Several years ago (in 2002), Fox 2000 acquired the rights to Dragonball Z as a potential live-action movie property. There were a lot of rumors and some excitement surrounding it, especially after this poster:
(click on it for a larger view)
... started making the rounds. It looks like an actual early publicity poster -- it's slick enough and looks cool -- though I have never had its authenticity confirmed.
However, after a couple years of no movement, the project was assumed dead.
Now it appears that something may have galvanized the studio into actually going forward. The Montreal Gazette printed this article: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/arts/story.html?id=5d8321ec-4d55-40bd-ae6c-742949303ea9
As I commented on digg.com:
1) I’ll believe it when I see the trailers start to come out.
2) I sure hope they’re filming in Montreal because it has some good soundstages, because there’s NOWHERE in Dragon World that looks like Montreal. There’s a few locations that look like the classic Wild West, but most of it’s Japan or China or somewhere tropical, and the cities are WIERD.
3)Cast choices will be deadly crucial here. The script — even if done well — can’t help but be very hokey sounding unless you’ve got actors that can carry off the direct, simple lines with conviction. I’ve seen some excellent suggestions for casting, but of course one of the problems in this area is that even if you have the ideal choice (e.g., Wesley Snipes for Piccolo, Jet Li for Vegita), there’s no guarantee that the actor in question is either available or interested).
4) You will need a director and effects studio that Really Understands the SCALE here. DBZ operates on a combat scale that makes most superhero movies look like toddlers having a shoving match. The recent Fantastic Four movie reached the scale with the Silver Surfer and Galactus (who would be respectable, though not overwhelming, early-on opponents in DBZ), but showed us very, very little actual action on that level. One needs to remember that these are individual warriors who fire blasts equivalent to the Death Star’s main cannon. Routinely. One of the reasons they NEED the Seven Dragonballs is to be able to fix the damage they do to the world.
5) Perhaps the hardest part of adapting DBZ of all is the *WIERDNESS* of the universe. It does NOT take place in a universe anything like our own. This is a world in which super-mad-science is possible — capsules which hold entire houses, super-powered androids with infinite power sources, etc.; This is a world in which “God” is an *appointed position* which is periodically vacated and replaced by a new “God”. This is a world in which the afterlife is run by a bureaucracy. This is a universe in which you can gain a Wish that will reshape the entire world… and you can do that once a year, if you can find the Dragonballs. This is a world in which human beings coexist with at least a dozen other anthropomorphic and nonanthropomorphic intelligent species, ranging from pterodactyl-people to talking turtles.
Without at least some of that bizarreness, it’s not Dragonball Z. The quirkiness of the world is part of the charm and the essential nature of the show.
Overall, therefore, I think that — even if this actually goes forward — it’s very unlikely to result in an actual decent adaptation. I can always hope, I suppose, and I’ll keep an eye out.
I would love to see a good DBZ adaptation. The likelihood seems low, and there's nothing I can do to influence it one way or the other, but I can still hope.