Dragonball Evolution is a 2009 American live-action film adaptation of the Dragon Ball franchise produced by 20th Century Fox. The story centers around the adventures of the lead character, Goku, on his 18th birthday. The film began development in 2002 and was directed by James Wong and produced by Stephen Chow. It was released in Japan on March 13, 2009, in the United Kingdom on April 8, 2009, and in North America on April 10, 2009. Actor Justin Chatwin was cast as Goku, and James Marsters portrays Lord Piccolo, the antagonist of the film. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray July 24, 2009, for the Asian market, and on July 28, 2009, for North America and Europe.
The events depicted in the movie take place in a dimension separate from the main timeline.
The story follows Goku, a young man adopted and trained by the martial arts master, Grandpa Gohan. One evening, while Goku is at a party of his high school crush, Chi-Chi, Grandpa Gohan is attacked by Lord Piccolo, who was searching for one of the Dragon Balls. Goku returns to find his adoptive grandfather die in his arms, but not before being told to search for his own master, Roshi, and a cryptic warning relating to the eclipse, the Dragon Balls, Piccolo and his lost servant, Oozaru.
As Goku sets out to begin his journey, he encounters Bulma, who had her own Dragon Ball stolen from her and is hoping to find the others and use them for research and make a scientific breakthrough. They head to Master Roshi's together, who in turn joins them to help them find the Dragon Balls before Piccolo does.
At the Stone Temple, Goku, Bulma, and Master Roshi discover that Chi-Chi is a fighter, and often enters the tournaments. With Grandpa Gohan's and Master Roshi's Dragon Balls, they seek out their third Dragon Ball in the desert, but fall into the trap of a bandit named Yamcha, whom Roshi convinces to join them by telling him the Dragon Balls can make him rich.
After Piccolo and his servant, Mai, find three Dragon Balls (one of which Mai stole from Capsule Corp), Piccolo uses his blood to create monsters which he sends after Goku, Bulma, Roshi, and Yamcha as they enter a volcano where their third Dragon Ball is. Using the monsters' bodies as a bridge to get across the lava, Goku gets the Dragon Ball.
With little time before the eclipse, Roshi learns the Mafuba, an attack that will seal King Piccolo away in a containment vessel but will deplete the user's life force. In the tournament at the Stone Temple, Mai scratches Chi-Chi and takes a sample of her blood. After Roshi teaches Goku the Kamehameha, Mai disguises herself as Chi-Chi and steals Goku's Dragon Balls and takes them to Piccolo.
Goku, Bulma, Roshi, and Yamcha go to face Piccolo, who now has all seven Dragon Balls and attempts to summon Shenron, the Eternal Dragon. However, Roshi stops him at the last moment. Piccolo informs Goku that he is Oozaru, and at the eclipse, Goku transforms into Oozaru the Destroyer. Roshi uses the Mafuba in an attempt to trap Piccolo, but Piccolo destroys the containment vessel, and Roshi dies from using the Mafuba, but not before he gets through to Goku, returning him to his original form.
While Goku fights Piccolo, Mai chases Bulma through a maze, and is about to kill her and take her Dragon Ball, when she is shot in the back and killed by Yamcha. Goku uses the power of both Goku and Oozaru to fight King Piccolo, and as Piccolo shoots a powerful energy wave at Goku, Goku hits him with a Kamehameha wave, and defeats him (somewhat mirroring his defeat in the anime).
Goku summons Shenron and wishes Master Roshi back to life. The Dragon Balls scatter, and so they must find them again. But first, Goku asks Chi-Chi to marry him, and they enter a sparring match.
In the middle of the credits, a scene is shown where a woman (whom Piccolo and Mai earlier took a Dragon Ball from) is nursing Piccolo, who survived the battle with Goku, back to health.
In March 2002, 20th Century Fox acquired feature film rights to the Dragon Ball franchise. In June 2004, Ben Ramsey, who wrote The Big Hit, was paid $500,000 to adapt Dragon Ball Z. In 2007, James Wong and Stephen Chow were announced as director and producer respectively, and the project was retitled Dragonball Evolution. Wong rewrote the script. The first full color image of Justin Chatwin as Goku was released in the 24th issue of Weekly Young Jump. Chow was a Dragon Ball fan, citing its "airy and unstrained story [which] leaves much room for creation", but explained he would only serve as producer because he believes that he should only direct stories he had created. 87Eleven, the stunt performance company that worked on The Matrix and 300, worked on the film. Ariel Shaw, who worked on Wong's entries in the Final Destination series and 300, is visual effects supervisor. Robert MacLachlan, who also worked on Wong's Final Destination films, serves as cinematographer.
