So am I the only one wondering why the hell, in this age of amazing computer animation, the makers of the upcoming Dragonball: Evolution would choose to make it live action? Especially when it all looks so, um, crappy?
That thought is rampaging through my mind this morning thanks to a new teaser trailer for the 3-D animated adaptation of Astro Boy. Which, while it certainly doesn't look like the original Osamu Tezuka cartoon, has the potential to be pretty darn good. When I first started writing this entry, the teaser was available on Hulu -- mere minutes later, however, it's no longer available. Oh, you fickle Internet! So I'll have to make my case with the YouTube version:
Compare that with the trailer for next month's release Dragonball: Evolution, which looks like a throwback to loud, dumb fantasy-action flicks of the mid-90's like Mortal Kombat. With an international fan base as massive as the one following Dragonball -- which grew from a 10-year-long manga into multiple TV series, 17 animated features, three TV specials, plus video and card games -- why on earth would anyone think it's a good idea to give the fans this, making Goku an American and discarding vital elements of the core plot along the way, to boot:
Animation lends itself beautifully to superhero stories. The Incredibles is one of the best caped-crusader flicks ever, and TV/video vehicles like Batman: The Animated Series and the recent Justice League: The New Frontier prove that, in a medium where literally anything can be rendered, it's easier to buy the most ludicrous of comic-book concepts when they're writ in cartoon form.
The writing can be whip-smart, as well, often better than that of live-action comic-book adaptations (yes, I'm looking at you, Fantastic Four and Daredevil!) This week's release of the delightful Monsters vs. Aliens, which at its heart is a superhero flick, merely reinforces this -- the heroes are a giant woman, a cockroach with a Ph.D, a jiggly blue blob, and a half ape/half fish Missing Link ... and it's all terrific, while a live-action version of the same would be a trainwreck.
The creators of Dragonball seemed to understand this, given the franchise's long history of animated product, but live-action has certainly been attempted -- with disastrous results. 1989's Dragonball: the Magic Begins, an "unofficial" Chinese adaptation, mixed live action, super-cheap CGI animation, and super-cheap hand-drawn animation, resulting in one of the worst rubber-monster movies ever. Someone should have taken notice.And by "someone," I mean producer Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) and director James Wong (The X-Files, The One), as well as the folks at 20th Century Fox who greenlit the project. It's possible, with Wong and Chow at the wheel, Dragonball Evolution might be a whole lot better than that trailer makes it look. But when a movie forces Chow Yun-Fat to mug like Jim Carrey ... how likely is that? Take a look: