To cut to the chase, out of a Five Star system, I give it *1/2.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it was pretty entertaining, though half of the time it was entertaining the wrong way. To sum up the plot, Piccolo is this bad guy because the narration says so, who 2,000 years ago nearly destroyed the earth with his disciple Oozaru. He was sealed away by ancient warriors, and has escaped because the narration says so. He is looking for the Dragonballs so he will be granted the power to rule the world. Because he wants to. Because he’s evil. Because the narration said so.
The movie got Goku completely wrong. Instead of being fun loving, oblivious, and caring only about combat, he’s a shy, nerdy kid who can’t keep his hair straight and is picked on by all the kids in school. And he has to believe in himself. So, in short, they made him the exact opposite of the anime version. All because they wanted to do the grand reveal that he is Oozaru (which everyone knows already, and Oozaru is not a freaky fish guy. He is an ape) and have him suddenly remember all of the slogans that his Grandpa Gohan has been telling him since he was a child. You know stuff like “have faith in who you are” the common nonsensical slogans everyone has to deal with as they grow up, and then find out they’re really a demon or alien from another planet.
What absolutely kills Goku is that Justin Chatwin is the worst actor in the movie. Evidence of this was already in the trailer, when Bulma throws her motorcycle capsule thing and all Chatwin can manage is a monotone “cool.” When he tries to go into a rage he looks constipated, when he tries to yell he sounds pathetic, when he tries to cry… he also looks constipated. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did this film constipated.
Master Roshi is perfect. Chow Yun-Fat has fun, and is easily the best actor. We never see enough of Piccolo to see him as much of a threat, or really care. Bulma is ok. Yamcha was nearly perfect, and Chi Chi was… there. No Krillin, no Ox King. Shen Long is a let down.
For a movie ostensibly about capsules that transform into anything, people firing ki blasts, and trying to summon massive dragons, the special effects were a let down. Oozaru looks like Satan in Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, and that is not a compliment. While the ki blasts were well done, most of the time they’re invisible. Besides this, the directing can get annoying. There is no good reason for Goku to hand someone a dragonball in slow motion. I wasn’t aware that was meant to be a dramatic scene. There is nothing I hate more in movies than a random slow motion, speed up cut. And Dragonball had this in abundance.
The biggest problem with the plot is that it moves too fast, and I’m sure people suspected this. But they honestly don’t try to fit too much plot into one movie. The plot is simply as I described, Piccolo wants the Dragonballs in seven days, and Goku has to stop him. The problem is that Goku never develops, and Piccolo just kinda stands around and talks really deep. Literally, the night before Goku fights Piccolo we are given a scene where Master Roshi tells Goku that he is not ready to learn the Kamehameha, but he will teach it to him anyway. So Goku struggles to light lanterns with his ki, he finally does thanks to hormones. But by the time Goku fights Piccolo he is already more powerful than Master Roshi simply by the necessities of the plot, and squashes Piccolo in less than five minutes. It’s the biggest letdown since Mike Gravel lost the Libertarian Party nomination. Piccolo never comes off particularly threatening, but this is not James Marster’s fault at all. He did a pretty good job, when he’s given the chance to talk and do something.
But those are all of the movie’s faults. I’m not a connoisseur of the fighting genre, and many may disagree, but I enjoyed the fights, save for the last one. There was a lot of decent humor, especially involving Master Roshi. I was pleasantly surprised by how strong Yamcha was, even if he also hardly does anything. And the scene where Goku finally fights the school bullies, was a pretty awesome fight scene. In short, if you’re a fan you can see it in theaters and get enraged or laugh ironically. Either way, it’s at least worth a rental for the curious when it comes out.