Just like live-action films based on video games, America has a pretty bad track record when it comes to adapting manga/anime into live-action movies. This was evident with the negatively-reviewed Death Note film that came out most recently on Netflix. But, as bad as the Death Note movie was, it is still not the worst movie based on an anime/manga series to come out of the United States. That prestigious title goes to Dragonball: Evolution.
And the movie had so much potential going for it too, it should have been a slam dunk. It is based on a source material that is crazy popular because it has insanely cool action, an assortment of unique and interesting characters, and great storylines to follow. And yet, so much went wrong.
Dragonball: Evolution is generally criticized for its awful acting, laughable dialogue, bad CGI and editing, confusing story, etc. But, probably worst of all, the movie just did not "feel" like a Dragon Ball movie. It felt like the film studio and everyone working on the film had never watched an episode or read a single chapter of the Dragon Ball series. And that is what was most frustrating with the movie.
Even though the film was released way back in 2009, there is a lot of fascinating trivia behind this atrocious film that puts the "BOMB" in "Spirit Bomb". So, without further ado, here are 25 shocking things you did not know about the GARBAGE Dragonball: Evolution.
Look, I may not be a filmmaker, but if I was working on a Dragon Ball film and Akira Toriyama was offering me advice about how to better the film so that it better reflected the series, I would listen. Unfortunately, that did not happen when Toriyama, the series creator, provided suggestions about how to improve Dragonball: Evolution.
This definitely seemed to have frustrated Toriyama as well
Apparently, the people behind the film were confident in their version of the film and completely ignored the suggested changes offered by Toriyama. This definitely seemed to have frustrated Toriyama as well, as he has come out and said that the film is something that he cannot consider a Dragon Ball movie, based on his own expectations. To completely disregard Toriyama was a massive mistake for the filmmakers.
You know a movie is bad when the screenwriter feels it is necessary to apologize. Seven years after Dragonball: Evolution released, Ben Ramsey, who has the misfortune of having to include "screenwriter for Dragonball: Evolution" on his IMDb page, decided he owed it to the world to apologize for the creation of the film. The apology is pretty genuine as well. He expresses the "pain" and "heartbreak" he felt as a result of seeing the negative reviews for the film, as well as the hate mail he received from fans. He knows he messed up, and even admitted he was mostly in it to "chase a big payday" rather than approaching the movie as a fan of the franchise. You have to give the man credit though, because not many people working on films will offer fans a sincere apology if the finished product is obviously terrible.
While Dragonball: Evolution is the first and only OFFICIAL film adaptation of the Dragon Ball series (sadly), it is not the first time that a film based on the manga/anime franchise was created. Actually, there were two unofficial Dragon Ball films created previously.
One was titled Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins
The first was created in 1990 out of South Korea, and it was called Deuraegon bol: Ssawora Son O-gong, igyeora Son O-gong. The second film was released in 1991 out of Taiwan, and this one was titled Dragon Ball: The Magic Begins. A funny detail about the Taiwanese film, because the movie was an unofficial adaptation of the Dragon Ball series, the movie opted to change the names of the characters so that they differed from the actual ones in Dragon Ball. Some examples include Goku's name being changed to "Monkey Boy", or Master Roshi's name being replaced with "Turtle Man", among others.
You can't say that Justin Chatwin wasn't dedicated. In an effort to prepare for his role as Goku in the film, Chatwin took it upon himself to read all of the Dragon Ball manga. On top of this, he also decided to bust out and read the Chinese novel, The Journey To The West, which was the inspiration for the Dragon Ball series' creation. Literature aside, Chatwin also engaged in some intensive martial arts training in an effort to channel his inner Super Saiyan, I guess. So while Chatwin's portrayal of Goku was not really the interpretation audiences were looking for, at least he put the work in and actually tried his best to be the best Goku that he could be. And let's be honest, it did not matter who played Goku, nobody in the role could have salvaged the movie anyways.
Before taking the directing reigns of Dragonball: Evolution, James Wong had been mostly known for his director work on Final Destination and Final Destination 3. In fact, Wong was originally on tap to direct the next movie in the horror series, The Final Destination, but he would ultimately pull out of the movie in favor of directing Dragonball instead. It seems like this was not the greatest decision for Wong, as the Final Destination series is still thriving and releasing films, while Wong has not directed a single movie ever since the Dragonball movie in 2009. You got to admit though, it is pretty ironic that Wong's choice of not working on a movie about scary accidents would lead to the biggest accident of his film directing career.
