Dragonball: Evolution

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Dragonball: Evolution
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Nostalgia Critic: Did Ghost in the Shell do bad?
Awful Movies Wiki: Yes. Yes, it does.
Nostalgia Critic: Then this did really bad!
Genre: Action
Science Fiction
Directed By: James Wong
Produced By: Stephen Chow
Written By: Ben Ramsey
Starring: Justin Chatwin
Emmy Rossum
Jaime Chung
James Marsters
Joon Park
Eriko Tamura
Randall Tuk Kim
Ernie Hudson
Chow Yun Fat
Photography: Color
Cinematography: Robert McLachlan
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: March 10, 2009 (Japan)
April 10, 2009 (United States)
Runtime: 85 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $58.2 million

"It's visually disjointed, it has little to no worldbuilding, the acting is awkward, the effects are lame. It's pretty laughably bad. Fans that have waited years for a faithful live-action movie are gonna have to keep waiting, because this has no idea of what Dragon Ball was about or what made it so special. It doesn't work in any way. And any newcomers that are introduced to Dragon Ball this way risk losing a fan for life. It's just one big disrespectful mess."

Nostalgia Critic, MasakoX and LittleKuriboh

"This movie is so bad, it makes me religiously dennounce the theory of evolution."

Drunk RebelTaxi

"Dragonball Evolution is what happens when a Hollywood studio buys the movie rights to something just to keep rival studios from making movies based on it, and then they sit on the rights for years until the contract is about to expire and they have to McGuyver a movie together with the lowest budget they can get away with in order to hold onto the rights for a few more years."

Possum Reviews

"Daaargh! I hated this movie! I hated this movie with such a passion! I hate every second of this film."

Chris Stuckmann

Dragonball: Evolution is a 2009 Japanese-American action-adventure science fantasy film directed by James Wong of The X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond and Final Destination fame. The film is loosely based on the Japanese Dragon Ball manga created by Akira Toriyama as well as Toei's 1986-1989 anime series and stars Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Chow Yun-fat, Joon Park, and Eriko Tamura.


On his 18th birthday, Goku (Justin Chatwin) receives a mystical Dragonball as a gift from his grandfather. There are only six others like it in the whole world, and legend has it that whoever possesses all seven will be granted one perfect wish. When the arrival of a dark force triggers a tragedy, Goku and his companions (Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum) are propelled into an epic quest to collect the seven Dragonballs and save the Earth from destruction.

