I’m pitting my least anticipated franchise “blockbuster” against my most anticipated franchise blockbuster. It’s sad how they compare.
Dragonball Evolution (James Wong, 2009)
A film I only watched to make fun of happened to be one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen so far this year. The story – although inaccurate to the original storyline (which I care nothing for) – chronicles the growth of Goku (Justin Chatwin); from an immature, self-absorbed adolescent into a passionate man who is strong both in will and in an ancient fighting art form. Along with a rag tag group of unusual pals in Bulma (Emmy Rossum) and Yamcha (Joon Park) the trio sets off to find the other dragonballs in an attempt to stop Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) from achieving an overwhelming power.
What makes this film so good is that it doesn’t ever take itself seriously. I mean, bar the climactic fight and the surprisingly (somewhat) menacing scenes of Piccalo speaking of his plans to his follower, it is a carefree and pleasant film. It understands that its content isn’t supposed to be taken seriously and that its characters aren’t meant to be anything special – and because of this it oozes charisma. From the staggeringly hot Emmy Rossum in a role bound full of mischief, to Joon Park giving the single most irritating (and therefore humorous) Korean impression of a typical American, to Justin Chatwin’s solid lead performance that is perhaps the most natural for any film alike; enjoyable and at ease. Plus Ken Watanabe is a bunch of fun and how can you not love a fun loving Watanabe?
What causes this film to succeed where Transformers does not is that it thrives on audience participation. There is a fairly well thought out singular plot; regulated plot devices that cause a formulaic story pattern and very simple characters that you can laugh with and/or at. It isn’t a big budget film, so it has to do other things to engage the audience – this is where the humor lays. Although it isn’t the funniest or the most interesting film ever, it does pace itself well and not exaggerate any scenes. Even the climactic fight is only about 5 minutes long. Comradery, new love and a desire for a soul at peace is what the film is all about. It isn’t profound, but it is simple fun. See it with little expectations like I did and you’re sure to at least enjoy yourself. [6/10]
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Michael Bay, 2009)
Alright, so you know the Michael Bay drill: explosions, comic relief (what for? I don’t know) and more explosions.
What causes the film failure is that it really, really takes itself too seriously. The first film was more reckless and more enjoyable because of it – sure, it had serious moments and did take itself seriously when ‘teaching’ about finding yourself, but that was basically it. The action wasn’t relentless, but it was entertaining. From the well placed bits of humor to the big fight scenes, it was a solid feature. This holds some similarities, but it truly exploits the successes of the ’07 feature.
For example, Megan Fox – a fresh, sexy face for audiences to enjoy. Alright, she was used well in the first, but in this Bay exploits the character beyond hot into dull. Almost every line of dialogue that comes out of her characters mouth is redundant and boring. And how many times did Bay slow down the film to show her boobs jiggle? Like 10? Anyways, that’s one example. Another would be the humor; the masturbation scene in the first – along with the not-so-witty, but still funny one liners – really cut some built-up boredom through overlong scenes. This just has them coming at you from every direction and at least half of them miss.
Like the first, this follows the duel storylines of Sam (Shia LaBeouf) and the American reserves, headed by Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson – this brings me to a small issue; his character in the first was an intense guy… now he’s just wise-ass typical black stereotype). So you get both parallel perspectives on the crisis and its flavored and varied (it isn’t, but whatever, just go with it). So there’s a comedy film about going off to college for the first 30 minutes, followed by an uneasy somewhat actiony and sneaky story about robots that follows… followed by fights between robots, as well as Sam, his main squeeze Mikaela (MEGAN FOX?!) and Leo (Ramon Rodriguez).
The film has a bunch of flare in terms of action, but it also contains a bunch of annoyance. Frantic camera movement that adds nothing to the scene and is only inconvenient for the viewer to experience (ie. even in scenes of two person dialouge the camera has to circulate the two characters at an illness inducing rate), as well as cuts in the fight scenes to show the obviously concerned and bedazzled expressions from the main characters cause for abrupt disruption that being scared just prior to orgasm – you lose momentum, finally build back up and boo… you get scared again. It’s a vicious and unhealthy cycle.
Plotholes also plague the movie, but I care not for plotholes in such movies – I just take them for empty entertainment. This film had me partially engaged and partially turned off to what was going on. I expected at least the same amount of pleasure from this as from Transformers, but I didn’t receive it. I don’t “not” recommend it… I just suggest you keep your mind open to the film and not have any expectations for it – maybe you’ll like it more. [5/10]