccolo for no reason whatsoever.
- Oozaru in this film barely even resembles himself from the manga and anime series and is smaller in comparison to his originally gargantuan size.
- Master Roshi using the Kamehameha wave to revive Goku after he gets shot by one of the villains.
- Goku learns about 'air bending of all things, which blatantly rips off Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- Goku is much weaker here compared to his original manga/anime counterpart, where he gets killed by an ordinary bullet, while in both the original manga and the anime series, bullets barely affected him to the point where they felt like mere bee stings.
- The movie implies that Nameks nearly destroyed earth 2000 years ago. But in the manga/anime Nameks were a peaceful alien race.
- The new designs for the characters did not sit well, such as Bulma's change of hair color for example.
- Very cheap, poor, and laughably awful special effects, especially for the dragon Shenron and Lord Piccolo's airship.
- Unlikeable characters like Carey Fuller, Goku's bully being the worst offender.
- Lots of clichéd and laughable dialogue and awful writing.
- The terrible CGI is completely obvious as mentioned above, and so are the green-screen backgrounds.
- The movie is filled with plot holes aplenty, like how Lord Piccolo escaped from his prison.
- All of the characters are grossly miscast and look nothing like their original counterparts.
- On the subject of that, the film was falsely accused of whitewashing by casting Chatwin (a white actor) in the role of Goku (who is factually an alien but wrongly considered to be of Asian type with no evidence).
- The romance between Goku and Chi-Chi is like that from a teen drama show on The CW rather than like in the original Dragon Ball manga/anime.
- Many of the iconic characters from the original series are completely absent, such as Launch, Krillin, Piccolo Jr, and Emperor Pilaf.
- The movie was so universally hated that the screenwriter for this movie, Ben Ramsey, apologized for it in 2016, admitting that he knew nothing about the franchise, did limited research, and it was nothing more than an easy cash grab for him.
- Unlike the original anime series, which had a now-iconic Latin American dub among Latin American fans, the Latin American dub for this movie was very poor and unfitting for some characters, especially Goku.
- Executive meddling: The film was originally conceived to be more faithful to the manga than the final project. However, Fox rejected the script which is the reason why the film is as it is.
- Good soundtrack composed by Brian Tyler.
- Chow Yun-fat is pretty good as Master Roshi, even if he doesn't even remotely look like his original counterpart.
- James Marsters is actually pretty good as Lord Piccolo. He is a huge fan of the Dragon Ball series, and you can tell he had a lot of fun playing Lord Piccolo. He would later go on to voice Zamasu in Dragon Ball Super (under the credit of David Gray).
The film currently holds a 2.5/10 on IMDb and has a 20% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dragonball: Evolution was met with extremely negative reception from critics, viewers, fans, particularly for its script, cast, and unfaithfulness to the source material. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 15% approval rating based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 3.5/10. The site's consensus states, "Executed with little panache or invention, Dragonball Evolution lacks the magic that made the books on which it was based a cult sensation.". On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 45 out of 100, based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of C+ on a scale of A to F.
Akira Toriyama himself, who commissioned the production of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' years after this movie's release, has never stated that he hated the film though and has stated that he thinks of the movie as an alternate universe. In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun on Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, Toriyama revealed that he felt the Hollywood producers did not listen to him and his ideas and suggestions and that the final version was not on par with the original Dragon Ball series, and felt the result was a movie he couldn't even call "Dragon Ball".
Screenwriter Ben Ramsey however has since apologized for the film, saying that "to have something with my name on it as the writer be so globally reviled is gut-wrenching. To receive hate mail from all over the world is heartbreaking".
It is also YouTube film reviewer Chris Stuckmann's (a big fan of Dragonball) most hated film of all time, leading him to do three reviews on it.
The fan backlash was so severe that it convinced Akira Toriyama to start working on two new Dragon Ball Z films, which eventually led to the creation of the Dragon Ball Super, the sequel series to Dragon Ball Z.
- The Playstation Portable game adaptation of the movie contains extra plot details closer to the original manga: most notably, Goku is confirmed to be called Kakarot, being a Saiyan from Planet Vegeta. Those elements are not being mentioned in the movie, it is possible it was based on an early draft.