Monday, December 19, 2011

The Guyver (1991)

Title: The Guyver (1991)

Directors: Steve Wang and Screaming Mad George

Cast: Mark Hamill, David Gale, Jimmy Walker, Michael Berryman, Jack Armstrong, Vivian Wu


Sometimes in the world of filmmaking, special effect technicians end up making films. The thing about these special effects guys is that they got the knowhow and experience on the technical side of filmmaking. Since they are working in the filmmaking environment all the time, they also got the all important connections to get their ideas made into films. What happens is that since they are responsible for these cool effects sequences in so many movies; they convince producers that they can pull off a good movie, and so their project gets greenlit. The result of having special effects guys making films is that the film will have good looking monsters and visual effects, but bad acting and storytelling. Examples of this are films like Spawn (1997), Virus (1999) and Eragon (2006). These are all films with decent make up and visual effects, but they are also films that suffer from bad storytelling and acting. The main problem with this sort of film is that the filmmakers’ behind them are not storytellers by nature, they are not directors in the true sense of the word, more often then not, these are guys who care more about things looking cool than things making sense. Fx technicians aid the director in bringing his or her vision to life and most of the time they are good at their job, but the truth is that they are not good storytellers or directors. This is the case with The Guyver, a film that is entertaining, fast paced and has excellent looking creatures and make up effects, but suffers from terrible acting. Was it totally unwatchable?

The Guyver tells the story of Sean Barker, a teenager who stumbles upon an alien weapon that turns its wielder into a bio-mechanical weapon. Sean doesn’t know this at first. He believes he’s simply found some weird looking mechanical device, but not an alien armor. So one thing leads to another and Sean ends up becoming one with the Guyver Unit! Now he can fight bullies and stop evil alien corporations from taking over the world at the same time. Bonus! Meanwhile, an alien being known as Fulton Balcus is searching for the Guyver Unit so that he can wear it and become even more powerful so that he can conquer the world and all that. Will Balcus ever come to posses the Guyver Unit? Will Sean become the hero he must become and save the day?

So this film had not one, but two directors! And both of them are guys with vast experience in make up effects work, including sculpting, painting and even art direction. This is the reason why the monsters in the film look so cool. This is the reason why The Guyver itself looks so kick ass; one look at the creatures in this film and its obvious these guys know what they are doing when it comes to creature effects. Reportedly, there are over 50 creature effects in this film! From the very beginning, you’ll see people transforming into monsters. And from the moment when the good guys infiltrate the evil Cronos Corporations’ headquarters forward, you’ll see nothing but monsters. This is totally understandable because collectively, these two directors have been responsible for some pretty cool creatures and make up effects sequences, amongst them the alien in Predator (1987), The Gillman from Monster Squad (1987), The Cockroach Transformation sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). They’ve also worked in one way or another in make up effects heavy films like Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Godzilla (1998), Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Faust: Love of the Damned (200), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Necronomicon (1993) and Arena (1989) amongst many others. So these guys are good when it comes to making monsters on a tight budget and even more so when they are given money.

Steve Wang sculpts a creature for Guyver: Dark Hero

The Guyver is the kind of film where make up effects guys like Wang and George are given free reign to just go crazy and do whatever the hell they can come up with, which must be a make up effects technician’s wet dream. It reminded me of a similar film called Robert Kurtzman's The Rage (2007) yet another film in which a make up effects technician was given the opportunity to direct a film and just go nuts with it. The Rage was also a make up effects technicians’ orgasm. So anyways, The Guyver was produced by Brian Yuzna, a producer/director who has been responsible for many straight to dvd horror and science fiction films. I guess he can be compared to Roger Corman in that way, producing horror films till the day they die! You’ve probably heard about some of Yuzna’s projects: Faust: Love of the Damned (2000), the entire Re-Animator franchise, Dagon (2001), Return of the Living Dead III (1993), he even produced the theatrically released Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989) for Disney if you can believe it. But as you can see, he’s a lover of sci-fi/horror. Yuzna’s involvement is the reason why Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang directed The Guyver. They did a lot of make up effects work on many of Yuzna’s own films. This is also the reason why we see David Gale and Jeffrey Combs on this film; they’ve worked with Yuzna and Stuart Gordon many times on the Re-Animator films. So the people behind this film, from actors, to producer and directors all love science fiction and monster movies. There is a genuine love for the genre involved here.

