Hello and welcome to a very special edition of Buried Credits we have dubbed “Star Wars Month”! For three weeks in January we will be exploring the films of the three main actors of the original Star Wars trilogy! Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Mark Hamill.
The Guyver (1991)
In 1991, three people came together to adapt the dark, weird, and violent superhero manga Bio Boosted Armor Guyver into a live action film. Screaming Mad George (known best for his amazing special effects work on films such as Big Trouble in Little China, Predator, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3) and Steve Wang (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist) were brought on board to direct The Guyver, with cult director Brian Yuzna serving as an executive producer. As far as B movies go, that’s a dream team right there.
Attempting to create a dark superhero flick about a young man, Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong), who comes across a piece of alien technology that can turn him into The Guyver – a hero who must save his girlfriend from a band of mutants, led by Fulton Balcus (David Gale) while the monsters try to kill him and claim the Guyver unit for themselves. Unfortunately, the film was meddled with by New Line Cinema and butchered to take out some of the darker, more violent scenes, with the focus shifting to make it more humorous. The end result was the film we see today: a tonally confusing, but incredibly fun action flick with some amazing practical monster suits!
The Guyver is a difficult movie to talk about. It’s an incredibly fun, entertaining and endearing flick, but it’s also cheesy, dumb and stupid and sometimes just genuinely not great at all. Part of me has a hard time accepting it because it was supposed to be a darker film before studio interference, so I want to give it higher marks – but that’s just not what the end product was, so I can’t. The Guyver starts out strong, introducing us to its sci-fi universe of aliens and monsters, establishing its world by thrusting us in head on. It starts out with a bang as we see the iconic Michael Berryman – playing a character called Lisker – transform and murder someone in cold blood as he looks for the Guyver Unit. After that, we jump straight into the character of Sean Barker, whose story is straight out of something along the lines of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers – a young man studying martial arts who gets powers and has to fight the bad guys, while discovering a secret plot to engineer monsters by an evil corporation.
The Guyver‘s good parts include some wonderful scenery chewing acting, fantastic creature suits, and a fun and inventive story. Armstrong is far from the best actor, but he’s the vibe to carry a film this outlandish locked down. However, it’s the mutants that really stand out here; Berryman gives possibly my favorite performance of his career whilst David Gale steals the show with his intense and off-the-wall acting. There is also a cameo from Jeffrey Combs to add some more cult iconography to proceedings and make the film all the more endearing to its target audinece. It’s an absolute treat to watch these men in action.
The monster suits are gorgeous too, but that’s to be expected considering the talent on board in the creature effects department. The tone is fun throughout and the film never takes itself too seriously and is very-self aware, making jokes about itself and references to other films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Robocop, and Jaws to name a few.
The Guyver also has its bad parts, sadly. As the film was supposed to be much darker originally, you can see some of those themes trying to break through, but they don’t quite slip through the cracks sufficiently enough. The music is also over-the-top and feels like it’s trying way too hard to be “hip.” Then there’s the TV comic book-style transitions that feel like something out of old school Batman, where the Bat symbol spins across the screen between scenes. However, my grievances tend to be what makes The Guyver so endearing to others, so you might enjoy the comic book stylings and over-the-top music.
Here, Mark Hamill does something I’ve rarely seen him do in films: play a normal character. Max Reed is just a normal guy, albeit a CIA agent tracking down mutant monsters. But at the end of the day, he’s just a regular Joe doing his job of seeing the law upheld and justice carried out. Hamill does an amazing job portraying this character and it’s quite nice to see him play his somewhat straight-faced. On top of that, I discussed in my Slipstream review that he was the second best on screen chewing actor behind Cillian Murphy? Well, he surpasses Murphy in this while he’s chewing gum and trying to solve murder. Maybe that’s all he needed – to be some sort of good guy. solving crime while chewing gum to be the best on screen chewer. Either way he does it wonderfully!
Verdict: Buried Treasure
I can’t help it, as flawed as this film is and despite it’s obvious studio interference, The Guyver is a blast. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up with stuff like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers that helps me connect with the movie, but I adore it. Sure, it has its rough patches, but the fun vibe, entertaining action, scenery-chewing acting, and gorgeous practical monster suits make it an absolute delight to watch. Some people might find it cheesy and dumb, but The Guyver is a film that knows its audience and doesn’t pretend to be anything else other than a crowd pleaser for genre fans.
Come back tomorrow as we discuss a satire on comic book nerd culture and film studios that want to make super hero flicks, starring and even directed by Mark Hamill!