Monday, March 16, 2009
The judgment upon Dragonball: Evolution is greatly dependent on the audience’ background. To a western viewer with no idea about the original comic, or the “Wuxia” culture in China, Japan & Korea (the so-called “CJK area”), or the RPG game culture in this area, would find this movie quite interesting. But on the contrary, if you grew up with such culture like me, you would find this movie just another lousy try of “translating” the Eastern world to Western.
The story is really nothing new to any CJK ppl born after 1980’s (actually we have a special name for them, “post 80’s”), even he or she never read any single page of the original comic (which is, actually quite unlikely). There are a whole bunch of other comics, games and even novels following the same pattern: a “normal” kid, some day found out that he (yup, most likely to be a “he”) was actually very “not normal”, and got a big task to accomplish (like, save the world); so he set off for the adventure, and got some team members gradually on the way; they practiced their kongfu or chi or magic or all of them, and beat some bad guys or monsters of ghosts or all of them, bought or found or even robbed some brilliant weapons or armors or tools or all of them, and finally there would be a dual with the biggest bad guy (we have a nickname for those guys, “boss”, quite funny, huh?). OK, even if you are not a CJK kid, as long as you are a kid, or once to be a kid, that got some experience in the game world, you will know what I’m talking about.
The task of making a Dragonball movie with human actors is not like that of making a Harry Potter or LOTR movie. In the later ones, there were only books of pure words available, so using “live” landscapes and moving ppl and animals was good enough to milk the cash cow of the fans. But for Dragonball, there had been the popular comic books, TV and all other related commercials, and if you had nothing new or very impressive, you were doomed. Take the Batman series as an example: The original comic book and TV were there, so the first movie version got some new weapons for the dark knight, and the following sequels got either some new stories, or new roles, or upgraded vehicles and weapons, even the mask was designed to follow the latest fashion trend! Unfortunately, I couldn’t see such effort in this Dragonball movie. It’s more like a “recession version”: The total length of the movie is even less than 90 min!
Another big problem with this movie is very common to any Hollywood movie that trying to use some “Eastern elements”: Those “Eastern elements” are just not “Eastern” to real eastern ppl, but to Hollywood only. Like Lucy Liu is the China Doll forever to Hollywood, Jamie Chung (As Chi-Chi, a.k.a., girlfriend of the leading role, Goku) was cast to be a representative of eastern beauty, but trust me, no CJK boy will really thinks that she is prettier than most girls in his classroom. Don’t even mention Justin Chatwin as Goku – We just cannot imagine why Hollywood producers could not accept a really Asian-blooded boy (preferably CJK blood) to play this role. Although Goku was actually the reincarnation of Ozaru (literally “big monkey” in Japanese), which means he could be any race, the minds of most fans have been already set. I mean, can you imagine that we got Jackie Chan to play Spiderman?
There are also other problems with the details, such as the “Kame-Ha” looks more like Tai-Chi for old ppl, and the dragon in the final scene seems to be pregnant. Don’t wanna list them all here. The point is, is it really that hard to ask every staff of this movie to read just one volume of the original comic?
BTW there are some “hidden scenes” after the list of the cast and staff, which are the “triggers” of the sequel. I missed it, cuz the movie was so not exciting, that I just wanted to leave as soon as the first name came out on the screen.