The Guyver Reviews
In this movie it is said that aliens came to Earth at the beginning of time and created man as their ultimate organic weapon. They implanted a special gene into man that allowed them to change into super monsters called Zoanoids, although not every human it seems. The leader, the Zoalord, awakens from some sort deep sleep at some point in time (eh?) and creates the Chronos corporation with plans to take over the Earth for some reason. It also seems the aliens that created mankind and the Zoanoids left behind a piece of technology called 'the unit', a suit of armour that attaches itself to a host by literately implanting itself inside the hosts body. Once inside a human the suit gives the host a shit tonne of power, strength, speed etc...all the good stuff.
So basically the bad guys in the movie are the Zoanoids from the dastardly Chronos corporation who want the unit (the Guyver suit). Of course the suit attaches itself to an innocent good looking young all American martial arts apprentice who then uses it to stop the Zoanoids from trying to gain complete control. If a Zoanoid uses the suit they become even more powerful than a regular human. Still unsure why these aliens didn't implant the special Zoanoid gene into every human including women, seeing as humans were their weapons experiment. The manga series does seem to be different of course with three Guyver suits on the loose, a different take on the origins and there is way more detail and info over the US movie.
It does seem (to me) that the character of Spawn has possibly been influenced by this Japanese Guyver suit. The Guyver is a really cool creation, a symbiotic bio-mechanism that fuses with the host and lives inside its body like a parasite. The suit is nigh on invulnerable accept for the circular 'control metal' on the forehead of the suit/host. This seems to be the suits brain that gives it its power, it also stores information about its host (DNA data possibly) and it is the only weak spot. In the manga series the suit does a lot more and apparently alters the host both inside and out to improve it! Also apart from giving the host special super powers it also has built in weapons such as its chest cannon, elbow blades and the control metal can fire lasers too. These are seen in the movie but there is more in the manga series, the movie also shows what happens when the control metal is damaged badly. Basically the suit disintegrates and kills the host along with it, in the comic it is said the suit eats the host! But the control metal will respawn or regenerate the host from the stored data it holds (somehow), seemingly making the host invincible and unable to die. So my point is Spawn is almost a hellbound version of the Guyver to a degree, the concept of the living suit is very similar.
This movie really gives you the impression its gonna be badass, it looks dark and broody, the suit looks excellent and there are plenty of big monster suits...what could be better?! Now when I first saw the monster (Zoanoid) suits I loved them, they look like your typical 80's rubber horror monster suits with a bloke inside. If you think of Gill-man in 'The Monster Squad' then you have an idea of what I mean. All the monsters have a certain look to them, one is kinda like a werewolf, one looks like a big Gremlin from the Joe Dante movie (shame about the cliched stereotypical personality it has), one has elephantine features, one looks like a bug etc...so the visual side of things is positive. The Guyver suit also looks great with a lot of detail, some brilliant LED-esque (were LED's available back then?) lit up eyes, nice suit colouring, steam coming out of the vent things on his mask, moving parts and most importantly it actually looks like the Japanese source material.
The problems occur when the action kicks in, yes the Guyver looks awesome standing still in the shadows but oh dear...the disappointment. First up the action is generally very weak with no blood, no profanity and no violence really, all the martial arts you see is clearly fake stunt work. Secondly the action is martial arts!! why?! doesn't this suit have all manner of cool stuff it can do other than enable the host to perform decent martial arts! that's so 80's. We know the suit has these big deadly blades on the elbow section...yet he never uses them! only for final moves does he seem to use them. This just seems utterly pointless when its obvious he could end the fight whenever he wanted with these deadly blades, instead we get lots of aimless martial arts that goes nowhere. And yes the martial arts is totally aimless, lots of jumping around in big cumbersome suits that makes for very crappy fight sequences (when he should be slicing and dicing). All these guys seem to do is throw each other against walls and rubble yet nothing ever affects them ever. The final nail in the coffin is the fact every suit in battle looks incredibly like what it actually is...pure rubber. These suits flop bounce and squish all over the place, the Guyver blades bend, you can see the suits are padded when a strike makes contact etc...its terrible.
The bottom line is this movie is a dark version of 'The Power Rangers', yep that's right. The action is identical in every way down to the hammy music, the way the creatures just keep getting up and carrying on fighting, the body movement of the Guyver in hero and taunt stances, the way the Guyver speaks though his suit and of course everything looks fake. Although it does feel and look kinda manga-ish/Japanese-ish, kinda. Don't get me wrong there is a lot of nice visual work going on here, some good sets, great prosthetic work, creature effects, mutation effects, basic cinematography etc...But it all falls apart whenever the action rolls in, that's when everything is revealed to be rubber. The finale battle between the Guyver and the Zoalord is hilariously bad, the creature design is intriguing and well made but the sequence is awful. The creature is way too big, too slow, jerky and clearly doesn't do what the designers intended, what they were going for. Its a shame because the fantasy element is great and I love how its all hands-on craftsmanship but it just doesn't work.