Why It Can't Find the Dragon Balls

  1. First Off: Just like The Last Airbender, this film is infamous for its extremely poor grasp of the source material. For example:
    • The film doesn't follow any of the plots of both the manga and the anime series at all.
    • In the original manga and anime, Goku is a naive, midget-sized 12-year-old kid who has no idea what a girl is and never had any proper schooling, but in this film, Goku is a tall, angsty 18-year-old bullied high school student who already has a crush on Chi-Chi (Chung). He also is a disrespectful team captain who is racist and sings in high school instead of the iconic character from the show that would never do.
      • Also, the original was a well-respected saiyan who loves fighting never wanted to harm others while being a pacifist protecting the ones he loves. While the movie's interpretation is a cocky, whiny high-schooler who cares more in beating up bullies that treated him poorly and getting the girl (Chi-Chi).
    • In a scene where Goku uses the Kamehameha, he randomly starts flying up into Lord Piccolo for no reason whatsoever.
    • Oozaru in this film barely even resembles himself from the manga and anime series and is smaller in comparison to his originally gargantuan size. During the initial filming, he looks even worse, as it resembles a buffed-up Skrull from the Marvel comics rather than a monstrous monkey.
    • Master Roshi uses the Kamehameha wave to revive Goku after he gets shot by one of the villains.
    • Goku learns about 'air bending of all things, which blatantly rips off Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • Goku is much weaker here compared to his original manga/anime counterpart, where he gets killed by an ordinary bullet in both the original manga and the anime series, while the film's bullets barely affected him to the point where they felt like mere bee stings.
    • The movie implies that Namekians nearly destroyed earth 2000 years ago. But in the manga/anime Namekians were a peaceful alien race.
    • Grandpa Gohan's death is changed from being crushed by Goku in great ape form to being killed by Piccolo.
  2. The romance between Goku and Chi-Chi is not only forced, but it's like that from a teen drama show on The CW rather than like in the original Dragon Ball manga/anime.
  3. Very, very poor acting, such as Justin Chatwin and Emmy Rossum (along with Texas Battle portraying Goku's bully, Carey Fuller), who are laughable, directionless, and super lifeless as the iconic characters Goku and Bulma.
  4. Terrible fight choreography:
    • For example, in one fight, Goku somehow slides across a car using his head during a fight with his bully, Carey Fuller and his second-in-command.
  5. The new designs for the characters did not sit well, such as Bulma's change of hair color (as well as Yamcha) for example and Chi-Chi's hairstyle.
  6. Very cheap, poor, and laughably awful special effects, especially for the dragon Shenron and Lord Piccolo's airship.
  7. Unlikable characters with Carey Fuller, Goku's bully exclusive to the movie who is an extremely racist african american stereotype.
  8. Lots of clichéd and laughable dialogue and awful writing.
  9. Other characters like Krillin, Lunch, and Tien do not appear in the film.
  10. The terrible CGI is completely obvious as mentioned above, and so are the green-screen backgrounds. The team clearly ran out of money at the end; At the end of the film, Goku's final transformation back into a human is simply the original footage reversed.
  11. The movie is filled with plot holes aplenty, like how Lord Piccolo escaped from his prison.
  12. All of the characters are grossly miscast and look nothing like their original counterparts.
    • On the subject of that, the film was accused of whitewashing by casting Chatwin (a white actor) in the role of Goku.
  13. Many of the iconic characters from the original anime are completely absent, such as Krillin, Piccolo Jr, Vegeta, and Emperor Pilaf.
  14. Unlike the original anime series, which had a now-iconic Latin-American Mexican dub among Latino fans, the Latin American dub for this movie was very poor and unfitting for some characters, especially Goku.
    • This is because in the movie, Goku is voiced by famous Mexican voice actor Mario Castañeda; the thing is that, Mario Castañeda voiced adult Goku at the end of Dragon Ball and all of Dragon Ball Z and Super, and as Goku is a teenager in this movie, the dubbing doesn't fit.
  15. Executive meddling: The film was originally conceived to be more faithful to the manga than the final project. However, Fox rejected the script which is the reason why the film is as it is.
  16. Sequel-baiting: Goku and the gang are continuing to find the Dragon Balls again, while Piccolo has survived and kept in bed by a village woman.
  17. Terrible direction by James Wong.
  18. It also has a terrible tie-in videogame.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Good soundtrack composed by Brian Tyler.
  2. Despite not following the plot of the manga or anime, it did have a good potential to show what Goku is like in his teen years since in the manga, the time skip only shows him as an adult after 3 years, but poorly executed due to the flaws above.
  3. A bit of the acting is good, despite their actors being wasted:
    • Chow Yun-fat is pretty good as Master Roshi, even if he doesn't even remotely look like his original counterpart despite that he was originally a bearded old man with sunglasses.
    • Jaime Chung is well-cast as Chi-Chi, Goku's future wife who was supposed to be Asian, and could have saved it if she puts an effort into her acting.
    • James Marsters is actually pretty good as Lord Piccolo with his makeup much like the original. He is a huge fan of the Dragon Ball series, and you can tell he had a lot of fun playing Lord Piccolo. He would later go on to voice Zamasu in Dragon Ball Super (under the credit of David Gray).
  4. Yamcha, Roshi, Grandpa Gohan and Piccolo are the only likable characters.
  5. This film made a great improvement in the Castilian Spanish dubbing, since they said words well that in the previous dubbing of the original Dragon Ball to GT they made it very messy, an example that instead of saying Onda Vital, says well Kame Hame Ha, instead of to say Aura, they say, Ki, ect.
  6. Since the movie was so universally hated that the screenwriter for this movie, Ben Ramsey, did apologized for it in 2016, admitting that he knew nothing about the franchise, but did limited research, and it was nothing more than an easy cash grab for him.


Dragonball: Evolution received highly negative reviews from critics, viewers, fans, particularly for its script, cast, and unfaithfulness to the source material. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 15% approval rating based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 3.5/10. The site's consensus states, "Executed with little panache or invention, Dragonball Evolution lacks the magic that made the books on which it was based a cult sensation.". On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 45 out of 100, based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of C+ on a scale of A to F.

The original Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama himself, who commissioned the production of the movies Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' years after this movie's release, has never stated that he hated the film though and has stated that he thinks of the movie as an alternate universe. In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun on Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, Toriyama revealed that he felt the Hollywood producers did not listen to him and his ideas and suggestions and that the final version was not on par with the original Dragon Ball series, and felt the result was a movie he couldn't even call "Dragon Ball".

Screenwriter Ben Ramsey however has since apologized for the film, saying that "to have something with my name on it as the writer be so globally reviled is gut-wrenching. To receive hate mail from all over the world is heartbreaking".

It is also YouTube film reviewer Chris Stuckmann's (a big fan of Dragon Ball) most hated film of all time, leading him to do three reviews on it.

The fan backlash was so severe that it convinced Akira Toriyama to start working on two new Dragon Ball Z films, which eventually led to the creation of the Dragon Ball Super, the sequel series to Dragon Ball Z.


  • The Playstation Portable game adaptation of the movie contains extra plot details closer to the original manga: most notably, Goku is confirmed to be called Kakarot, being a Saiyan from Planet Vegeta. Those elements are not being mentioned in the movie, it is possible it was based on an early draft.


External links


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