By Lee Hyo-won
The explosively popular Japanese comic "Dragon Ball" comes to life via Hollywood as "Dragonball: Evolution". Before its world premiere March 12 in South Korea, the movie's cast of fresh young actors, Asian superstar Chow Yun-fat and former K-pop star Joon Park (Park Joon-hyung) turned up the temperature a notch in Seoul with their promotional tour Tuesday.
The original 500-plus-episode cartoon is based on the epic fantasy "Chinese Odyssey". First published in 1984, it sold over 200 million copies worldwide and has been made into three TV animation series, 21 movies and 25 video games.
The new Stephen Chow production brings the story of a teenaged Goku (Justin Chatwin) who, upon the dying wishes of his adoptive grandfather (Randall Duk Kim), seeks out the great masters Roshi (Chow Yun-fat) and Bulma (Emmy Rossum). With his friends Yamcha (Joon Park) and Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), he must gather all seven magical orbs or Dragon Balls before the evil Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) uses them to conquer the world.
Extensive clips of the movie were revealed exclusively for the Korean press. "I also love the comic books, but the manga is very (long). There's no way to put all that in the movie", said director James Wong ("Final Destination"). "The goal also is to be able to introduce `Dragonball' not only to fans but those who don't know it", he said, adding that he wanted to craft a story that is relatable to a young audience. "Hopefully we'll have a chance to tell the rest of it in subsequent movies". The creation of sequels will depend on the success of the upcoming film, he said.
Chatwin ("Invisible"), who had been a fan of the TV cartoon, said he was both excited and fearful of interpreting such an iconic character. He had to undergo intense martial arts training ― "vomiting because they pushed us so hard". "But it's a super fun movie and I'm absolutely honored", he said.
Chow, the hero of Hong Kong noir films, plays a rather comical role in the movie. Dressed in all black instead of his character's Hawaiian shirt, he jokingly said his wife ― who is also his manager and mentor ― "forced" him to take the role because she needed "money to buy a very famous bag". He threw the crowded pressroom into more bouts of laughter with humorous Korean phrases. Chow was last here 15 years ago for shooting an action movie. He said he was surprised with the modernization, "but kimchi is still the same" as it is with the passionate people.
Park said it was a great honor to work with Chow in his second Hollywood movie after "Speed Racer". "Mr. Chow is such a huge star but on the set he is so humble and professional, and gave me a lot of guidance", he said. About working in the United States, the former G.O.D. rapper said he felt proud to see that the Korean film industry is as sophisticated as Hollywood.
A group of young women waited outside the venue, screaming each time Park spoke. Chung, an up and coming Korean American actress ("Chuck and Larry") said she was surprised to witness Park's popularity when his fans greeted him at the airport Monday. "He's my `oppa' (big brother); he took care of me", she said about working with Park. "I'm so proud to be here", she said.
Screen beauty Rossum, who recently shot an advertisement here, said she was happy to return. "Everyone here has a good sense of humor and I can see why everyone likes `Dragon Ball"'. Looking striking in a red dress, she said she tried to bring Bulma to life as a "feisty, determined, intelligent, and yes, hopefully a little sexy, woman".
Marsters pointed out that the movie is based on "Dragon Ball" rather than "Dragon Ball Z" and that his character Lord Piccolo is a powerful, muscular villain rather than a decrepit old man. Another difference, he said, is that the film does not feature Lord Piccolo's superpower ability of dismembering himself.
World premiere in South Korea on March 12. For all ages. Distributed by 20th Century Fox Korea.