The film is based on the Japanese Dragon Ball manga created by Akira Toriyama, and stars Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, James Marsters, Jamie Chung, Chow Yun-fat, Joon Park, and Eriko Tamura. In Dragonball: Evolution, the young Goku reveals his past and sets out to fight the evil alien warlord Lord Piccolo who wishes to gain the powerful Dragon Balls and use them to take over Earth. The film began development in 2002 and was distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is the first official live-action adaptation of the Dragon Ball manga.
Dragonball: Evolution was released in Japan and several other Asian countries on March 13, 2009, and in the United States on April 10, 2009. The film received negative reviews by both critics and Dragon Ball fans, particularly for its script, cast, and unfaithfulness to the source material. The film was a box office disappointment, grossing $58.2 million with a production budget of $30 million. The film was meant to be the first of a series, though all subsequent films were canceled.
Two thousand years ago, the demon Lord Piccolo came to Earth, wreaking havoc along with his minion Ōzaru. Seven mystics created a powerful enchantment called the Mafuba and used it to seal Piccolo away; however, he breaks free in the present day, and with his ninja henchwoman Mai, begins to search for the seven Dragonballs – each one marked with stars numbering between one and seven – killing anyone in his path.
On his eighteenth birthday, martial artist and high school senior Son Goku is given the four-star Dragonball by his grandfather, Gohan. Returning home from a party hosted by his crush Chi-Chi, Goku finds his home destroyed and his grandfather near death after Piccolo’s failed attempt to acquire the Dragonball. Before he dies, Gohan tells Goku to seek out martial arts master Muten Roshi, who holds another one of the Dragonballs.
Goku then meets Bulma of the Capsule Corporation, who was studying the five-star Dragonball until it was stolen by Mai and has invented a locator for the Dragonballs. Goku offers Bulma his protection in exchange for her help in finding Roshi. They ultimately track him down in Paozu City, and he joins them in their search. Under Roshi’s wing, Goku begins training his ki, knowing that they must get all the Dragonballs before the next solar eclipse when Ōzaru will return and join forces with Piccolo. In the midst of the group’s search for the six-star Dragonball, they fall into a trap set by the desert bandit Yamcha, but Roshi convinces Yamcha to join by promising a portion of the royalties for Bulma’s invention. Together, the group fight off an ambush by Mai and successfully acquire the next Dragonball.
As the group continues their quest, they visit a martial arts tournament where Chi-Chi is competing; she fights Mai in a martial arts match, and Mai uses the match to steal a sample of her blood. Chi-Chi briefly joins the group as they travel to a temple where Roshi consults his former teacher Sifu Norris and begins preparing the Mafuba enchantment so he can reseal Piccolo, while Chi-Chi helps Goku in his training to learn the most powerful of the ki-bending techniques: the Kamehameha. During the night, Mai – having disguised herself as Chi-Chi using her shapeshifting abilities and the blood she stole earlier – steals the team’s three Dragonballs, adding them to the ones that Piccolo already acquired. Chi-Chi is knocked unconscious in the fight, while Goku, Bulma, Yamcha, and Roshi go in pursuit of Mai and Piccolo.
With the Dragonballs successfully united, Piccolo arrives at the Dragon Temple and begins to summon Shen Long, but is stopped by the timely arrival of Goku’s team. During the ensuing battle, Piccolo reveals to Goku that he himself is Ōzaru, having been sent to Earth as an infant to destroy it when he grew older. As the eclipse begins, Goku transforms into Ōzaru while Roshi attempts to use the Mafuba on Piccolo, but he doesn’t have enough energy to finish the enchantment and Piccolo breaks free. Ōzaru chokes Roshi to death, but Roshi’s dying words snap Goku back to his senses; he reverses his transformation and engages Piccolo in a final battle, seemingly defeating him with the power of the Kamehameha. Goku then uses the Dragonballs to summon Shen Long and requests that he restore Roshi to life.
As the group celebrates, they realize the Dragonballs have now scattered, and Bulma declares that they must search for them again. Before they head out, Goku meets with Chi-Chi to get to know her better, and they begin a sparring match to see which of them is stronger. In a mid-credits scene, Piccolo is shown to have survived Goku’s Kamehameha and is being cared for by an unknown woman.