AVAILABLE ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD: 19th DECEMBER, from ARROW VIDEO
RUNNING TIME: 92 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
CIA Agent Max Reed witnesses the murder of Dr. Tetsu Segawa, a researcher for the mysterious Chronos Corporation. Dr. Segawa had stolen an alien device known as the Guyver from Chronos, but he hid it among a pile of garbage by the Los Angeles River before his death. At a dojo, Reed notifies Dr. Segawa’s daughter Mizki of the incident, and her boyfriend Sean Barker follows Reed and Mizki to the crime scene. There, he stumbles upon the Guyver unit stored inside a lunch box and stuffs it in his backpack. On his way home, his scooter breaks down in the middle of a back alley before a gang corners hiM, but the Guyver suddenly activates and fuses with him….
Based on an anime series called Bio Booster Armor Guyver which was itself based on a manga, though highly reminiscent of some old Japanese TV series like Ultraman and Starman, The Guyver is a film I remember liking quite a lot when it came out on video in the UK under the title Mutronics; my brother and I hired it out several times. However, it didn’t hold up very well when I saw it for the first time in ages last night. It has its positive aspects, notably some great monster suits and pretty good special effects on a limited budget, and this lover of things like Pacific Rim and Inframan can’t get enough of a man in a robot suit battling monsters, but it’s very poorly written and seems to be a project where the makers didn’t really know what to do with the materil and who to primarily aim at. Apparently the anime is very serious, gritty and brutal, but, possibly in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the film version is very campy, though little of the supposed humour really works and sometimes borders on being cringe worthy, while there are still some brutal moments in the film – though not as many as I remembered. This is because Arrow’s Blu-ray is taken from the ‘director’s cut’, which restores a few bits of dialogue previously removed but which also removes for some reason such delights as an arm being ripped off. This version also has many scene transitions being accompanied by a slash going across the screen and two musical notes, a device which quickly gets annoying.
An opening scrawl, which also wasn’t in the earlier version, begins the film by telling us much background, though its inclusion/restoration is puzzlingly pointless because later on a character tells us the same information. The film would work a bit better with us not knowing all that’s going on for a while and probably actually did. Anyway, we switch to Dr. Tetsu Segawa fleeing with his stolen briefcase and encountering a motley foursome of villains; bald leader Lisker, hulking Ramsey, musclewoman Weber, and jive-talking Striker, who sometimes breaks into rap [I’m not joking]. Right from the offset, no attempt is made to make these characters fearsome in any way and it really weakens the dynamic of the film. Segawa suddenly turns himself into a fish-like creature and Striker into something resembling a Predator, and the two have a lame fight shot largely in close-ups until Lisker crushes Segawa’s head and Segawa dissolves into a pile of goo. At least we do then meet one menacing villain, Fulton Bakus, played by David Gale with the same relish he showed in Re-animator [and by the way Jeffrey Combs later shows up too, playing a person called….Dr. East]. He’s furious that a toaster was in the retrieved briefcase rather than the Guyver suit and sends his silly hench-creatures back out to go and get it. It’s now in the hands of aikido student Sean Barker who’s dating Segawa’s daughter Mizki. Oh, and I almost forgot; CIA Agent Max Reed is also lurking around, played by Mark Hamill who often looks as if he can’t really be bothered and certainly doesn’t succeed in maintaining a New York accent.
Barker first becomes the Guyver when he’s menaced by five hoods and is kicked face first onto the shiny metal ball which envelopes him in a suit and makes him very strong. He’s suddenly hurling the yobs against walls, though said yobs don’t seem very competent. One of them pulls out a nunchuku and starts whirling it around before dropping it, then starts throwing a flick knife back and forth from hand to hand until he drops that too. That’s one of the funnier moments in the film. As might be expected, a fair bit of the running time is devoted to the Guyver duking it out with Lisker and his lot. The person playing Barker in the suit displays some decent martial arts moves, but quite often the creatures just seem like they’re standing there waiting to be punched or kicked and these sequences just aren’t as exciting as they should be, partly because the villains just appear to goof around for much of the time. There’s nothing wrong with a film being humorous but this particular one goes too far with it, and yet is rarely actually funny. One especially painful bit has Striker, in monster form, stumble onto the set of a creature feature where he’s mistaken for the main star and is scared by the formidable scream of Linnea Quigley [boy can she hold it for a long time]. The film’s director tells Striker that: “the suit looks great, you look terrific” in what is a shamelessly self-congratulatory moment.
Actually the suits really do look great even if they’re somewhat wasted, with no attempt whatsoever to use them in a creative manner [such as gradually building up to appearances] and there’s a good dragon-type creature, realised from the looks of it by both stop motion and full-size props, in the film’s climax. The Guyver suit, part humanoid robot and part insect, looks very cool, and the majority of the effects still look pretty good. While the transformations tend to be only partially shown, there’s a memorable bit where one character becomes an insect-type creature with a human-like head, the neck extending with the head on the end of it looking pretty convincing. In these days of CGI used in many instances to do virtually everything, it is interesting to watch stuff like this and try to work out how it was achieved. The flashes of gore here and there though seem out of place, and the mostly nocturnal setting of the piece doesn’t provide any atmosphere. In fact, the whole film has a really flat look and feel to it and is just lacking in any real style except for a bit of modern-style handheld camerawork during some of the action. You would think that two talented special effects technicians [Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang] would be perfect choices to direct a film such as this, but the result proves otherwise.
Jack Armstrong is as bland a male lead as you can think of and the usually good Vivian Wu isn’t much better. Michael Berryman gets to show the slight comic touch he’s occasionally shown elsewhere as Lisker in his scenes with David Gale. A scene where Bakus hypnotises Lisker into hitting himself and then pulling his face is another one of the few actually amusing moments. Some of the cast members almost seem to be acting in their own little film though. Overall The Guyver isn’t anywhere near as fun as you would expect a film to be with the cast it has and which devotes much footage to a man in a robot suit battling monsters. I like to think that I still appreciate fun trash, but to these more critical eyes, the film is only really worth watching for its creatures [and even they’re not handled very well] and its variety of old school special effects on a budget. Overall I think that they rather botched The Guyver and would say that it’s one film that could do with being remade [there was a sequel called Guyver: Dark Hero which seems to generally be considered to be significantly better and which I hope Arrow are considering releasing]. I do, though, think that some kids may love it. Considering what you can get away with in a ‘12’ these days, this film’s ‘15’ certificate [at least for this version of the film] strikes me as being too high.
The Guyver is an unattractive looking film but Arrow’s Blu-ray looks very crisp and has a decent amount of depth throughout. There are a few instances of specks of dirt on the screen though. This release is low on special features, and even the interview with producer Brian Yuzna, who is asked questions concerning the movie by a fan of it, is disappointingly short. I guess that he didn’t want to talk about this film very much though he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it from what we see here.
*Brand new digital transfer of the Director’s Cut
*High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
*Original uncompressed audio
*Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
*Brand new interview with producer Brian Yuzna
*Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nick Percival
*First pressing only: Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film