“The Guyver” was one of the first in a series of Western film adaptations of anime, released in hopes of capitalizing on the success of “Akira”. Given the cold shoulder when initially released in the USA, New Line Pictures gave the film another shot by releasing it as a director’s cut. While the few minutes of extra footage do relatively little in terms of improving the picture, it’s still an enjoyable monster fest.
The film opens with a scientist running through the night, holding onto a mysterious parcel for dear life. He’s intercepted by thugs from his employer, the Chronos Corporation, and the result is his death. But the package is safe from his evil employers, stashed in an alley where a college student stumbles upon it. It transforms him into The Guyver, a powerful bio-suit weapon that the Chronos Corporation is desperately searching for. Now the new owner of the weapon must team up with a rebellious C.I.A. agent to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.
The creature effects by Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang (“Drive”) are remarkable, not just in their audacious design but realistic execution. With fluid movements, amazing details, and some nifty transformation scenes, these monsters are the highlight of the film. The Guyver, especially, looks great, a truly biomechanical wonder to behold. However, George and Wang should have stuck to monster effects and stayed away from the director’s chair. Their efforts are wildly uneven; they do an excellent job with the monster scenes, but seem perplexed as to what to do when humans take center stage.
As The Guyver, Jack Armstrong has the distinction of being the least likeable comic book hero. His character is immature, with a bad temper, and you’re happy when he’s encased in Guyver armor — at least he’s a lot quieter. Luckily for Armstrong, he has a strong supporting cast to back him up. Mark Hamill (“Comic Book: The Movie”) plays his role as renegade C.I.A. agent rather well, and looks as if he’s truly enjoying himself. Michael Berryman also gives an equally good performance as Chronos’ lead henchman, at times deliciously going over the top.
Of course, every film featuring an evil corporation needs a loathsome and cold CEO. The late David Gale (“Re-Animator”) gives us that in spades; he’s so creepy and sadistic that it’s impossible to feel any empathy for him. Fans of Scream Queen Linnea Quigley should keep their eyes peeled for her cameo, where she lampoons her real life job.
The main problem area with “The Guyver” is the script by John Purdy. Granted, it’s enjoyable, with plenty of monster action and comic relief, but it gets needlessly bogged down in a confusing backstory about humanity being created by aliens to be super weapons. It’s as if Purdy was trying to add more depth to the film, then just gave up and stuck to monster scenes. He also has a slight problem with dialogue, and some of the lines the cast are forced to utter are so bad it’s amazing they didn’t wince while saying them. Even if the situation is fantastical, at least make the characters sound real.
The director’s cut adds four minutes of new footage, but it really has little effect on the film. There are no new revelations about the plot and no new character traits are revealed. It’s just a case of New Line scraping up some cuts off the editing room floor and sticking them back into the film.
“The Guyver” is not a perfect film by any means, but it is an enjoyable and silly guilty pleasure. It’s best to switch your brain off and enjoy the absurdity onscreen. The film won’t raise your I.Q. points, but it will give you a good time.
Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang (director) / Jon Purdy (screenplay), Yoshiki Takaya (characters)
CAST: Greg Paik …. Dr. Tetsu Segawa
Jimmie Walker …. Striker
Peter Spellos …. Ramsey
Michael Berryman …. Lisker
Spice Williams …. Weber
Mark Hamill …. Max Reed