RETRO REVIEW | The Guyver: Dark Hero (1994)

RETRO REVIEW | The Guyver: Dark Hero (1994)


The Guyver has returned! But does this more serious take on a Japanese anime make a better sequel?

Background

In a recent retro review, I recounted my experience from my youth of when I first discovered a film called Mutronics in my local video store. It soon transpired that this was the film’s strange European title.

The film’s original title was Guyver: Bio-Booster Armour and it was a low-budget, live-action adaptation of a Japanese anime series.

I recently decided to watch these series of films again and you can read my retro review of the first film here.

Series of films? Yes, the original Guyver was originally released in 2001 and three years later in 2004, a sequel was released entitled, Guyver: Dark Hero.


new improved guyver!The Guyver has returned!


Synopsis

Taken from IMDb

Sean Barker became the unwilling host to an alien bio-armor known as the Guyver. A year ago he destroyed the Kronos Corporation, an organisation of mutants who want the Guyver. Now he is trying to find why the Guyver unit forces him to fight and kill evil. He is lead to an archaeological site where scientists discover an ancient space craft. Now he must fight Kronos again before they discover the secrets of the Guyver’s origin.


My Thoughts

The film opens with a short action sequence to remind/introduce the audience of the Guyver and what it is capable of.

A criminal gang has broken into a warehouse to steal a shipment of children’s play dolls. Apparently, the dolls are made from illegal drugs allowing them to get shipped into the country.

Sean Barker, as the Guyver, arrives to stop the gang in the act and starts to take them down, killing them one by one.

After the Guyver finishes off the gang leader, he uses the laser beam from his suit to write his name on the warehouse wall. He makes off before the police can storm the building to discover the Guyver has been fighting crime once again.

However, all is not well with Sean. He is having regular nightmares and can see strange shapes and symbols in these dark recurring dreams. Whilst watching the local news a few days later, there is a report of an archaeological dig taking place in the mountains.

During the report, they reveal some of the strange cave drawings that have been discovered as part of this dig. These cave drawings match the same images and symbols Sean has been dreaming of. He makes his way towards the mountains in search of the archaeological dig.

Once there, however, he’ll soon discover his old enemy, the Cronos corporation and their creations, the Zoanoids!


Sean Barker is this time played by David Hayter.

Sean Barker is this time played by David Hayter.


Looking back into my own personal memories, that rose-tinted glasses effect must have kicked in hard. I always remember Guyver: Dark Hero as being the distinctly better film, improving on the original in many ways.

Those memories were soon shattered before the film had even finished. The first half of the film feels incredibly slow and there is only one Zoanoid fight to keep you entertained.

What we do learn from this first fight and indeed from the film’s opening sequence is that the practical effects work has been stepped up several gears since the original.

The Guyver suit has been completely redesigned and now looks even closer the original Japanese anime. It’s taller, slender and looks better all round. Although, I missed the practical effects of Sean transforming into the Guyver.

The original film used various camera techniques and practical suit effects to pull off the switch of Sean becoming the Guyver. In Dark Hero, they pushed the budget and decided to use limited CGI effects. I felt the CGI was ambitious but was out of place in a film full of practical monster effects.

The Zoanoids have also immensely improved. As the film is played out as a serious sci-fi action film, there are no comedic looking monsters. The Zoanoids look like the gruesome creatures they’re supposed to be (apart from maybe one).

Unfortunately, when the Guyver and Zoanoids fight, I didn’t find it as nearly as entertaining as the original film, something felt lacking. One of the fights takes place in a river and it does just look like guys in rubber suits splashing around.


The Zoanoid practical effects have improved since the last film!

The Zoanoid practical effects have improved since the last film!


The best set piece is the final fight between the Guyver and a Guyver/Zoanoid hybrid, another excellent piece of suit work by the effects guys.

Once again, I’m prattling about the effects, what about the actors?

Sean Baker in this sequel is played by David Hayter. Once again, a straight to video actor who isn’t that great. His name sounded familiar, so afterwards, I went straight to the Internet Movie Database.

David’s career obviously took off later in life, but not as an actor. He wrote the first two X-Men films that were directed by Bryan Singer and introduced the world to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. X-Men 2 is still regarded by most as the best X-Men film so far.

If that wasn’t enough, David is also the voice of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid video game franchise. I knew he sounded familiar!

According to Wikipedia, David also offered the director, Steve Wang, a story outline for a third Guyver film. Unfortunately, the film rights had reverted to the original owners in Japan.

The rest of the cast are the quality you’d expect from this kind of production, not amazing but mostly well enough to get the job done. They certainly do a better job than the cast of the original film and includes Mark Hamill!

That being said, I did find myself missing the silly fun of the original. In bringing Guyver to a more serious tone, the film definitely lost a lot of its charm.


The Guyver: Dark Hero impresses once again with its alien practical effects but it lost a lot of its appeal by becoming too serious. -2/5



John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves the movies and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990's. Whilst the web page idea became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. Now he's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.