The Guyver is a 1991 American live-action tokusatsu sci-fi horror, written by Jon Purdy, and directed by Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang. The film is an adaptation of the Japanese manga series Bio Booster Armor Guyver by Yoshiki Takaya.

Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong) is a college student who discovers the “Guyver”, an alien mechanical device that merges with his own body, turning him into a super-powerful cyborg fighting machine. The device belongs to Chronos, an evil corporation run by human mutants that metamorphize into monstrous soldiers called “Zoanoids”. Chronos badly wants the Guyver back and sends a gang of Zoanoids to kidnap Sean’s girlfriend, Mizuki (Vivian Wu). Sean rescues Mizuki with the help of Max Reed (Mark Hamill), a CIA agent determined to keep the device from falling into the hands of Chronos. However, the rescue attempt is not completely successful, thereby triggering a series of epic battles between the forces of good and evil.

Being a very loose adaptation of the original story, The Guyver certainly has several distinct changes from the source material. Whilst the anime was aimed at a mature audience, being darker and grittier in tone, this live-action adaptation is undoubtedly aimed at including a much younger audience with its more comedic, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere, and PG-13 rating. Additionally, several key plot points have been tweaked/changed from the original, such as our protagonist, Sean Barker, who is an original character not present in the manga. Furthermore, the villainous Cronos Corporation and its Zoanoid antagonists are also unique creations for the film. Despite this, the film is still an enjoyable product of its time.

Embracing its lighter tonal choices, The Guyver fully leans into its comedic overtones–delivering an abundance of slap-stick comedy throughout. However, this element knows when to take a back seat to not encroach on the more serious aspects of the story.

However, contrary to The Guyver’s target marketing to a younger audience, the film still maintains a decent level of visceral violence scattered throughout. Scenes of limb dismemberment and over-the-top arterial spray, along with some visually impressive body horror are realistically achieved through practical effects and incredibly graphic for its intended audience. Although, the film skirts around the censors by utilising intricate monster suits for the film’s antagonists, dehumanising the violence that would have otherwise raised the age rating of the film.

The choice to represent these monstrous beings practically is truly the star of the show, with each character’s design being significantly different from one another–not only making them easily discernible from each other, but showcasing the impressive design skills from Screaming Mad George, Steve Wang, and the creature effects lab team. With astounding articulation, each suit feels lifelike and certainly holds up to today’s standards. Unfortunately, due to the film’s cinematography, these suits are never accentuated their designs to the fullest ability.

While the cinematography is fantastic throughout, a strong focus on close-ups is both a blessing and a curse in both respects. During the transformation scenes, this tight framing does a fantastic job of portraying the amazing effects representing this body horror. However, an overreliance on this style rarely displays these monstrous creature suits, and is certainly unfortunate the audience doesn’t get more opportunities to view them in their full glory.

Featuring a star-studded cast, with the likes of Michael Berryman, Jimmie ‘JJ’ Walker, Peter Spellos, Mark Hamill, and David Gale, to name but a few, the entire cast delivers their roles with a hammy, over-the-top enthusiasm. Moreover, while the fight choreography may not reach the chaotic kinetics of Japanese Tokusatsu media, such as Super Sentai or Kamen Rider–however, the film’s action scenes are still highly energetic and competently choreographed.

An enjoyable, if not flawed, reimagining of Yoshiki Takaya original work, The Guyver is still an entertaining and comedic adaptation that’s sure . While fans of the source material looking for a faithful adaptation may be disappointed, those who can separate this film and its sequel into its own entity are sure to enjoy its mix of goofy comedy, fast-paced action, and incredible special effects.

The Guyver (1991) 4K Ultra HD + Blu-Ray + CD Soundtrack is available to preorder from Unearthed Films’ website here. (Available June 25th)

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