I think the cast do well in the movie with certain people boosting the silliness. Michael Berryman is always good for a bad guy isn't he, can't go wrong there, as said Hamill has a small part and pumps a bit of cult class into the proceedings but its David Gale as the Chronos president who steals the show with his Peter Cushing-esque looks. I thought this character played out a lot like Dick Jones in 'Robocop', I dunno I just got that feeling when he first comes onto the scene, he looks like a combination of Dick Jones and the OCP president with the added bonus of classic Hammer Horror looks.
In the end I really wanted to like this and I kinda do...but ultimately it just feels too childish and too silly. I don't know if the Japanese manga series was dark or not but this tongue-in-cheek approach really feels misplaced here if you ask me. It pains me because there is so much here, so much brilliant material both from the source and in this US adaptation. This really is a rich universe that is desperate for a kickass action flick, its ripe and ready. This was a bold attempt and there are some things here that are great, some lovely visuals and live action work which I give full kudos too, but you can't look past how badly it fails at the same time. If ever a movie/original idea needed a fresh reboot with up to date special effects and full frontal kickassery...this is most definitely it.
Also, it gets boring easily.
I was not familiar with the manga comics before viewing this film so all I have to say that the plot is way fucking out there! The film opens with a long back-story of how the human race was created by aliens and some humans are granted to the ability to shape shift into "monsters". An evil corporation of these shape shifters called Chronos is trying to figure out how to use a "guyver", an organic suit of armor. After all that back-story given in a standard Star Wars (you didn't think I would write a reveiew on a film starring Mark Hamill and not make a Star Wars reference... did you?) scroll on the screen, we are then introduced to a scientist who gets killed trying to get the guyver unit to the CIA. The guyver unit ends up in the hands of a young man who accidentally gets the shield unit entered into his system. Now he must use his new biological armor to save his women from all the monsters sent to capture her in order to find the guyver unit. I forgot to mention Mark Hamill is a CIA agent who meanders around pointlessly.
Guyver is defiantly a film not to take seriously. The acting is hammy and over-the-the top the plot is ridiculous. However what better way to handle silly material like this? The directing is also full of energy moving the film along at a nice pace with some wacky wipe transitions. The highlight of the film however is the monster effects which are surprisingly really good for such a low budget.
The film however falls prey to too many cliche's and very dumb comedy moments (the rap music portion made me hit my forehead). The monster fight sequences are also a little too reminiscent of Power Rangers for my taste. Actually, the more I think about it, this is just a more violent, adult orientated Power Rangers variation.
Guyver is a silly, ridiculous film and die-hard fans of the manga no doubt will hate the silly approach to the subject matter. Then again I beg how can anyone take a plot like this seriously? They tried in the sequel Guyver: Dark Hero and it came out even worse. It kept my attention but I wish the filmmakers added a little more over-the-top violence to the film. This is from the makers of Re-Animator for Christ sake, where's the blood! Even with the violence is it's still a little too childish for me to truly like but I did enjoy the cast, especially David Gale in another wonderful over-the-top role! Fans of silly, comic book material and B-movies might have a fun time
Bonus Praise: I like the little nod to Re-Animator by naming Jeffrey Comb's character Dr. East, as his character in Re-Animator was named Dr. West.
Bonus Rant: The promotional artwork for the film made it look like Mark Hamill played the title character of the Guyver. Shit.... I'm sure his "fans" were disappointed that he played another throw-away role, a typical forgettable character he was degraded to playing after Return of the Jedi.
THe use of body-suits reminds me of the Teenage Mutent Ninja Turtles 2 movie, though not executed as well as the turtles. Odd monsters/aliens they are.
With blatant D-Movie acting and stereotypes, horrible casting in general, and uninspired set design, the only saving grace of this movie was the designs of the Zoanoids and the Guyver itself. While it's near impossible to re-produce some of the designs of the zoanoids from the manga or anime, only one design, the main stooge zoanoid, is close to some of the icons of the source material.
Even the Guyver itself, while visually very similar, looks like they skinned a chameleon and used it for the mottled lizard-like armor, and then painted it a very bad dark blue color, making it not stand out especially with the dark set lighting for the majority of the combat scenes, though it's visibly brighter during the "rebirth" sequence. And even that comes out extremely hokey with the 'Jaws inspired' cutting of the abdomen, and coming full sized out of such a compact space (while it screams anime, it just doesn't look as believable on film.)
All in all, avoid this movie at all costs, and skip right to Guyver 2: Dark Hero.