In the Rotten Tomatoes-era of movies, where people wait with bated breath to find out if the critical consensus of the films they want to see are either "Certified Fresh" or "Rotten", there definitely seems to be at least a bit of an influence between the overall critical score of a movie and how well the movie performs with audiences. It appears the people behind Dragonball: Evolution realized that the movie was more than likely going to receive highly negative reviews, because the film had not been released in advance for critics, which is always a bad sign for a movie.
The highly negative reviews probably did not help the film
Apparently, the strategy did not work though, as the film still performed extremely poor at the box office, even without the early reviews. Although, with a score of 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, the highly negative reviews probably did not help the film going forward after its initial release date.
James Marsters as Piccolo in Dragonball: Evolution was actually one of the better parts of the film thanks to his obvious dedication to the role and the series in general, even though the green makeup he was forced to wear was unintentionally hilarious to look at. But, you might be surprised to know that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor was actually not the original choice for the role. Originally, Ron Perlman, who most of you know from the Hellboy films I'm sure, was actually offered the role before Marsters. Perlman ended up choosing to work on the much better reviewed Hellboy-sequel instead of Dragonball: Evolution, and it was definitely the wiser choice for Perlman to opt for his familiar red makeup over the possible green makeup he could have worn. A part of me wonders if Perlman could have improved the film, but let's face it, not even Leonardo DiCaprio himself could have saved the Dragonball film from being a total disaster.
The number "seven" is very much a significant number in the Dragon Ball series since the plot generally centers around the seven Dragon Balls that, if all of them are found, can grant the holder of these magical balls any wish that they desire. I guess the creators of Dragonball: Evolution thought it would be clever to use the magic number throughout the film, because there are quite a few scenes where the number seven is specifically used. Some examples include seven candles residing on Goku's birthday cake, seven stones in Gohan's yard, seven stones that Goku places on his grandpa's tombstone, seven lit candles that are above Piccolo's bed at the end of the film, etc. At what point does something like this stop being a clever Easter Egg, but rather an in-your-face reference that goes overboard because of the vast amount of times it is used? I think Dragonball: Evolution already answered that question.
Even though the source material hails from Japan, the majority of Dragonball: Evolution was filmed in Mexico, with additional shooting also taking place in Los Angeles, California. Granted, the choice of filming in Mexico worked well for the film, as it allowed the film to feature futuristic-looking locations and elements that were a big part of the Dragon Ball series, as well as some unique architectural structures. With that aside, did you actually know that the film was mostly shot in an abandoned jeans factory? Because it was!
A place that used to create denim pants
The factory was located in Durango, Mexico and the film was shot inside the former jean-making factory using green and blue screens. For a big Hollywood movie, you would think the filmmakers would be able to afford shooting in an actual studio, rather than occupying a place that used to create denim pants.
Stephen Chow is best known for his directing work on such hilarious and critically-acclaimed films as Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle, and The Mermaid. So when it was announced that Chow, who is a fan of Dragon Ball, would lend his talents to help make Dragonball: Evolution, it was an exciting time for fans of the series. Especially because Chow was pursuing the director's chair for the film! Unfortunately for fans though, the talented director, who has mastered the balance between serious tone and physical comedy, ultimately would make the decision to step down from the directing role and just act as a producer instead. This would lead to James Wong being the director, and the rest is history. It would have been interesting though to see an alternate universe where Chow decided to stay in the director role for the film, and how it might have turned out.
Dragonball: Evolution was a film that was seven years in the making. Fox Studios announced the film all the way back in 2002, where they were trying to find possible directors. The movie studio even registered a website domain for the planned film, under "dragonballthemovie.com," although it would not become an active website until 2007.
The film's release would actually become delayed to 2009
Because of the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007, it forced the film to finally become green-lit into production by Fox Studios. The director and producer would be selected that same year, which got the ball rolling on the actual creation of the movie. Although, even though the film was originally slated to be released in 2008, the film's release would actually become delayed to 2009, because of additional re-shoots.
James Marsters really was the unsung hero we deserved for this unfortunately terrible movie. Originally in the film, Piccolo was planned to look more human-like and (oddly enough) more beautiful as well, appearance-wise. This did not sit well with Marsters, who was playing Piccolo in the film, since he was a big fan of the show and wanted to do right by the character he was portraying. So, without the knowledge of the producers or the director, Marsters and the make-up artist decided to change the Piccolo's appearance to be more accurate to the character from the Dragon Ball series. When the director saw the changed make-up job, he was cool with it and let Marsters keep his revised look. It's cool to see the actor do something that was fueled by his passionate adoration for the original series.
