Blu-ray
One to Avoid
2.5 stars
Amazon
$8.45
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Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
0.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
One to Avoid

Dragonball: Evolution: Z Edition

Street Date:
July 28th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
August 4th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
20th Century Fox
Length:
85 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I've never been one to watch a foreign film without the English subtitles on. Some small part of me wants to understand what's happening on screen. Crazy, huh? I'll admit, there have been a few times that I've sat through a film with no English spoken and with no English subtitles available, but let's just say comprehension was at a very low level for those rare events.

Perhaps stating the obvious isn't fitting for a film made with English as the natural audio track, but with 'Dragonball Evolution,' I can find some relevance in the revelation above. As mean spirited as this sounds, the film couldn't have made any less sense if every spoken word were in a different language. In other words, train wreck. Massive train wreck.

Goku (Justin Chatwin) isn't your ordinary Unitech High School student. The lovable loser fails to connect with his fellow students, but he does have a deep connection to his grandfather, Gohan (Randall Duk Kim), who teaches him things (like combat skills) that no school would. One of the things Gohan has taught the youth is the story of the Nameks, particularly Piccolo (James Marsters), a force to be reckoned with, who put the Earth in danger some 2,000 years ago.

As coincidence would have it, Piccolo is free again, and is seeking out seven "Dragonballs" to assist in his assault on the planet that imprisoned him. After Piccolo attacks Gohan in search of his Dragonball, mortally wounding him, Goku is sent out into the world to seek training from Master Roshi (Yun-Fat Chow or Chow Yun-Fat, however you prefer it). With the gun toting entrepreneur Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and the thieving Yamcha (Joon Park) at his side, Goku must secure the seven Dragonballs to secure the safety of the world.

I'll be the first to admit that I was never a huge fan of the 'Dragonball' anime in any incarnation, so forgive me if I'm not catching the "subtleties" and homages in the story. The film doesn't really necessitate a deep knowledge of the source material. Hell, the more you know about the series in advance, the more the film will likely feel like a slap in the face. I'll be blunt, this is sheer garbage. The shows never really believed in the concept of a straight forward plot, but they look like literary gold compared to this tripe.

Plot holes? 'Dragonball' has 'em in spades. The opening of the film talks about Piccolo being sealed away to protect the world, so why don't we get an explanation as to how or why he is freed from his prison? He just pops up out of nowhere, on a flying ship that is also not explained.

Another unanswered question: Why train Goku in a limited technique when he'll need much tougher training for the course Gohan knew he'd have to take? Why does he only reveal Goku's path as he's knockin' on Heaven's door? Did he see it in a movie and think it'd be a great way to make sure Goku didn't forget?

To be frank, this film is beyond saving. Critics and audiences alike panned it, and I can't disagree with the general consensus. Filled to the brim with uninspired performances, shoddy special effects, and a story that won't even satisfy the easiest to please fanboy, 'Dragonball Evolution' is flat revolting.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

I know I'm going to hear cries of "bias" against the video due to how awful the film itself was, but this is a new release, loaded with special effects, with the tag-line on the back cover stating "Experience the evolution on Blu-ray." As a result, I honestly had my hopes up, but they were quickly dashed.

The AVC MPEG-4 encode (in 1080p, in the 2.40:1 OAR) does well with what it's given. Unfortunately, it was given 'Dragonball Evolution.' The intro was flat stunning, clearly detailed on even the tiniest of dots that formed images, with a beautiful three dimensional pattern. From there, when the actual film picked up, flesh looked very detailed, not scrubbed or waxy in the least. Clothing also had a high level of detail, with tiny fuzz hanging from the fabric. Foregrounds and backgrounds alike also had a fantastically detailed look. This Blu-ray just pops with detail. The entire film sports great depth, rather than a bland generic cartoon appearance.

Sadly, the list of things this Blu-ray doesn't do well is a much longer. Skin tones fluctuate massively, starting out quite natural (and beautiful), then devolving into an orange and red mess. Digital noise rears its head from time to time, though it is nowhere near the biggest issue at hand.

