A young man discovers a mechanical device that merges with his own body, turning him into a cyborg superhero. When strange creatures start appearing, trying to take the device back, he begins to uncover a secret plot to genetically engineer terrifying monsters.
Directed by: Screaming Mad George
, Steve Wang
. Starring: Greg Joung Paik
, Jimmie Walker
, Peter Spellos
, Michael Berryman
, Spice Williams-Crosby
, Mark Hamill
, Jack Armstrong
, Johnnie Saiko
, Vivian Wu
, Deborah Anne Gorman
, Danny Gibson
, Willard E. Pugh
, David Gale
. Music by: Matthew Morse
In 1985, artist and writer Yoshiki Takaya created the popular franchise "Bio-Boosted Armor: Guyver"- which started out as an ongoing Manga comic about a teenage boy who inadvertently bonds with an alien weapon known as the "Guyver"- a bio-mechanical symbiotic suit that grants him superhuman abilities. He uses the suit to battle the "Zoanoids"- evil shape-shifting creatures who work for the nefarious Cronos Corporation, and are trying to take over the world. At its core, the story was weak but the comics and subsequent anime adaptations were decent fun. In many ways, it was almost like "Power Rangers" for adults- non-stop action, gooey creatures, alien weapons and plenty of martial-arts battles between archetypal heroes and villains... only with brutal, bloody hard-core violence and some sex appeal! It's media junk- food... but tasty media junk-food.
So it makes sense that it ended up being the center of one of those early attempts at Americanizing and re-adapting a Japanese property for Western Audiences with directors "Screaming Mad George" and Steve Wang's 1991 release "The Guyver." It was a simple story that should have worked well and easily translated from one culture to another. After all... it's a classic tale of good-guy vs bad-guy. What could go wrong?
...Well, a lot as it turns out.
While by no means a complete train-wreck and with a handful of engaging and effective sequences, the American film adaptation ultimately left quite a bit to be desired due to some key fundamental issues. These issues mainly pertaining to its lightning-fast pace and a mournfully inconsistent tone that never found the proper balance between adventure, drama and comedy. Viewing the film is often akin to changing channels on a television for an hour-and-a-half on a slow afternoon- you'll see quite a bit to like for brief snippets, but it doesn't really work together and it's not necessarily going to leave you feeling fulfilled when all is said and done.
Jack Armstrong stars as Sean Barker, a sort-of geeky but likable enough protagonist who studies martial arts and has a thing for fellow student Mizky, played by Vivian Wu. One night, he stumbles on a mysterious alien artifact that inadvertently latches onto his body, turning him into "The Guyver"- a Bio-Boosted superhero. As it turns out, Mizky's father was actually a shape-shifting "Zoanoid" and was killed trying to smuggle the unit away from the nefarious Cronos Corporation, who sought to use it to enslave humanity. And so, Sean must try and use the Guyver armor to protect Mizky from the other monstrous "Zoanoids" who come looking for the unit and seek to eliminate all loose ends- including the two of them! They also get help from a cop whose investigating the murder of Mizky's father, and is played by Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.
I believe that this particular property could work for American audiences if done properly, but I don't think that was the case here. This was one of the earliest attempts at adapting a MangaAnime franchise for American audiences, and you get the feeling there was a lot of studio meddling and second-guessing behind-the- scenes. The violence and general "weirdness" of the original stories is largely absent, action is kept to a minimum, and there's way too much focus on broad slapstick gags and pop-cultural humor in almost every scene. It's almost as if everyone involved got cold feet and decided not to commit to faithfully adapting the story out of fear it was too "weird"... and so they compensated by trying to throw in a lot of out-of-place jokes and gags to win the audience over. That's the main problem here... the failure to commit to the material. Going into "self-parody" territory as this film does is a risky move and often doesn't pay off. Thus, the film lacks drama, excitement and intrigue for too much of the run- time.
This isn't helped by ludicrously quick-paced editing that gives the film virtually no breathing room. Having seen several of the anime adaptations in my younger years, the film seems to try and cram several volumes of the original story into a single package while also doing its own things at times, and it doesn't really flow too well. You feel like you're watching a much larger story that's been edited down to only hit on key points, robbing the movie of subtlety and nuance. If the movie had an extra twenty minutes of so to play around with, it might have worked. But not as an 88-minute feature.
Still, the movie isn't a complete failure. Several cast members are a lot of fun- particularly Hamill who is giving it has all, and a memorable and delightfully over-the-top turn from David Gale as the evil "Fulton Balcus"- the big-bad head of the Cronos Corporation. The practical effects used to bring the Guyver to life are awe-inspiring and still hold up well to this day... its a fantastic design and looks like it was pulled straight from the pages of the original comic. And the action is a great deal of fun, with well-choreographed fights and some fancy moves unlike anything we had quite seem at the time.
As it stands... I don't hate "The Guyver." I saw it when I was getting a bit too old to like "Power Rangers" but not old enough to appreciate more adult fare, and it was a good transitional film to watch. It's a heck of a movie for a 12-year-old, and I think older children will get a kick out of it. And it does have some good aspects to it. It just doesn't take itself seriously enough and has some glaring production issues that will hinder its appeal for older audiences or fans of the existing franchise. I give it a sub-par but watchable 4 out of 10.
Review by MaximumMadness from the Internet Movie Database.