Would you have guessed that among the various cast members in Dragonball: Evolution, that one of them was also a Korean pop singer? Joon Park, who played the role of Yamcha in the film, is normally a rapper/singer for the K-pop group g.o.d. The group, which had been formed in 1999, was put on hiatus in 2006, allowing Park to explore acting. He would move to Los Angeles and would find himself acting in a small role for the film Speed Racer. A year after that role. Park would find himself starring as Yamcha in Dragonball: Evolution, and even though the movie was quite unsuccessful, Park would continue to explore his actor career further. Park has since moved back to South Korea and has found himself in a number of reality television shows. Good to see that his role in Dragonball: Evolution did not hurt his acting career going forward.
Much like how Dragonball: Evolution was a metaphorical punch to the face to audiences, one of the actors in the films was actually physically punched in the face because his performance was so bad! Okay, that last part was not true. But Justin Chatwin, who played Goku in the movie, was accidentally punched in the face.
Chatwin took a fortuitous, swift fist from Tamura
While filming a fight scene with fellow actor Eriko Tamura (who played Mai), Chatwin took a fortuitous, swift fist from Tamura right in his facial area. Apparently, the two of them laughed it off, although Chatwin mentioned in an interview that he was left with a "clicking jaw" as a result. It is too bad though that the accidental hit did not knock some sense into Chatwin, causing him to realize that the movie he was in was a huge mistake at the time.
Apparently, the studio had a lot of faith in Dragonball: Evolution succeeding, because they were pretty quick in deciding to plan for a sequel to the film. This was evident in the fact that the original film decided to include a post-credit scene involving Piccolo that totally set itself up for another film in the franchise. As well, Justin Chatwin admitted that there was a full script written for the planned sequel, even though Dragonball: Evolution had just released at the time. Not surprisingly, the planned sequel would be canceled, mostly because of how poorly the original film performed in terms of box-office numbers and critical reviews. Let's just hope if another live-action Dragon Ball film is made, that it is more of a reboot and faithful adaptation of the series, rather than a sequel to the original mess of a movie.
I'm a big believer of the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". So, when the studio decided to add the unnecessary word "Evolution" to the film's title instead of simply calling it "Dragon Ball", it was a bit puzzling. Dragon Ball is a title that everyone recognizes the series for, and I'm sure Dragon Ball fans would have been satisfied with the title as is, especially because the film name would have been paying homage to the original series. Plus, why add the "Evolution" in the first place? What purpose does it serve? Is it supposed to imply that the film is an edgier and more unique version of the Dragon Ball story? Because if that were the case, the film failed in doing so anyway.
Four years before getting the role of Goku in Dragonball: Evolution, Justin Chatwin found himself playing the moody, estranged son of Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds. Directed by Steven Spielberg, War of the Worlds was about Tom Cruise trying to save his family amidst an alien invasion. Before the alien carnage starts though, the audience is treated to scenes of Cruise having to awkwardly bond with his estranged children at his home.
This definitely connects the two movies
There are a few scenes of Chatwin brooding in his bedroom, and sitting noticeably on his bedroom shelf are Dragon Ball toys! This definitely connects the two movies, but I have questions! Like, did Chatwin know that he was going to be in a Dragon Ball film at the time? Is Steven Spielberg an all-knowing psychic/wizard who can predict the future through his films? I need to know!
Since Dragonball: Evolution was filmed in English, the movie was dubbed in other countries, with some notable choices for voice actors providing the dubs. In the Japanese version of the film, two voice actors who provided their talents to the Dragon Ball anime were used for the Japanese dub of the live-action movie. Hisao Egawa and Mami Koyama, who voiced for Yamcha and the Narrator in the anime respectively, both utilized their voice acting skills for Evolution. What's even cooler is that the Narrator was unique to the Japanese dub of the movie, which was a pretty awesome nod to the anime that inspired the film. As well in the Brazilian version of the movie, pretty much all of the voice talent, except for Master Roshi, who voiced in the Brazilian dub for the anime reprised their character roles for the movie. It's a shame that all of these talented voice actors had to lend their voice-acting skills for such a bad movie though.
The "Oozaru" is a giant, angry ape that Saiyans transform into when a full moon arrives. In this primate form, Saiyans become more powerful but they usually cannot control it, making them pretty frightening while in this form. It is essentially the Dragon Ball version of King Kong, and it is radical!
