Dragonball - The Magic Begins

UK Distributor:  N/A (Import Only)

Japanese Distributor:  Tai Seng Video Marketing

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  16.95

Directed By:  Ho Chi Keung

Running Time:  95 mins (approx.)

Audio:  English (dubbed)

Reviewer:  Tom (Webmaster)


Whether you are a die-hard Dragonball fan or just have a passing interest in the fun series then you have probably heard that Hollywood have purchased the Dragonball licence and are currently producing a live-action version of the Akira Toriyama classic.  If you are one of several die-hard fans that is angry about the possibility of another disastrous Hollywood remake then you had better stop reading now as a live-action version of Dragonball has existed since 1989 courtesy of Taiwan.

Now I've just come away from watching Dragonball: The Magic Begins (TMB) in full and there is only one way to put it - you are either going to think this is the worst piece of blasphemy ever created or just another piece of straightforward badly-dubbed fun to come from the Far East that should not be taken seriously.  Personally I side with the latter description as I did find TMB to be great fun, but before any Dragonball zealots e-mail death threats bear with me and I will explain.

The film begins oddly as it opens with a ceremony in a rural eastern village where the viewer is introduced to the village's sacred possession - a Dragonpearl (errr...Dragonpearl? Isn't the film called Dragonball?  Why change this?  Oh well!).  The viewer is then consequently introduced to the evil latex faced King Horn and his dastardly army that seem to be a cross between Mad Max villains and shiny Blake's 7 bad guys.  Cue unconvincing flying battleships, thatched huts that explode like petrol tankers and acting that would make Ed Wood blush.  If that wasn't good enough you should wait until King Horn starts walking - it's like John Wayne badly needing to use the toilet after having a golf club shoved up him.  All this happens only five minutes and if you find this funny then you will think this film is superb.  If not then you need to find a sense of humour!

As the film continues and you realise that none of the character names are the same - Goku is Monkeyboy, Roshi is Turtle Man and Yamcha is Westwood.  You may be forgiven for thinking that none of the film is based on Dragonpearl - sorry Dragonball - at all, but there are some situations taken from the manga that should subdue any hatred zealots may be feeling.  With the exception of the beginning and the end TMB sticks reasonably close to the manga.

Anyway let me talk about what matters: action.  Action has always been what Dragonball is famous for and TMB does deliver some decent set pieces as far as action is concerned with some great OTT moves that even the most hardened zealot will find hard not to smile at.  The music is also hard not to smile at as it is cheesy 80's j-pop style that everyone loves.

And now on to the effects.  If you remember shows like Monkey! then TMB is very similar in style with some shockingly bad effects that are atrocious compared to many other 80's films and are even bad when compared to some 70's films as well.  Add in the worst dragon ever to grace a TV screen and you are in for a treat of gloriously bad cinema!  The costumes have to be mentioned to as I've seen better cosplayers then these guys.  Marvel at Turtle Man's shell backpack!  Gape at Westwood's bad Clint Eastwood outfit!  Swoon at the magnificent mullets!  Oh, this is bad stuff!

So to sum up:  Bad acting, bad dubbing, bad effects, bad costumes, pretty much bad everything make up for one heck of an enjoyable film!  Get some beers in, get your mates and settle down to some magnificent badness that even Channel 5 would not show!  If you can get a die-hard Dragonball fan to see it then even better as the look on their face would be utterly priceless.  TMB is quite simply one of the best 'so bad it's good' films I've seen in a long time and I want a sequel!!


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