Thursday, February 8, 2018

In short: Guyver: Dark Hero (1994)

Sean Barker (now played by the voice of Solid Snake himself, David Hayter) is still fused with the alien bio-armor called the Guyver. Despite apparently having destroyed the evil mutant thingies of the first film, the Guyver still pushes Sean into going out at night to commit bloody violence on more or less deserving criminals. Sean, not a killer at heart, feels very unhappy with a situation that doesn’t just put a lot of blood on his hands – certainly not all of it shed in self-defence or the defence of innocents – but now also costs him his relationship to movie number one’s love interest Mizky.

So he’s actually rather okay with following strange feelings, symbols on a cave wall, and a sensationalist TV report to an archaeological dig in a pretty attractive wooded mountain region. And wouldn’t you know it, the film gods have also put an obvious new love interest (Kathy Christopherson) in his way, as well as the realization that he might not have beaten his enemies quite as successfully as he thought. At least, there’s something really strange going on at the dig, what with a potential werewolf roaming the area, and way too much well-armed security hanging around. Oh, and a UFO right out of the third Quatermass film. Perhaps this is the right place to find out the truth about the Guyver unit.

The second and final Guyver film is directed by Steve Wang alone, Screaming Mad George having taken his particular kind of effects work and his co-directing skills wherever Screaming Mad Georges go. Consequently, the monsters in this one aren’t as awesomely grotesque as some of the best ones in the first film and follow more the standard rubber suit ways of tokusatsu. Which, mind you, is still a little grotesque and very nice to look at in action.

The film also loses the horrible humour of the first part, going for your typical dark superhero feel and heroic inner turmoil (was Zack Snyder taking notes?) without borderline racist characters wasting the audience’s time making horrible jokes. Hayter is also a huge improvement over Jack Armstrong. He may not exactly radiate charisma like the sun, but he has proper camera presence and is able to actually express the emotions the script asks him to express; plus, his moodiness doesn’t feel like a little kid sulking. Why, I found myself even liking this version of Sean instead of tolerating him. The villains are an improvement too, hamming it up nicely and given the Guyver more than enough reason for punching and elbow blade sticking.

Speaking of violence, the action scenes are excellent US tokusatsu with drive and the appropriate amount of imaginative silliness, and staged with the sort of sugar high energy this sort of action thrives on.

The film will be a bit too long and starting somewhat too slow for some, but I found myself enjoying its attempts at building its own mythology out of bits and pieces found in other pop culture nearly as much as the fighting, making the second Guyver movie by far the superior piece of entertainment. And unlike more than many a Japanese tokusatsu of the last fifteen years or so, Dark Hero never feels as if it puts selling toys before being an entertaining film.

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