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The Guyver (1991; aka Mutronics), a darker, grittier monster-fighting Power Ranger movie for adults.

January 22, 2021

MY CALL:This is essentially a Power Ranger movie for adult fans who want something darker, more gritty and monstrous. As dumb as it may come off to many viewers, this is still pretty fun to watch. I enjoy it for its cast, diverse monster effects, and willingness to commit the loose premise of a kids show turned into a very mature PG-13. This easily could have gone off the deep end (even more). MOVIES LIKE The Guyver: Well there’s a sequel: Guyver 2: Dark Hero (1994). And for a weird curveball I’m going to suggest Zeiram (1991).

Before the days of Pacific Rim’s (2013) Jaeger-battling Kaiju, we already had a taste for live-action takes on Anime’s monster-battling robots and cyborgs. Falling in similar vein and based on 80s anime, The Guyver follows tropes we’d see all the way into the Power Rangers, but as a solo act like a non-super-sized Ultraman (1966-present).

We open with a detailed exposition dump… So mankind was created by aliens (yeah, that old yarn…) and man was created with a special gene allowing them to transform into monstrous super soldiers. Aiming to capitalize on this, Fulton Balcus (David Gale; Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator) is one such gene-bearer and starts the Chronos Corporation to develop this alien technology for world domination. His plans for political dominion smack of Wesker’s goals in the later Resident Evil sequels, and his tour of the facility reveals its sick experiments. And courtesy of Brian Yuzna, we have a small reunion with Jeffrey Combs (From Beyond, Re-Animator, Lurking Fear)!

Honoring the Anime of its basis, there is a seriously deliberate cheese factor. Our corporate goons feel like silly caricatures not far from Beebop and Rocksteady, led by the sinister Michael Berryman (Deadly Blessing, The Hills Have Eyes) and his tough right-hand woman (Spice Williams-Crosby; Star Trek V). They track down a scientist trying to escape with “The Unit,” a special bio-armor that enhances its wearers abilities tremendously. The scientist transforms into an ichthyoid Creature from the Black Lagoon monster and, in kind, Berryman transforms into his unique (and much tougher) monster form. The unit eventually falls into the hands of our hero Sean (Jack Armstrong; Student Bodies), a young temperamental martial artist who learns of the nefarious goals of the Chronos Corporation. Coming to his aid  is Mark Hamill (Child’s Play) playing the most down-and-out private detective-looking CIA agent ever.

The monster fights are really silly. Though all have toothy maws and deadly claws, they go at each other like it was a wrestling match between The Rock and The Undertaker as they punch and headbutt and throw each other about. In many ways it reminds me of Godzilla or Ultraman or the Power Rangers battling monsters, but with the hokey mutated zest of The Toxic Avenger (1984). Yeah, the fights aren’t good in terms of choreography and they feel written for laughs (and for a young audience), as do the score and dialogue of the monsters during these fights.

But as much as the fights feel like Saturday morning cartoons, there are still moments of mature intensity—like when Berryman’s monster rips out the third eye of the Guyver from its gory socket and apparently kills him. Still, the comedic air dominates the film and keeps things light, despite the occasional Guyver elbow blade gorily slicing into a monster. There are even goofy sound effects during the fights.

Truth be told, as lame as all the fights are, the incredible diversity of monster effects is astonishing. Awesomely detailed rubber monster suits and transformation scenes abound, and the effects have producer Brian Yuzna (Society, Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, Faust, Return of the Living Dead III) to thank.We see six goons and four scientists in full body make-up/suit in completely unique monster forms. Mark Hamill gruesomely turns into a grasshopper monster whose mere sight is far from kid-friendly. But then there’s a cutesy happy ending.

As dumb as it may come off to many viewers, this is still pretty fun to watch. I enjoy it for its cast, diverse monster effects, and willingness to commit the loose premise of a kids show turned into a very mature PG-13. This easily could have gone off the deep end (even more).

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