Shooting began on December 3, 2007 in Mexico City, Mexico. Locations included the Universidad Tecnológica de México. From January 2, 2008, the crew shot at Durango. The crew moved to Estado de México in March for some shots at Nevado de Toluca. Shooting is was scheduled at Los Angeles, California. In adapting the Dragon Ball manga, the futuristic cities were kept. However, the anthropomorphic creatures and talking animals (such as Turtle, Oolong, Puar, and Korin) were dropped. Many of the locations are very Oriental, and are some Aztec influence too, particularly from their temples. It was thought that Rossum would wear a blue wig to resemble her anime counterpart, but due to some promotional images, it was turned out that she would not be wearing a blue wig. Instead she would have her natural brown with a blue hair strand down the middle of her hair. Chatwin also would not wear a wig as the director felt Chatwin's hair resembled Goku's. A large amount of Dragonball Evolution was shot in an abandoned jeans factory, also located in Durango, Mexico.
Dragonball Evolution special effects were done by Amalgamated Dynamics, while the visual effects were done by Ollin Studios, Zoic Studios, and Imagine Engine. The film has the anime style of fighting in Dragon Ball Z, such as ki energy waves and auras.
On December 9, 2008, it was confirmed that the theme song would be "Rule" by Japanese pop icon Ayumi Hamasaki. The choice was because director James Wong wanted the movie adaptation of a series born in Japan to be sung by a Japanese person and was particularly impressed with Hamasaki. "Rule" is being used as the theme song for every country's release.
The film was originally slated to be named Dragonball. However, on December 10, 2008, a trailer was released using the name Dragonball Evolution and Fox licensed the domain name DragonballEvolutionMovie.com indicating the film had been renamed.
Comparison to Akira Toriyama's manga
- Sub-article: Comparison to Akira Toriyama's manga
Dragonball Evolution was initially scheduled to be released in North America on August 15, 2008, then moved to April 10, 2009, to allow time to do additional filming and post-production work. On November 11, 2008, it was formally announced that the film's release had been changed to April 8, 2009.
Though an American film, Dragonball Evolution was released in Japan on March 13, 2009, nearly a month before its American release.
A film novelization written by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon, Dragonball: The Junior Novel, has been solicited by Viz Media with a February 2009 release date. A 16 paged sticker book based on the film is being published by Viz on February 3, 2009. On January 19, 2009, Namco Bandai Games and 20th Century Fox announced that a PlayStation Portable video game based around the film titled Dragonball Evolution would be released in Japan in March 2009, with a North American release to follow in April. The game includes all of the major characters from the film and feature various playing modes, including an arcade mode for one-on-one combat, a story mode in which players use Goku through the film events, a mission mode where players attempt to complete specific tasks, and a training mode for practicing fighting moves. It also offers an online battle mode.
|Bulma Brief||Emmy Rossum|
|Master Roshi||Chow Yun-fat|
|Lord Piccolo||James Marsters|
|Grandpa Gohan||Randall Duk Kim|
|Sifu Norris||Ernie Hudson|
|Carey Fuller||Texas Battle|
|Mr. Kingery||Julian Sedgwick|
On its opening weekend in the United States, the film grossed $4,756,488 ranking #8 at the box office. As of June 3, 2009, its worldwide gross had reached $57,530,083. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the movie a score of 14% with the critic consensus being
"Executed with little panache or invention, Dragonball Evolution lacks the magic that made the books upon which it was based a cult sensation."
In addition, Metacritic gave it a 45%. At Jump Festa 2013, during the 30 minute Battle of Gods discussion panel on December 22, 2012, Masako Nozawa read out a letter from Akira Toriyama saying he tried hard as a personal revenge for the live-action film which he deemed as "bad". Krillin voice actor Sonny Strait and even Broly voice actor Vic Mignogna also voiced their criticism for the movie.
Dragonball Evolution was originally set to be the first of a series of live-action Dragon Ball films, with the sequel adapting the Dragon Ball Z anime. Justin Chawtin said that Goku "only really gets interesting in the second film", while James Marsters said that Piccolo's reincarnation and redemption, from the manga and anime, would be featured in future films. While a script for a sequel was already in development when the film was released, plans for the film series were ultimately scrapped after the film had a poor box office performance and was panned by critics and Dragon Ball fans.
Disney reportedly acquired the rights to develop a live-action Dragon Ball film after acquiring 20th Century Fox, who had international rights for the Dragon Ball franchise by the time of its acquisition.
- Even though this movie is based on the King Piccolo Saga of Dragon Ball, it combines different storylines from the original Dragon Ball manga (examples being: Goku being 18 and Grandpa Gohan being alive, Oozaru and Lord Piccolo encountered during the same period).
- This is the second English-language Dragon Ball production in which the name "Oozaru" is used (first being the Blue Water dub of Dragon Ball GT).
- Justin Chatwin portrays Goku. In Steven Spielberg's 2005 version of War of the Worlds, Chatwin's character had Dragon Ball toys on a shelf in his room.
- Christopher Sabat was said to be reprising his role as Shenron, prior to the release of Dragonball Evolution, but all his dialogue was cut. Oddly, his name is shown in the end credits.
- James Marsters is the first actor from the movie to have a role in the main series.
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