The Japanese powered superhero gets the Hollywood treatment courtesy of two special-effects wizards.
When Dr. Tetsu Segawa attempts to escape his employer Chronos, he holds a mysterious briefcase in which he hides before being confronted by Chronos employees Lisker, Weber, Striker, and Ramsay, all of whom have the ability to change into monstrous Zoanoids. Segawa, who also has changed, is killed. Max Reed, a local detective, is assigned to break the news to Tetsu’s daughter Mizky, who is in a relationship with troubled college student Sean Barker.
Sean, who is always bullied at his Aikido class and lets his anger gets the best of him, after mistaking Max for a potential suitor for Mizky, he decides to leave. However, when he learns what has happened, he offers to return but en route he finds the mysterious briefcase. When Sean holds the object in the briefcase in his bookbag, he is confronted by a local street gang, which includes the bully from his Aikido class. Getting beaten up, Sean accidentally triggers the device he finds and soon finds himself transforming into a bio-boosted armored fighter known as The Guyver. While Sean adapts to his new powers, he and Mizky now find themselves in serious danger.
In 1985, Yoshiki Takaya created the character known as Bio-Booster Armor Guyver, which was adapted into a 12-episode anime series in 1989. A few short years later, Japan’s Shochiku Films joined forces with Hollywood producer Bryan Yuzna to bring this character to life in live-action form. Of course, this being a Hollywood B-movie, some of the names had to be changed or altered and there are a few tweaks to the story.
Directing the film are the special effects duo of Steve Wang and the wonderfully named “Screaming Mad” George, aka Joji Tani. Making their directorial debut, the film was not only re-cut by New Line Cinema, who distributed the film, but truly did a poor job marketing the film to bring in the star power of Mark Hamill. On the film’s posters, Hamill is seen with half of his face and that of the Guyver. The only problem is that Hamill’s character is not the Guyver, but rather a local detective who had befriended the ill-fated character of Tetsu Segawa. In the manga, Tetsu is the brother of Mizuki Segawa but in this version, Tetsu is the father of the slightly altered “Mizky” Segawa.
The central character of Sho Fukamachi is now Sean Barker and here, he is played by Jack Armstrong, who doesn’t do a bad job as Barker. Vivian Wu plays Mizky as more of a damsel-in-distress meshed with a bit of a “lost puppy” kind of feeling. A highlight of the film is truly horror film vet Michael Berryman, who plays the very dangerous Lisker, who will go to great lengths to retrieve the Guyver unit, even after learning it has found its host in Sean. Jimmie Walker’s Stryker is the comic relief of the film, even giving a nod to his iconic J.J. from Good Times, giving the audience that character’s trademark line in one scene. Another horror film veteran, David Gale, looks like he loves playing these brand of villains as he plays Balcus with such fun and insanity with Jeffrey Combs making a special cameo as Doctor East, a play on his classic Re-Animator (the 1985 horror film which Yuzna also produced) character of Dr. West.
The only major problem with The Guyver is not so much the change in character names or the special effects, which are impressive. It is that the action of the film is a bit lackluster. The Guyver, when activated, is supposed to be an able-bodied martial arts expert but despite a few slick moves, The Guyver looks more stiff and rigid when executing moves. Perhaps, it is the weight of the suit that prevents the stuntman to be able to perform the moves. Thankfully, there is redemption with Guyver: Dark Hero, which has stellar fight scenes with the suits looking a bit lighter than this film.
The Guyver is not completely a bad film, but lackluster action make this ultimately a mixed bag. While it’s great to see an anime character come to life, it is best to say the sequel is far more superior.
WFG RATING: C-
New Line Cinema presents a Brian Yuzna/Shochiku Production. Directors: “Screaming Mad” George and Steve Wang. Producer: Brian Yuzna. Writer: Jon Purdy; based on the original characters by Yoshiki Takaya. Cinematography: Levie Isaacks. Editing: Andy Horvitch.
Cast: Mark Hamill, Vivian Wu, Jack Armstrong, Michael Berryman, Jimmie Walker, Spice Williams-Crosby, Peter Spellos, Jeffrey Combs, Linnea Quigley, Willard Pugh, David Gale.