Mumbling Kitsune: What's Wrong With the Dragon Ball Live-Action Trailer? -

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Mumbling Kitsune: What's Wrong With the Dragon Ball Live-Action Trailer?

By Nadia Oxford     December 17, 2008

Dragon Ball Evolution
© 20th Century Fox

Well, a heck of a lot, actually...

The latest trailer for the live-action Dragon Ball movie has been drawing groans of pain from the anime fandom. Actually, the movie's official title is bellyache-inducing on its own: Dragon Ball Evolution.

Really, what the heck is that about? It may be folly to judge a movie by a trailer alone, but it's hard to remain hopeful for the final product.

It's unrealistic to expect a shonen anime to translate perfectly into a live-action movie. It's especially unrealistic to expect as much from Dragon Ball, which has characters flying and kicking each other into cliffs and ingesting three hundred times their body weight in rice. There's no possible way to put together a live-action Dragon Ball movie that's going to please everyone, but it would have been nice if Stephen Chow and James Wong had kept a few points in mind when penning the script. 

Why the sassy teenage Goku?--Dragon Ball's primary protagonist, Goku, is a killer alien sent to cleanse the Earth. A fortunate bonk on the head packed away his destructive instincts and he became a good-natured boy. Even as an adult through the Dragon Ball Z saga, Goku maintains an endearing balance of naivety, good nature and seriousness. He takes pleasure in life, but he's serious about protecting his family, the world, the universe—whatever he's called upon to guard.

The decision to cast Justin Chatwin as Goku in Dragon Ball Evolution has come under fire for various reasons. The main one (“He's not Asian!”) is easily dismissed: Goku isn't of Earth, after all. It's not a big deal if his actor doesn't subscribe to a particular nationality But neither is Goku some rad to the max teenager who's “not ready to handle” an invasion by Piccolo. Another one of Goku's positive traits is that he never doubts himself. In the manga and anime, he's the one to seek out Master Roshi and learn from him. He's the one who resolves to do whatever it takes to battle the threat of the Saiyans when they first land on Earth. Most of all, he's humble and innocent—traits that he seems to be lacking in the trailer.

Journey to the What?--It's not immediately clear what Dragon Ball Evolution plans to do with the series' extensive story. The original Dragon Ball is a goofy take on the Journey to the West fairy tale. Goku's story is fun because it features mismatched characters on a long rambling road. Along the way, they encounter monsters and magic. They make friends of enemies.

Dragon Ball Evolution is evidently loosely based on one of the series' later arcs: Piccolo's attack. Admittedly, it's one of the series' more serious story arcs, but there's something generic about the trailer's presentation of it.

The well-traveled path—The Dragon Balls have always been a mysterious artifact. Though their origins are explored in more detail as the series goes on, their function has always been obvious: to grant the finder(s) an awesome wish through a honkin' big dragon. Dragon Ball Evolution has turned the Balls into seven artifacts that banished some evil or something and need to be used again because oh my stars, that evil is coming back. To be fair, it's understandable why the movie would want a reason for Goku to go after the Balls beyond, “He just wants to, okay?” Too bad it has to be such a boring reason.

In the movie's defense—Journey to the West is a serious tale that Toriyama decided to put a humorous spin on. Dragon Ball Evolution might simply be seeking to put a serious spin on Toriyama's work.

It's not easy to put together a live-action version of a beloved cartoon. It rarely works out well. Is there anything wrong with trying? It's hard to give a yes or no answer to that. Dragon Ball Evolution radically alters the personality of a franchise thousands of anime fans grew up with. The decisions were obviously done in the name of marketability; part of the failing of mainstream anime and game movies has to do with the need to appeal to an audience outside the fandom. Sure, fans want to see young Goku travel with Bulma and run away from dinosaurs, but what about everyone else?

“Who cares about everyone else?” is the easiest response, but when there's a budget of $100 million that needs to be reimbursed, it becomes a lot harder to say.

We can only hope we all derive a crumb of enjoyment from Dragon Ball Evolution. 


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Sanity 12/17/2008 8:31:30 AM

From the looks of the trailer, this movie has an 80% chance of sucking. I think any time people see a green skinned bad guy, they just assume the movie is going to suck and don't see it.  And we don't always need these origin/introduction stories.  They should have just started with DBZ and gone from there.  Vegeta FTW.

violator14 12/17/2008 11:32:58 AM

I dont even know what to say anymore about this..... Im just sad........ 

sportwarrior 12/17/2008 11:39:51 AM

What's wrong with the Dragon Ball live action trailer?

It's a Dragon Ball live action trailer....

jetpackjesus 12/17/2008 2:17:50 PM

Well, sportwarrior said what I was going to say, literally, verbatum. 

