On Flashback Friday’s we talk about old school science fiction, and on this inaugural edition of the series, we’re talking about 1994’s Guyver: Dark Hero.
Guyver: Dark Hero is adapted from the manga and anime of the same name. This version of the story centers on a young man named Sean Barker who has a piece of alien tech inside of his body. When activated it covers him from head to toe in alien body armor, while giving him weapons and increased abilities. The suit is called the Guyver unit and while it protects Sean from the aliens he battles, it also has the ability to force its will on him, creating a bit of a duality in Sean. The suit wants to kill, but Sean wants it gone from his life. Though, that seems impossible.
The events of Guyver: Dark Hero follows the first film, The Guyver (1991) and in that film we find out how Sean got the suit in the first place. We’re skipping the first film though because while Dark Hero is a sequel, it’s not really. Everything but how Sean got the Guyver is explained in the sequel. No one from the first film came back for the sequel and while events are referred to during the film, there’s no real callback to the events of the first film; save for one 30-second scene where Sean and his girlfriend from the first film (played by a different actress) break up because Sean can’t stop using the Guyver suit.
That’s where the events of the second film, Dark Hero, pick up. Sean’s having nightmarish visions about alien symbols. These same symbols are covered in some late-night news broadcast about an archeology dig that unearthed the very same ones Sean is dreaming of. In search of answers, Sean goes off to investigate the dig site, where he meets Cori Edwards, one of the archeologists on the dig. She’s working with her father, a group of students from a local college, and are Arlen Crane – the liaison between the archeologists and the financial benefactor that is paying for the dig.
This is where the movie has a hard time finding itself. While no spoilers from here on out, there’s a lot of useless scenes between Sean and Cori that really don’t amount to much other than to move the plot forward. No big revelations or info dumps happen until the last third of the film. So most of the film and the characters are shrouded in mystery and not the good kind. After about one hour and 20 minutes of exposition, the film finally gives you what you want; intense battles between people in rubber suits!
Seriously, the fight scenes in this are top-notch. It’s the reason to watch the film. The sequel finds itself better than the first one in a lot of ways, with better acting despite lesser-known names, while also utilizing it’s special effects budget better and ramping up the action from PG-13 to R. The other step up is the actor who played Sean Barker, played by David Hayter of all people. AKA Solid Snake from the Metal Gear: Solid franchise, he’s also the scriptwriter for the X-Men and X2 films in 2000 and 2003.
That doesn’t mean the sequel couldn’t have used someone from the first film, as Mark Hamil himself was part of The Guyver. His character didn’t come back in the sequel and Hamil never reprised his role as CIA Max Reed.
Let’s go to the scores.
Acting: It’s filled with relative nobodies, and most of the secondary actors look like they were extras hired off of a porn set. So it’s actually quite well done all things considered. Hayter has brooding down pat and the corny lines Kathy Christopherson (Cori) deliver are priceless.
Writing: The film actually has a really good script, there are two problems; it’s about 30 minutes too long, and there aren’t many memorable lines but the general plot and character motivation is solid. That makes up for a lot.
Design: Every alien (called Zoanoids) is a masterclass of horror, sci-fi, and enginuity. Just about everything is practical effects and it really makes a world of difference with the suits. The main-Zoanoid design harkens back to Predator some but changes it up enough to make it their own.
Special Effects: As mentioned, the practical effects really make this film. They do a great job of limiting the amount of CGI needed and it really helps the film age well. It’s a masterclass in how to shoot a sci-fi movie on a budget.
Enjoyability: It’s still a fun romp after all these years, but there’s a good amount of this film that didn’t need to exist. It was far longer than it needed to be.
Overall: 18/25 (72%)
For a film from 1994, this holds up really well.