Date: 2009 April 08 14:35
Posted by LittleWoodenBoy
Here's a review of the the live action film based on Akira Toriyama's manga Dragonball. The story follows Son Goku as he tries to finad the seven Dragonballs in order to defeat the evil Piccolo.
Lets get the main point out of the way first. If you're after a direct adoption of the original source material, this film isn't for you. Though unless your a young child, this film wouldn't be for you.
The film starts by telling us that two thousand years ago the evil Piccolo, along with his henchmonkey Oozaru, made the earth a living hell. Piccolo was imprisoned into an ornamental jar using a technique called the mafu-ba. With Oozaru just vanishing.
We then move to see Goku training with his Grandfather. Goku is being trained to use his energy (or ki). He then tells his Grandfather he doesn't feel normal like the other people and asks for help getting the girl. His Grandfather cant offer him any wisdom on those topics, but as its his 18th birthday, he gives him the four starred Dragonball.
Goku then heads off to school where he has a run in with some jock like characters. Having promised his Grandfather not to fight he backs down. A bit later he helps a girl by the name of Chichi get into her locker only to find she is also a fighter. As luck would have it, Chichi is throwing a fancy party that evening and invites Goku.
Goku turns up to her rather fancy mansion (Fry Pan mountain its not) and runs into the people giving him hassle at school. This time he starts a fight but keeps avoiding the attacks to they take each other out.
During this time Piccolo and Mai (presumably bumped up from being Pilaf's aid) pay a visit to Goku's house looking for the dragonball, only to find Goku has taken it with him. Goku's Grandfather is no match for Piccolo, who leaves him injured and collapses half the house on him.
Sensing something is wrong, Goku leaves Chichi and gets back to find his Grandfather moments before he dies. But long enough for his Grandfather to impart some useful information to him (just like in Spider-man). He must find Master Roshi and the other dragonballs. For when all seven dragonballs are together, they will grant one wish, and they need to wish Piccolo out of existence.
As if that wasn't bad enough, a mystery person starts shooting at him. This turns out to be Bulma. A genius inventor who has made a gizmo that locates the energy that the dragonballs give off. The two pair up and set off to find the dragonballs.
On their travels to stop Piccolo, they meet Master Roshi, a slightly lecherous martial artist who teaches Goku the kamehameha and Yamcha, a desert bandit surf dude type (who cant fight so no Fist of the Wolf Fang).
As can be see above, Goku has been changed into an insecure person chasing Chichi. Yamacha doesn't fight and Master Roshi's pervertedness has been toned down.
So its part Pilaf saga and part King Piccolo saga. Well it would be if Piccolo was in it for more than a handful of scenes until the end fight. You never get a sense he is truly evil either. The interesting back story he has in the manga is gone and its never explained how he escaped after being sealed.
Dragonball's origins as a shonen manga should at least mean fighting. There are a few okay fights if you've never seen a martial arts film before, one in particular (Goku and Master Roshi vs Piccolo's clone monsters) has been edited with the grace of a chainsaw. The final fight is also amazing short by Dragonball standards. Though these are also limited by the films age restriction.
At only 84 minutes long, its the perfect length for children, but it could have done with an extra 20 minutes to try and fill in some plot gaps and extend the action.
With the main characters now set up, a sequel could focus more on the action. A film of the Tenka Ichi would be able to bring in more of the supporting cast and possibly showcase the action the series is known for.
Children might enjoy it, but there's not enough action or enough of a story for adults.
On the plus side, the jpop track on the credits is quite good.