James Wong's 'Dragonball Evolution' (2009)

I'm not a Dragonball fan. As a rule, I can't stand anime. Or manga for that matter. But I saw this movie at my local dollar theater because James Marsters was one of only two Buffy alums whom I hadn't really seen in any work outside of the show. Viewed in that context, the movie is pretty disappointing: Marsters only appears for maybe fifteen minutes. And besides Marsters' limited screen time, I think the movie still disappoints. The story structure caters to newcomers to the story of Goku, but I was confused about some of the finer details and I didn't have an attachment to the characters. Fans of the series will have greater affinity for the characters, even though they aren't very well drawn here, but will probably be bored by the origin story plot. So most likely, Evolution fails to engage both newbies and fans of Dragonball.

Yeah, Dragonball Evolution is kinda bad. The plot is predictable, the characters shallow, and the acting amateurish. But it's kinda bad in a fun, campy B-movie way. Approached with low expectations and a desire to see some reasonably cool stuntwork and special effects, the movie can deliver a pretty good time. Director James Wong doesn't take the material too seriously and he has instructed his actors to do the same. Everything has a heightened, over-the-top quality that feels very much like the manga and anime I've seen.

Though James Marsters' performance isn't particularly notable, I don't really understand why he doesn't appear in the movie more. While he doesn't fight with his hands much, Lord Piccolo seems to have a superior control of his qi, which he uses to subdue a trained fighter and destroy a house. But he inexplicably has a female henchman who acts as his muscle — one of those leather-wearing types whose outfit is all tight-fitting and high-necked, except for the circle cutout that shows off her cleavage. Why does he need her to do any fighting for him? He seems perfectly capable.