‘Dragonball’ twists manga plot beyond recognition

Dragonball: Evolution" is short and funny and contains many of the classic, cliched scenes audiences love. If you take a couple of seconds to forget everything you ever knew about logic, physics, modern society and the original manga novels/TV series, you’re sure to enjoy it. Remember any of those things, however, and you’ll leave the theater with a headache.

Loosely based on the "Dragon Ball" and "Dragon Ball Z" manga (Japanese comics) series and the television series of the same names, "Dragonball: Evolution" takes most of its concepts from the originals but creates its own (mostly illogical) story line.

In the movie, Goku (played by the undeniably cute but meagerly talented Justin Chatwin) lives with his grandfather in what seems to be the near future. Grandfather Gohan (Randall Duk Kim) raises Goku to be an almost superhuman martial artist, and entrusts him with a mysterious dragonball (a magical orb) on the morning of Goku’s 18th birthday. Later that day, the evil Lord Picollo (the very green James Marsters) shows up to steal the dragonball, failing to take it and injuring Gohan in the process. Gohan lives just long enough for Goku to magically realize he needs help and then rush over to hear his dying words — instructions to find someone named Master Roshi and gather the seven dragonballs before the eclipse in two weeks. If he doesn’t, Piccolo (who caused mass destruction 2,000 years ago and apparently just broke free of his prison) will team up with his old partner in crime, Oozaru, and destroy the Earth.

Goku joins up with Bulma (Emmy Rossum), a spoiled rich genius who also is hunting for the dragonballs; Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat), a martial arts friend of Grandfather Gohan’s; and Yamcha (Joon Park), a bandit who joins them in hopes of riches. The rest of the movie follows Goku and his companions (who all randomly decide to believe that the world is in danger) as they try to gather the dragonballs and stop Lord Piccolo.

The film is only an hour and 25 minutes long, and while it’s a relief that the director chose not to lengthen the audience’s embarrassment, more time should have been taken to explain various key issues. For example, the audience never learns how Piccolo escaped from his prison, or where he got his supercool (if physically impossible) spaceship. Yamcha and Bulma’s motives for helping Goku and Master Roshi also are never really touched on.

While each of the main characters of "Dragonball: Evolution" can be found in the manga, the plot is twisted almost beyond recognition and the characters themselves differ both in looks and mannerisms from the originals. The ratio of changes to similarities is perfectly balanced to make any self-respecting fan of the manga or TV series want to scream.

Some things just don’t translate well in live action, and "Dragon Ball" is one of those things. The cute, futuristic world of the manga seems juvenile on the big screen, and the "martial arts" moves (such as shooting beams of energy from one’s hands) look just as bad.

Coupled with the movie’s bad acting and embarrassing special effects, this means that no one possessing any degree of logical thinking skills can take "Dragonball: Evolution" seriously.

Overall, "Dragonball: Evolution" is the perfect kind of movie for viewers to laugh at with friends if it shows up on cable. Money spent on tickets, DVDs or rentals of "Evolution" would, however, be wasted.

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