The acting is surprisingly good, and there's room left for a sequel that has tons of potential.
There are no pronounced original characters in this film, and the main characters that made it into the screenplay are, for the most part, true to their counterparts in the manga and anime. Chow Yun-Fat makes an excellent Master Roshi despite looking nothing like him, and Emmy Rossum as Bulma was a large part of what made the film. Justin Chatwin’s Son Goku is a little awkward; as his being in high school requires him to not be a total idiot, which Goku was in the manga. However, he still manages the role with a kind of good-hearted naiveté, transferring some of that awkwardness into the character itself. James Marsters, who played Spike of Buffy
fame, makes an ok Piccolo; who seems suitably menacing…partly because his characterization isn’t as over-the-top as it is with most of the other characters, making this Piccolo seem very down-to-Earth despite all the craziness that is going on around him. Jamie Chung makes a passive Chi-Chi, and Joon Park as a candidate for Yamcha makes me scratch my head. It’s ok though, as his was only a token role anyways. Bafflingly, Mai, played by Eriko Tamura, is also included as Piccolo's sidekick. Characters who's roles where only fairly incidental in the early Dragonball series where left out entirely, including Krillen; although considering that this is a bread-and-butter adaptation of the core of Dragonball, it can be excused, and it works.
With a series as high-energy as Dragonball, it’s the special effects that will make or break the efforts, and I am sorry to say that this film definitely shows its small budget in places. But it is far from being completely laughable. The ki-attacks, especially the famous Kamehameha Wave, look half-assed, and Piccolo’s flying machine (one of Emperor Pilaff’s from the manga …they sort of combined Pilaff’s saga with Piccolo Diamoh’s,) is obvious CGI. Other things are well-done, such as Bulma’s various Capsule vehicles and tech gadgets, and the fighting choreography is good too. There is a fight between Goku and some bullies from school that seems very reminiscent of the original series, something that I haven’t experienced from an adaptation in quite some time. The final battle with Piccolo Diamoh is plenty over-the-top, which is to be expected from a series like Dragonball.
So, in totality, I would say this was a good film. I was surprised at how true to the source material it turned out to be, in spite of the obvious “Americanizing” of the tale. Earlier in the review, I mentioned that it was a good thing that they did this with Dragonball, and the reason for that is that when they do the sequel, they can go into DragonBall Z lore without having to take too many liberties, as the character’s basic backgrounds are established quite handily by Dragonball: Evolution. Indeed, the sequel has already been announced to have an epic budget, which leads me to believe it may end up being the movie it could have been had things gone right the first time.
Producer: 20th Century Fox
Director: James Wong
Screenwriter: Ben Ramsey
Justin Chatwin - Son Goku
James Marsters - Piccolo Diamoh
Chow Yun-Fat - Muten Roshi
Emmy Rossum - Bulma Briefs
Joon Park - Yamcha
Jamie Chung - Chi-Chi
Eriko Tamura - Mai
Sources: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1098327/, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2009/04/dragonball-star-no-one-wants-to-make-a-movie-that-people-will-hate.html, http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v434/AmazingAdrian/Stuff/LIVEACTIONSUPERSAIYAN.jpg
* * http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v434/AmazingAdrian/Stuff/PICCOLOFROMTHEMOVIE.jpg