I guess I'm covered.

mckracken 12/17/2008 7:03:36 PM

Nadia, its far easier to ask what they got right with the trailer... not much.

ok, i wasnt expecting much from an animated show that is basically the equivalant of ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS each episode... and even after several years off the screen, when the New Dragonball cartoon short popped up i had to click on the link (admittedly I aint much of a DBZ fan but my little nephews are, they'll eat this shit up (and thats exactly what it is..shit)) the latest cartoon episode is pretty much bullshit, any hope of anything coming forth from this anime cartoon has about as much chance of WOWing me as that dreaded Underdog live action movie or the two Garfield movies.

maybe now the "fans" are starting to catch on. I think its humanly NOT possible to adapt an anime (like this) into a live action movie because you lose all the Japanese character stylizations... sorry but no, I aint buying it. I know I know.. they did this with Deathnote and guess what.... it worked so they made a sequel.

fuck, for the love of God if hollywood realy wants to impress me, why wasnt this done in CGI like the last TMNT movie? that way they could have KEPT the character styles and yet wow'ed me with a CGI Dragonball movie... this live action shit is just that... shit.

i also think that they could have saved a ton of that $100 million dollar budget making the film ALL CGI (like the two Appleseed movies, the TMNT flick and the two Final Fantasy movies) dont all these movies have a budget lower than $100 million?
hanso 12/17/2008 7:19:23 PM

I have never seen an episode of Dragonball and that trailer sure as hell didn't make me want to check one out let alone the movie.  This movie will be shit.  What's sad is it will probably make some coin since the kiddies will go out to see it.

I wish someone would do Samurai X in live action. 

vichussmith 12/17/2008 9:53:12 PM

I'm probably the most positive about this movie. Like any other comic book adaptation, changes are made for the sake of adapting a story drawn out of years of continuity to make the movie palpable for a larger audience.  think that if anyone wants to see the young adventures of Goku, that's kinda crazy. . It would work for live action, without a doubt, but there is so much story to tell about young Goku alone.
To accurately tell the story properly, you would need about 6 movies to tel it all. I think that merging the history together is OK.

However, the wire-fu is giving me pause. I don't imagine that Goku is an agile guy. Goku always seemed like a direct guy, just hand-to-hand fighting rather than using slick acrobatic maneuvers.

Also, I HMATBE< the new name of the movie, but I tink that it's to separate the anime/manga from this unknown quantity that could either be its own success or a total disaster. It gives this movie distance from the mega success of Dragonball and Z. Hanso, what you said scaes me. I always think that a bad adaptation keeps people away from something they might have liked. DRagonball isn't shakespeare, but it was a great early anime for most anime fans.

SaintDemon 12/17/2008 11:33:27 PM

One thing to keep in mind is that this is Dragonball not Draongball Z. I know that was mentioned but I think Dragonball Z is probably referenced far more than Dragonball as it eliminated many of the perverse and slapstick aspects of the Dragonball series. This is not to say I don't enjoy Dragonball, but lets face it people have been clamoring around for a Dragonball Z movie not Dragonball.

Anyway, I'll agree in that the trailer does leave some questions and that it resembles a much more cartoony movie I guess. However, with Stephen Chow invovled the scenary fits his style. And if Chow is involved that means the comedy from Dragonball is probably intact. Another thing to remember is that Goku resembeled a little kid and I really wouldn't pay 9 dollars to watch a little kid running around fighting people. We have had enough of that crap from Three Ninjas and Surf Ninjas, and ... I digress there I think you get the point. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is pictures on the net of Goku in Monkey form. He looks rather odd, but this means that at least some of that idea is intact. My only fear is that the main antagonizing aspect of the quest is Goku trying to maintain his confidence while fighting his dark monkey side...sigh. I do agree that Goku was always confident and light hearted. After all he could ride the Nimbus Cloud because of that innoncence.

So yes the movie definitly has the potential of sucking, but try keeping an open mind, would you really be entertained by half the crap thats in anime if it was made real. Probably not. I mean dinosaurs may work for the anime, but I doubt they will work for the live action movie even if the movie concerns aliens from different planets doing something at some point in time evolving dragons and socery etc.

My question is, where the hell is Krillion that no nosed bas***d?

Dazzler 12/18/2008 4:29:20 AM

I can't wait for movie! 

Hopefully it's just a fun movie with hardcore mindblowing fighting.  Story does not have to be perfect.  The series never had good stories anyway.  These are like Rocky movies with martial arts, training to get to that next level or train to fight a certain enemy. 

BatmanForever 12/18/2008 5:25:08 AM

 Dec 17, 2008 - 11:39 AM 

Sportswarrior wrote:

"What's wrong with the Dragon Ball live action trailer?

It's a Dragon Ball live action trailer"




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