Whenever a special effect sequence occurs, there is a serious discrepancy in video quality, to the point that it is hard not to laugh, as the surrounding areas look beautiful, brimming with modern technology, while a flying jump kick looks straight out of some fuzzy 1980's TV kung fu show. It's impossible not to notice! There are some halos that pop up from time to time that are equally eye drawing (in the bad way). Blacks aren't very vivid, and lastly, possibly most importantly, the entire film glows, like it has a contrast as overly hot as the film is overly stupid, if that is even possible.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Now this is more like it. 'Dragonball Evolution' isn't a show stopper in the video department (if it is, it's for all the wrong reasons), but when it comes to the audio, presented by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, 'Dragonball' does much, much better.

From the start, the LFE usage seemed a bit over dramatic, with footsteps and drops of water hitting the ground creating a healthy rumble. Action sequences had proper bass utilization, while the shots of the flying ship (which, again, is never really explained) and the Dragon Temple were absolute beasts in terms of rocking the house. The early sequence involving Piccolo showing off his powers at the expense of a certain lakeside cottage were very well done. You could feel the house crumbling around you, due to a nice mix of rears and sub. Busier scenes sound proper, with surround usage popping up in direct correlation to how busy a scene is on screen, and with a few populated sequences, the distinction between each was quite satisfactory.

Every line of dialogue came out clearly, even if it failed to clarify the plot. Most impressive! I got a real kick, in the crescendo of the film, as back and forth dialogue is cut between characters like some silly game of one-upmanship.

The light ambiance occasionally sounds like feedback underscoring the film, while falling rocks in the climax sounded as styrofoamy as they looked. The barrage of projectiles in the final confrontation would have sounded much better if there weren't so much going on from all angles, making directionality and localized effects moot

On a side note, the menu for the film has the audio and subtitle options laid out beautifully, much like a scroll bar. I wish every Blu-ray implemented a menu system like this.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 11 min) - I have to admit, I found the snackbar portion of the temple scene pretty damn funny, but for the most part, these scenes are throwaways, or alternates that really are less than necessary.
  • Goku's Workout (HD, 5 min) - The fight choreographers make complete asses of themselves here, against a green/blue screen. I somehow doubt fans of the series or film want to do a silly workout.
  • Music Video (HD, 3 min) - A music video for the Brian Anthony song Worked Up, with 'Dragonball Evolution' clips mixed in for effect. The combination does not work at all.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 2 min) - A series of flubs and general goofing around.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (SD, 9 min) - The cast and crew discuss the film, focusing on the Chi Chi vs Chi Chi confrontation. They discuss the logistics of the fight, show a pre-visualization of the sequence, and show how very unlike Jamie Chung her doubles looked. It was reminiscent of the stunt double scene in 'Spaceballs!'
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with Justin Chatwin (SD, 25 min) An interview with Chatwin, by three supposed film school students (I'm not a fan of the "show," so I'm not going to vouch for its credentials. Chatwin discusses his first acting performances, his experiences with veteran actors and directors and what he'd pull from them, the Shonen Jump history of the Dragonball series, and the training required to play the part of Goku. Chatwin admits he didn't think he could play the part at all. We all have definitive proof that he was right.
  • Pre-Menu Trailers - Not accessible through the menu, these trailers play upon loading the disc: 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine,' 'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,' and 'The Pink Panther 2.' There is no trailer for 'Dragonball Evolution' on the disc.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Goku's Quest Game - My goodness. This is no real game, but more like a pain in the ass to unlock some easter egg. Press the red button on your Blu-ray remote when you see each of the seven Dragonballs and unlock an extra. I prefer to not have to hold my remote at attention for an entire film viewing to unlock some silly extra, much like the pain in the ass system used to unlock eggs in 'Dodgeball.' Since I don't like to jump through hoops, no payoff would be worth it, so only half a star is given here.
  • Digital Copy - The second disc of this release includes a digital copy of the film, playable on both Macs and PCs.

Final Thoughts

Hoo boy! It isn't often a film this cancerous comes along. Respectable (but flawed) video and gorgeous audio can't make this pill any easier to swallow. This will make a viewer heave, even with a spoonful of sugar.

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Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BDS-50 Dual Layer Disc
  • Region A Locked

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG 4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • French
  • Cantonese
  • Mandarin

Supplements

  • Deleted scenes
  • Featurettes
  • Gag reel
  • Music video
  • Digital Copy

Exclusive HD Content

  • Goku's Quest Game