The summer blockbuster roll-out starts early this year with the release of Dragonball: Evolution today. But this is hardly the first live-action adaptation of the manga series. Twenty years ago the world was blessed with the perverted pyrotechnic wonder that is Dragonball: The Magic Begins.
In a quest to subjugate all Mankind, King Horn and his alien horde scour the world seeking the seven Dragon Pearls, artifacts which can summon a dragon which will grant one wish. King Horn is opposed by Monkey Boy, his friend Seetoe, and a motley assortment of creatures and warriors, all with their own personal agendas.
Dragonball: The Magic Begins is an epic children’s tale interspersed with non sequiturs and inappropriate content showing a little wear around the edges, not unlike a fever dream or a shroom binge.
If you like pyro and wirework, you’ll love this movie. It contains more explosions than any five other action movies I’ve seen combined. The blasts are detonated so close to some of the actors that I wouldn’t be surprised if large groups of people were injured during the shoot. Life is cheap in Dragonball. And as much as I normally dislike wirework, its used to such excess here that it can’t help but be endearing, and I would often get startled at the sight of a character walking normally down a flight of stairs instead of doing quintuple back flips to save time.
The insanity of it all is grounded by the structure. After King Horn’s minions destroy his home, Monkey Boy is forced to venture into a world he’s never known, with each new environment bringing with it another companion until the group reaches its final destination. These characters’ antics range from mildly musing to annoying, with one notable exception; Turtle Man, a powerful martial artist and incorrigible pervert. The character is played by Eddie Chan, one of the only actors in the movie with previous experience, and it shows. His performance is full of unique and distinctive physicality, from his walk to his wandering hands, and is the third good reason to check this out.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Dragonball: The Magic Begins. It’s brisk, with plenty of action and some genuine surprises. And it has a sense of humour, something which the latest live-action iteration of Dragonball seems to be lacking if the trailers are anything to go by.