To my great surprise and gratification, THEY GOT IT RIGHT!
For those who are Dragonball/DBZ fans, the best way to describe this is: it's like one of the movies. It's an alternate continuity, one that won't fit with any of the original... but it's got the SPIRIT.
One of the brilliant strokes of genius is that the original trailers deliberately mislead you. There are deceptive cuts and a few actual outright changes of dialogue which make you think one thing when another is true -- and the "other" is much BETTER than you expected. They successfully managed to hide a lot of the Real Dragonball Stuff from us until the premiere, which is a hell of a job.
Spoilers follow after the
The essence of Dragonball was preserved. It takes place on a version of Dragonworld -- it may be called Earth ("Chikyuu"), but it's Dragonworld. We have Capsules, and bizarre technology, wierd mixes of cultures... it LOOKS like a Toriyama world, made real.
As I rather expected, they fused Gohan and Goku in terms of personality. This actually works well in that it allows us to introduce Goku in an at least somewhat familiar setting.
(Worries about him being a loser being beaten up... no, he's not. He has been made fun of, but it's not because he CAN'T fight...)
Chatwin, I'm happy to say, does this version of Goku well. He gets the innocence and awkwardness of the Gohan aspects, and when the time comes to be more "Goku", he shows it perfectly. Okay, his hair isn't nine inches high, but it's spiky in a very Saiyajin way.
Rossum *IS* Bulma. Yes, they've given her some action sequences, but I think that improves her character in context.
Chow Yun Fat was, as I said earlier, the RIGHT choice for Mutenroshi/Kamesenin (the original seen in my icon above, doing the Kame Hame Ha). They toned down his Ecchi nature, leaving just enough of the dirty old man to keep him the same somewhat, er, earthy character.
James Marsters was, in fact, the PERFECT Piccolo. He sounded like Piccolo, he moved like Piccolo, and yes, he was very much GREEN like Piccolo Daimao.
The changes in plotline... mostly work very well. It is, as others have said, fairly short; I hope there's more on the DVD release.
And the final battle IS Dragonball, right down to the final KA...ME...HA...ME...HAAAAA!
Oh, and one of the lies told in the previews? The mystics who banded together did NOT create the Dragonballs. They invented the Maa Fubaaa, a technique an awful lot of DB fans forget about, to capture and imprison Piccolo. The Dragonballs are, in fact, what they were always supposed to be, and the Great Dragon Shen-Long DOES make an appearance.
So in short, I strongly encourage anyone who likes DB/DBZ, or anyone who'd enjoy a quirky super-martial-arts movie, to go see this one.
A good end to a rather bad day.