If a movie earns a paltry 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, chances are it's not very good. Dragonball Evolution, an extremely loose adaptation of Dragon Ball, earned this impressively terrible score, and for good reason – it's one of the worst anime adaptations ever made. In fact, it is so bad that the movie's main writer publicly apologized for its poor quality.
Why is this movie such a travesty? Dragonball Evolution is awful for a host of reasons, including whitewashed characters, a lack of respect for the source material, and a convoluted and incomprehensible story. If you're a Dragon Ball fan who was considering checking out the movie, you should probably reconsider – unless you're into hate-watching, you're unlikely to have a good time.
Even if you've never seen Dragon Ball anything, you still probably know something about Goku's signature attack, Kamehameha: it's a literal beam of concentrated energy. It also has nothing to do with air-bending, a technique taken straight out of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but for some reason, Master Roshi decides to explain Kamehameha by comparing the two. What's even more baffling is that at one point Goku is revived by the attack, despite it having no healing properties whatsoever.
One of Goku's defining characteristics is his lack of education. While he isn't stupid, he can be quite naive about subjects that don't pertain to fighting. He definitely doesn't have a well-rounded public school education, so why did Dragonball Evolution decide to make Goku attend stereotypical suburban high school? There seems to be no good explanation other than sheer laziness, and fans of the original Dragon Ball agree. One angry fan posted on Gamespot, saying, "HE'S [Goku] NOT AN ANGST-RIDDEN AMERICAN CHILD! ...Just needed to get that off my chest. Fox turned it into a typical High School underdog film."
Want to watch a well-choreographed fight scene that includes things like continuity and tension? If you're watching Dragonball Evolution, you are out of luck. Instead of masterful editing and grounded combat, you get to see Goku sliding across a car using his head. You know, like how fights work.
While the fights are undeniably terrible, they can actually be entertaining because of it. The actors seem aware that what they're doing is ridiculous, so there are moments where it feels like a parody rather than just a poorly done movie. Still, as Christopher Tookey of Daily Mail puts it, "The story seems to have been made up as the film went along, and not by anyone talented. The fight scenes and special effects are shamefully pathetic."
Ben Ramsey, the writer behind Dragonball Evolution, was well aware what he created was an insult to the original series. Unlike many creators who unleash awful remakes, Ramsey actually had the integrity to offer an apology to Dragon Ball fans. In an interview with Derek Padula, Ramsey made the following statement:
I knew that it would eventually come down to this one day. Dragonball Evolution marked a very painful creative point in my life. 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. I spent so many years trying to deflect the blame, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the written word on page and I take full responsibility for what was such a disappointment to so many fans. I did the best I could, but at the end of the day, I "dropped the dragon ball."
I went into the project chasing after a big payday, not as a fan of the franchise but as a businessman taking on an assignment. I have learned that when you go into a creative endeavor without passion you come out with sub-optimal results, and sometimes flat out garbage. So I’m not blaming anyone for Dragonball but myself. As a fanboy of other series, I know what it’s like to have something you love and anticipate be so disappointing.
To all the Dragon Ball fans out there, I sincerely apologize.
I hope I can make it up to you by creating something really cool and entertaining that you will like and that is also something I am passionate about. That’s the only work I do now.