The Guyver (1991)
The Guyver (1991)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: March 18th, 1991 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang Actors: Jack Armstrong, Vivian Wu, Mark Hamill, Greg Paik, Jimmy Walker, Peter Spellos, Michael Berryman, Spice Williams, David Gale

 


 

A

t the beginning of time, aliens came to Earth to create the ultimate organic weapon. They created mankind. By planting a special gene into man, they also crafted Zoanoids – humans who can change at will into super monster soldiers. Eons later, the Zoanoid leader, Zoalord, awoke to form the Chronos Corporation to further develop technology for world domination. One of his creations was the “Unit” – a bio-boosted armor that serves as a shield. But if the wearer is human, it increases his natural powers a hundred fold to become the “Guyver.” Activating it, however, remains a mystery.

Dr. Tetsu Segawa (Greg Paik), a research scientist at Chronos, realizes that the Guyver could be all-powerful in the wrong hands, prompting him to steal it and go on the run. This introduction is oddly complex, clearly summarizing major points from an intricate source material – a manga series. But with so much backstory, viewers are immediately thrust into an unknowable world full of unknowable denizens. For instance, why would aliens create different species that would then compete for supremacy?

“Yeah. It’s me.” Within the opening moments, Segawa transforms into a mutant fish monster to battle a hulking Gremlin-like monstrosity, ending with the doctor’s slimy face getting crushed into a jelly. One would expect no less from a hopelessly bizarre adventure film directed by a man credited as Screaming Mad George. It’s also not unexpected, then, when the attention to costumes, prosthetics, and gruesome special effects are clearly more important than the inscrutable plot.

The primary human characters include Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong), a young man studying aikido; his girlfriend Mizky Segawa (Vivan Wu, who mostly just screams and cries), the daughter of the Chronos scientist; and CIA Agent Max Reed (Mark Hamill), who has been investigating Chronos and its corrupt chairman, Fulton Balcus (David Gale, again at home playing a slimeball), who possesses the ability to control the minds – and bodies – of his underlings. When Sean follows Mizky and Reed to the site of Tetsu’s remains, he stumbles upon the hidden Unit, transforming him into the super-powered Guyver. But Balcus’ goons (Lisker [Michael Berryman], Striker [Jimmy Walker], Ramsey [Peter Spellos], and Weber [Spice Williams]) aren’t about to let the mighty weapon escape their evil clutches.

The film has an incredibly mixed-up flavor of adventure, ranging from comic book adaptation styling to teen drama to monster movie to martial arts actioner to slapsticky comedy, as if an episode of “Star Trek” fused with “The Mask,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” It also borrows notes from Cronenberg, postapocalyptic thrillers, “The Karate Kid,” “Double Dragon,” “From Beyond,” and more (such as nodding toward producer Brian Yuzna’s own “Re-Animator” franchise). Despite being based on a long-running Japanese property, the story feels made up as it goes, riddled with nonsensical asides and breaks in sincerity (there’s even a horribly misplaced henchman dalliance). Weirdly placed comic relief is constant, spoofing itself in a self-aware manner.

Cheesy screen wipes, impromptu rap verses, extreme overacting, and bad dialogue further disrupt the flow of action and comedy. Essentially, nothing about this endeavor is taken seriously; even the fight sequences are orchestrated like live-action cartoons. But as uninteresting as the story is, the elaborate monster costumes are at least moderately amusing, even if they’re obviously rubbery and merely people in ornately oozy suits. Sadly, very little of this is original, which is strange considering how bonkers the characters and motives and explanations are. Some of the mythology is intriguing, and the gore effects are engaging, but the film is extraordinarily goofy. It’s a curiosity for sure; kung fu with gooey monsters can’t be dismissed so easily.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10