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  Guyver, The Best Suit Forward
Year: 1991
Director: Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang
Stars: Mark Hamill, Jack Armstrong, Vivian Wu, David Gale, Michael Berryman, Jimmie Walker, Spice Williams Crosby, Peter Spellos, Johnny Saiko, Willard E. Pugh, Jeffrey Combs, Linnea Quigley, Michael Deak, David Wells, Greg Joung Paik, 'Evil' Ted Smith
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: At the dawn of time, a race of space aliens arrived on Earth and created humans as the ultimate weapon, only they had to be activated to make them into incredible fighting machines. Not many know the secret of this ability, and there has been manufactured a device known as the Guyver which can envelop its user in a special, armoured suit which renders them well nigh invincible. Now the evil scientist Fulton Balcus (David Gale) has tracked this device down, but a doctor has liberated it and spirited it away to keep it out of his hands - alas, he has sent his henchmen after him, and there is a confrontation. However, it is witnessed by a journalist, Max Reed (Mark Hamill)...

The Guyver was one of a small number of live action manga adaptations at the time, especially the subset of American manga adaptations, since more often the medium chosen to adapt them would be the anime. There was a cartoon series version of this too, but this incarnation has some nostalgia factor for those who caught it in the nineties, or simply those who miss the days when a monster movie meant you were guaranteed to see someone in a rubber suit battling their fellow cast members, or even better, another someone in a rubber suit. Although with The Guyver, that was about all it really had going for it, as this was clearly where all the money went.

Still, if nothing else the shenanigans on display here made you appreciate the Toho monster mashes better, since that was evidently the benchmark for rubber monster suit gladiatorial combat in the shape of Godzilla and his co-stars, and if they all seemed the same to you after a point, there were scenes of costumed stuntmen beating each other up here which would make you yearn for those good old days of Japan's most celebrated cinematic export. Sure, you could appreciate the skill that went into the two directors' effects and latex outfits, as both were seasoned effects creators and knew their way around such horror and science fiction staples, but then again...

You may wonder, what was Mark Hamill doing here? Well, he was a fan of the source, and wanted to be a part of a film adaptation, and also one suspects he wasn't getting many offers that were on the blockbusting level of Star Wars either, a curious side effect of playing one of the most famous characters in the movies yet not being able to capitalise on that success with more substantial roles elsewhere. Hence why The Guyver became known (or notorious) as the flick where Luke Skywalker (spoiler) turns into a giant beetle in one of the project's many elaborate transformation sequences that nevertheless looked cheap and cheerful rather than hugely impressive or stunning, mainly because the concept was so silly no matter how polished and detailed the costumes turned out to be.

The actual wearer of the Guyver armour was a young man called Sean (Jack Armstrong) who happens to know the daughter, Mizky (Vivian Wu) of the doctor we see getting squished at the beginning of the movie. For one reason or another, Sean ends up the guardian of the device and Gale's evildoer (basically the same performance as in Re-Animator, and that's no bad thing) spends the rest of the story trying to get his hands (or claws) on it for his own nefarious purposes. But in the main, it was people in rubber suits hitting one another, and not with tremendously exciting kung fu moves as you might get in a Power Rangers episode, nope, this was more or less “you stand there, I'll punch and/or kick you, and then you punch and/or kick me back” as far as the choreography went, which couldn't help but grow repetitive within around a minute or two. One for the monster enthusiasts, then, that aspect was fine, it was merely the rest of it that left you sighing. Music by Matthew Morse.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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