There have been many cases of adaptations eclipsing the popularity of the works that inspired then, too many to list here, but mainly by altering the work significantly for the new medium. It can become ironic that adaptations of those adaptations can become criticised for missing the original’s mark, especially when they take creative risks to set themselves apart. In 2009, the beloved manga franchise, got a western reimaging prime for the big screen, totally fresh in its interpretation, bringing the best of both worlds in Dragonball Evolution.
The evil Lord Piccolo attacked the world over 2000 years ago, but through the power of seven golden orbs called Dragonballs was banished away. 2000 years later, we meet Son Goku who is an outsider, gifted in strength and fighting ability, but constantly picked on, sworn to pacifism by his Grandfather. He just wants to get through high school and get the girl Chi-Chi. Meanwhile, Piccolo is back and wants the Dragonballs, killing Goku’s grandpa in the process to retrieve the one he had. Grandpa’s dying wish now sends Goku on a quest to track down Master Roshi, to complete his training, collect all the Dragonballs, and vanquish evil before the next solar eclipse.
The film is an adaptation in the purest sense of the work, taking the strengths of an established property and translating it to the big screen. A particular example being the effects works, using C.G.I. to deliver the superhuman martial arts and give a heightened sense of energy to the sophisticatedly choreographed moves. For those who like action, and humour will find a lot to love here. Not being too familiar with the franchise going in, I quickly picked up what was going on and newcomers will quickly adapt. Watchers will also find Goku’s predicament somewhat relatable, especially in the first part, and the not too confident in himself protagonist will probably speak to a lot of the audience.
The characters bare some resemblance to the drawings that inspired them but reinvented for a more contemporary setting of present-day earth. It is different, novel, and completely of its own. Comedy is at the forefront of a lot of Evolution’s efforts, or should I say, heart, as outside the quest and the constant conflicts, the central characters are developing and engaging. Especially with the inclusion of Master Roshi, whose hyperactive energy and humour take the soul of the film up to 11. The rest of the gang of associates that Goku amasses on his quest. I like the budding romance between Bulma, played by Emmy Rossum, and Yamcha, played by Korean rapper Joon Park. The evil Lord Piccolo is as menacing as you would hope, with assassin assistant Mai serving as quite formidable foes.
While it seemed destined for greater things, hinting at a future film franchise. Dragonball Evolution is a glorious introduction to the rich world, reinterpreted for the big screen. Action and heart go together as our leads venture to new territory, hunt for the Dragonballs and make friends along the way. Creative risks are taken to help differentiate the film from the source material, and other reimagined action/adventure films and traditionalists will find a lot to like here if they enter with an open mind. Even if you had seven Dragonballs yourself, I doubt you could wish for a better introduction.
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