The result was pretty cringe-inducing
They even decided to include the Oozaru transformation in Dragonball: Evolution, but let's just say the result was pretty cringe-inducing. First of all, the original appearance of Goku's Oozaru form in the film (which was actually filmed) looked like a weird orc/troll creature that could have come out of Middle Earth. This outraged fans, so the appearance was changed to actually look more like an ape. This would have been fine, except they changed pretty much everything about it! Instead of being huge and scary, the film's version was much smaller and kind of a CGI mess.
George Lucas, the man behind the incredible Star Wars trilogy and the incredibly-disappointing Star Wars prequels, was actually originally considered for the directing job for Dragonball: Evolution back in 2002, a full SEVEN years before the movie was even released. Obviously, this did not end up happening, but it does interest me why Lucas was even considered for the director job? He has never publicly spoken about or offered interest in the Dragon Ball series, and the only similarities between Dragon Ball and Star Wars are that they both offer alien characters and dramatic battles. That's it! Besides Lucas, other directors considered were Robert Rodriguez, who directed the masterful Spy Kids trilogy, and Zack Snyder, who is best known for his cinematic classic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Although I will admit, "Batman v Goku: Dawn of Justice" would have been a great idea for a film.
It's understandable when film adaptations of large-scale stories cannot include all of the characters into the movie, especially because these types of movies are essentially condensed versions of the original materials they are based on. So, with Dragonball: Evolution, it makes sense why many of the minor characters were excluded from the film, especially because it provides more focus to the main characters in the film.
They are both fan-favorites and are pretty big characters
What I do not agree with though is the decision to not have Krillin or Tien in the film! They are both fan-favorites and are pretty big characters in the Dragon Ball series. They were both initial rivals to Goku, but then both ended up becoming strong allies to him instead. Especially Krillin, who is arguably Goku's best friend in the series. So why not include him? Why do they got to do Krillin dirty like that?
You really got to feel a bit sorry for James Marsters. The actor, who portrayed Piccolo in the film, was clearly the biggest fan of the Dragon Ball series amongst his fellow castmates. He mentioned that he watches it with his son and even went on record of saying that "Dragon Ball is the coolest television cartoon in the last 50,000 years. It's got a Shakespearean sense of good and evil." He clearly wanted the film adaptation to be a successful one, but after the film was released to abysmal reviews and fan outrage, Marsters has admitted that the film just was not good, especially because of the cheap budget and loss of Stephen Chow as director. I kind of want to give Marsters a hug, especially when you watch him relive his embarrassing moment of walking into the film with his son and there are only five people total (including them) watching the film.
Apparently the original script for Dragonball: Evolution was a more faithful adaptation to the Dragon Ball series, and even included appearances by characters like Ox-King and Krillin. But, since it was determined that this original vision for the film was too expensive to shoot, the script was rewritten and finalized to reach the budget restraints. During the film's production and rewritten script, it is said that there was executive meddling, with the studio requesting various changes throughout the film's creation. It's hard to say to what the extent of meddling was by the studio executives, but they definitely do deserve some of the blame for the atrocious movie that we got, especially when you choose to exclude the insight and help of the original series' creator, Akira Toriyama.
The Dragon Ball series is pretty iconic for its over-the-top hairstyles. Between Goku's mountain of spiky hair or Bulma's blue locks, among other characters, the hairstyles in the series truly give the characters their own distinguishable and unique looks that can be recognized by any fan.
Wong would ultimately decide to scrap the wigs
The idea of using wigs in Dragonball: Evolution, which resembled the corresponding hairstyles of the characters from the series, almost was a reality for the film. But, director James Wong would ultimately decide to scrap the wigs in favor of more realistic hairstyles instead. I personally would have loved it if they decided to go with the wigs instead, rather than having to witness such underwhelming hair choices such as Bulma's blue hair streak or Goku's toned-down spiky hair that looks like it took a pile of hairspray to create.
Look, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone out there who will tell you that Dragonball: Evolution had a positive impact on their lives, as the all-around consensus for the film is that the whole movie is pretty atrocious. But, for all you Dragon Ball Z fans out there, what if I were to tell you that Dragonball: Evolution actually DID have a positive impact on your lives and you didn't even know it? Well, 13 years prior to the live-action film's release, the Dragon Ball Z series had wrapped up, with no plans from the creator (Akira Toriyama) to continue the story. But, because Dragonball: Evolution frustrated Toriyama so much, he would go on to make the magnificent Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods. Because of the success of his film, Toriyama decided to continue the story of DBZ and created Dragon Ball Super, which is currently airing today. So, for everyone out there who wanted more DBZ, you have Dragonball: Evolution to thank for that.