The film Dragon Ball Evolution, adapted from Akira Toriyama’s manga, will unfortunately remain as one of the worst live adaptations of a manga in cinema. The film’s post-credit scene even left us dangling a sequel, with Piccolo recovering, but then why Dragon Ball Evolution 2 has and will probably never see the light of day ?
It’s a fact: we live in a timeline where someone – one day – considered producing Dragon Ball Evolution 2. The first part was released on April 1, 2009, at a time when interest in the franchise was certainly too underestimated by rights holders, and even more so by American cinema, which paid the price at its expense. The Dragon Ball manga was released in 1984, and the series created by Akira Toriyama quickly became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon. The basic story follows a young martial arts fighter named Son Goku. After his providential encounter with a young woman named Bulma, they both embark on a quest to retrieve the 7 Dragon Balls in order to summon a legendary dragon that could grant any wish. The manga’s popularity quickly led to an anime series adaptation, followed by a slew of other spin-offs like OVAs, movies, video games, toys, and more.
Over the years, and given the continued popularity of the license, and its limitless amount of source material to work from, a live-action movie (aka live action movie) Dragon Ball was inevitable. 20th Century Fox had acquired the rights in the early 2000s (it even appeared on the show Exclusif on TF1), with directors like Stephen Chow and Zack Snyder circling around, before James Wong signed on. Moreover, recently, Zack Snyder said he was still ready to make a Dragon Ball Z movie.
The film had nevertheless brought together a talented cast, with Emmy Rossum and Chow Yun-fat, but it was, to say the least, received with disappointment by the fans. The feature is a garish mess that has a poor understanding of the original work and bad special effects. Ben Ramsey, the screenwriter of Dragon Ball Evolution, even issued an apology to DB enthusiasts years later for his role in the production.
A Dragon Ball Evolution 2 script had been written
Regardless of the film’s poor reception, 20th Century Fox had clearly envisioned a saga with the franchise. Goku actor Justin Chatwin revealed in an MTV interview when Dragon Ball Evolution was released that a script had already been written.
“I know they wrote a second script, and it’s pretty far there. […] The second [film] will really explore different places that I haven’t seen in any other comic book adaptation,” Chatwin said.
Justin Chatwin at MTV
James Marsters, who plays Piccolo, also revealed in that other IGN interview that he even signed on for three movies. In other words: Dragon Ball Evolution 3 could also have seen the light of day. He stated : “All I know is that I’ve signed on for three movies, but I’d like to do five – seven. We’ll get to Dragon Ball Z later, where Piccolo becomes young, and where he becomes the Piccolo that most people know”. He even added in this IGN interview: ” I hope that [Dragon Ball Evolution aura du succès] because my character only gets really interesting in the second movie. By that I mean that it is already interesting now! But his journey is really developed in the script of the second film”.
Justin Chatwin (Goku) explained that he saw the movie Evolution as an introduction to the larger Dragon Ball universe: “I know what they have in store for Dragon Ball Evolution 2 and it’s really cool! It’s more in the vein of the Dragon Ball saga: it goes to other places, there are other characters, other fighters, and there’s a lot of action, which is really great. It’s taking the direction of Dragon Ball Z, and it’s really exciting. We enter right into the legend of Dragon Ball. I can’t really say more, but it made me say that it’s a franchise that’s fun to be part of, because there’s so much that we haven’t shown yet”.
Dragon Ball Evolution did not break the box office
Bad reviews don’t necessarily mean the death of a movie saga, but when you add bad box office numbers to that, it certainly helps. In fact, Dragon Ball Evolution did quite well at the international box office. At the cinema, it brought in a total of approximately 60 million dollars, for a production budget of 30 million. It represents 2x its production budget, contrary to what one might have thought. (source: The Numbers).
But according to Theo D. (employee at Warner Bros. Entertainment), it is customary to say that “for large American productions, the film is sometimes considered a success when the US box office covers the entire production / distribution budget (international receipts being profit, since there is no has more production costs)”. With Dragon Ball Evolution, we are far from the mark, since it only brought in 9 million on the American market, well below the 30 million production cost.
No one wanted Dragon Ball Evolution 2
It’s mostly that, actually. The original movie was so poorly received that even if it had blown the numbers financially, Dragon Ball Evolution 2 still might not have happened. In the years since, the filmmakers, and even the original manga’s creator Akira Toriyama, have acknowledged that the movie just didn’t work. It was therefore preferable to put an end to this cinematographic saga, which nevertheless managed the feat of establishing itself as a reference in terms of failed adaptations of animated series.
But maybe some of you liked it? Tell us that in the comments: what would you like to see next? A Hollywood reboot? A CGI movie like Final Fantasy VII Advent Children?