The 'Lisker' creature from The Guyver

The film moves fast, things are never boring and the monster transformations and creatures keep things interesting and fun. The only real negative point on this film is the terrible acting from Vivian Wu, the Chinese actress who plays the daughter of a scientist experimenting with genetics for the Cronos Corporation, she’s so bad on this one that you have to see it to believe it. Incredibly enough, this actress is still making films today! She probably hates this film though cause she’s the worst thing in it. The same can be said for Greg Paik, the young actor who played Sean Barker/The Guyver. His performance is extremely wooden; thankfully he is wearing The Guyver suit most of the time. The film has one of the signs that let’s you know it is a straight to video feature; it has an ex A-list actor in a smaller roll, though by looking at the films poster, you might get the idea that Mark Hamill is the main actor in the film and that it is he who transforms into The Guyver, but alas, that’s just tricky advertisement to make you think Luke Skywalker is The Guyver, which he isnt. Hamill plays a cop investigating all the mysterious deaths surrounding the Cronos Corporation. It’s kind of sad to see a ex-A-list actor doing an extremely low budget movie like this one, but hey, I commend him because he went all out on this one! Not gonna spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen the film, but he has a pretty cool moment. I guess if you have Mark Hamill in your movie, you are contractually obligated to give him a stand out sequence.

All in all, The Guyver is a fun movie to watch. I recommend it to those who enjoy Japanese animated films. This is after all a film that is based on a Japanese animated series called The Guyver: Bio-Boosted Armor, which I might add comes highly recommended from this Film Connoisseur. It is even gorier than the movie, which ended up being less gory than it should have been so it could retain its PG-13 rating. I also recommend this flick to comic book fans, since it is essentially a comic book come to life. What is The Guyver if not a superhero? When he transforms he says “I-am- THE GUYVER!” When he first transforms into The Guyver it’s in this clichéish sequence where the hero is bullied by a bunch of criminals and the violent event triggers his transformation. The film also has transitions that come by the way of a bolt of lightning that appears on the screen, like I said a comic book movie through and through. But of course, the ones that will love this movie the most are all thoe monster lovers out there! If you love your monsters, and you love gooey effects and aliens…you will be in heaven! You just have to survive the wooden acting and bad dialog. But still, a fun ride is guaranteed! This film was followed by a superior sequel (directed by Steve Wang) called Guyver: Dark Hero (1994), I’ll be reviewing that one soon!  

Rating: 3 out of 5 



Jack Thursby said...

Weirdly I watched this again the other day. Didn't really like it the first time around but found it more enjoyable the second time, knowing what I was going to watch.

Could have been a more interesting film if they'd dropped the more childish elements and played it more straight. I've got a similar complaint about Spawn. Both films tried to hit that PG13 rating when they really needed an R rating.

The directing/writing is very loose too. The director(s) don't build the story to a climax but just pile on action sequences in the hope a finale will magically appear.

That said, it is quite enjoyable. You can definitely see Yuzna's influence in the tranformations.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree with you, the film does feel like it was made for adults, then kids, then adults again. It reminds me of films like Monster Squad, where you feel like at times its too adult for kids, then its too kiddie for adults.

The big finale, with the giant Zoaloard creature was cool, the scene with Mark Hamill and his transformation was awesome, wasnt expecting that and its one of the reasons I gave praise to Hamill who went all out on this one, even though it was a lower budget film. I mean here's a guy who's been in three of the best Star Wars films!

I'm looking forward to checking out the sequel, which I remember being a slightly better film.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah the sequel knows more what it wants to be (but unfortunately doesn't quite have the budget to do it justice).

There's two cuts of that I think (both are R rated) but one is about 20 minutes longer than the other.

If you haven't already seen it, check out Steve Wang's Drive (1997). It's a fantastic DTV martial arts flick.

Franco Macabro said...

I was reading about Wang's Drive, it sounds like an interesting action flick, the kind that will surprise you even though it never went theatrical. It looked like a film filled with stunts, chases and car crashes.

Jack Thursby said...

Definitely check out Drive (1997) - and if you can get the 2 hour cut rather than the 90 minute one. The martial arts and wire work is a really creative, I think you'd like it.

Franco Macabro said...

I will Jack, thanks for the recommendation, I'll see if it's available from Netflix, maybe I'll end up reviewing it!


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