Blu-ray Review: The Guyver (1991)

The Guyver BR CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

BBFC Classification: 15

Director: Screaming Mad George & Steve Wang

Starring: Mark Hamill, Michael Berryman, Greg Joung Paik, Jimmie Walker, Peter Spellos, David Gale, Spice Williams, Jack Armstrong, Vivian Wu, Linnea Quigley, Jeffrey Combs

Based on the Manga series of the same name, 1991’s The Guyver is a bizarre movie about a young man named Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong – Student Bodies) who discovers ‘The Unit’, an alien artefact that morphs the body of whoever wears it with alien DNA to make them into a half-breed super soldier. The Unit was stolen from the sinister Chronos Corporation by their employee Dr. Tetsu Segawa (Greg Joung Paik – Crash) so Chronos’ president Fulton Balcus (David Gale – Re-Animator) sent out his enforcer Lisker (Michael Berryman – The Hills Have Eyes/The Devil’s Rejects) and his biologically engineered alien/human hybrid Zoanoid crew to find the device and kill the doctor. However, after secretly witnessing the murder CIA agent Max Reed (Mark Hamill – Star Wars) goes to inform Dr. Segawa’s daughter Mizki (Vivian Wu – The Last Emperor) of her father’s death and when they go to the scene of the crime they are followed by Mitzi’s boyfriend Sean, who finds The Unit hidden in some rubbish and takes it away with him. After being attacked by a martial arts gang and discovering what The Unit can do, Sean – now known as The Guyver – teams up with Reed to stop the evil Balcus getting his hands on The Unit.

All of which sounds terribly exciting and just the sort of material that anime thrives on but in the world of live action adventure movies it is the sort of story that takes a certain kind of director and crew of filmmakers to put together in a way that carries over the adrenaline rush of the animated ultra-violence that the original series had, and unfortunately The Guyver – for all of the names attached to it behind and in front of the camera – just does not satisfy in that way. Whilst the alien creatures looked fantastic – as you would expect from a production/direction team that consists of Brian Yuzna (Society/Bride of Re-Animator), Screaming Mad George (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master/Society) and Steve Wang (Predator/A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) – the action scenes are choreographed and acted out with the energy and charisma of a school play, the emphasis on showing off the admittedly brilliant prosthetic work but sacrificing much of the momentum. The parts between the action scenes are also slowed down by some terribly wooden line deliveries, especially from Vivian Wu and Jack Armstrong, who tries his best to be that fresh-faced teen hero so prevalent in movies at the time but comes off as bland and nondescript in a performance that wouldn’t give the likes of Michael J. Fox or Ralph Macchio anything to worry about.

It is left to the better-known names amongst the cast to try and give the film some welly, and fortunately David Gale and Michael Berryman don’t disappoint. One of Gale’s last films before his untimely death, he commands any scene he is in with his approach of chewing the scenery in classic sub-Bond villain style, and his scenes with Michael Berryman provide a bit of mischievous humour amongst the po-faced performances from the other actors. Mark Hamill in particular, whilst not being bad per se, plays his role totally straight and, being a better actor than anybody he shares any significant on-screen moments with (i.e. Wu and Armstrong), comes off as if he is in another movie most of the time, and when he does interact with anybody else he appears boring by not going as large, which makes it a bit of a struggle to get behind anybody that you are supposed to be rooting for.

The Guyver should have been something exciting and bloodthirsty for older teen audiences to grab onto and appreciate but due to the family-friendly angle the film seems to take it sits somewhere in limbo between a slightly stronger episode of Power Rangers and a weak superhero/body horror mash-up. The film itself isn’t boring as there is always something happening on-screen but when you look at the talent involved it feels so underwhelming compared to the other movies that are listed in the crew’s filmographies, the action being so lifeless and unexciting that there is only the detail in the alien make-up to marvel at. The Blu-ray image is clean enough without being anything outstanding and the special features only consist of an interview with producer Brian Yuzna, a trailer and an image gallery so there isn’t a lot to back this movie up in terms of supplementary material, which makes The Guyver something that Manga completists may wish to own but for anyone else it unfortunately provides only a fraction of the entertainment value that such a project should have delivered.

The Guyver

Special Features: Brand new interview with producer Brian Yuzna, trailer, image gallery, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nick Percival, limited edition O-card.

UK Release Date: 19th December 2016

Arrow Films – Website

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