Historically, live-action anime adaptations have been campy at best, often riddled with misinterpreted storylines, ill-cast characters, and just general bad acting. That being said, I went in to DBE expecting very little, and that was probably the only thing that it lived up to.
The story goes that David and I wanted to see a movie at the cheap theater. Our options were DBE and Adventureland. Having already seen Adventureland and sharing a pretty similar opinion to Matt’s review, I convinced him to take the devil we didn’t know over the devil I knew. $1 admission and a small popcorn later, I want my dollar back. The popcorn was the best part of the experience.
First, I’ll explain that I am partially versed in the Dragonball universe, so right there I do have to admit that my view on this movie is potentially tainted by the original source material. I kept reminding myself throughout the movie to attempt to forget it was based off an existing property and just see it as a stand-alone movie. I have hammered into my head that this was NOT an adaptation of Dragonball, it was a spin-off, a re-imagining, or in the anime lingo, an OVA/OAV. Even after adopting this mindset, casting aside all prior beliefs and knowledge of Toriyama’s work…it was a horrible movie.
The cast was made up of a bunch of somewhat known actors, and some more well known, nay even Golden Globe nominated names. Why they regressed to star in such a film as DBE, I will never know. Overall, the acting was bland…Goku came across flat and unmotivated for the most part, while Yamcha was the victim of multiple personality disorder, being a surfer bum at one point, a money-grubbing twit the next, and seconds later a ‘popped-collar bro’ as the stereotype runs.
Continuity was not a friend of this movie. We’re treated to a nice backstory montage at the start to set the scene, typical “evil guy attacks planet, is sealed away, now he’s coming back to destroy us” We’ve all heard it before, but they forgot one key element: how’d he escape the seal? Did it weaken over time? Was there a limit? Did someone free him? These questions and more…never explained. He’s also got a busty henchwoman who’s never even addressed until the credits scroll (she was supposed to be Mai, who worked for Emperor Pilaf, but I’m supposed to be unbiased here, so I’m just going to take the fact that she worked for Piccolo).
While I’m on the topic of continuity, let’s speak of timelines, shall we? A total solar eclipse is supposed to happen in 2 weeks time, according to Goku’s teacher. A day later, the reality of what that eclipse will bring is revealed to Goku and co. and they set into action, saying there’s only a week until the eclipse. What couldn’t have been more than a day or two time, the eclipse is referenced again, only this time it’s 2 days away. Apparently, our production team need a calendar, or at least a better grasp on how to effectively portray time advancement within a movie.
In an action flick, you expect special effects, and DBE does deliver on those…with skills possessed by an entry-level college 3D animator. All the ‘ki energy’ work was portrayed by blobby blue particle effects (or red in Piccolo’s case), the only notable CG that didn’t look amateur was the smoke effects within the Dragonballs.
Stay through the credits, because they’re probably the best part of the movie thanks to the end theme song “Rule” by Japanese pop queen Hamasaki Ayumi. On a sad note, the credits also sets it up for a sequel.
All in all, forgetting this was supposed to be Dragonball anything, this was a BAD movie. Not a “this is so campy, it’s funny” (I didn’t laugh once), not even a “well, it’s not living up to the original” bad. If you knew nothing of Dragonball and saw this movie, not only would you be confused, but you’d most likely agree that this was a waste of celluloid. If you’re looking for a good action movie, the few action sequences will leave you disappointed. If you’re looking for a good fantasy tale, you’ll be so confused by the lack of exposition and plot holes that you’ll lose track of what little story there is. If you’re looking for a good movie, this isn’t it.
My advice: Do not pay for this movie. Do not devote time to this movie. The only reason you should watch this movie is if A) you are forced to (and the compensation had better be sweet) or B) there is absolutely no alternative aside from physical harm (and even then I may consider the physical harm).