Guyver: Dark Hero
It’s always dicey adapting a cartoon for live action. Finding real people who look like cartoon characters is hard, as is replicating the unrealistic feats that animated characters are capable of in a believable way. This problem is doubled when you try to adapt animation from Japan, where the prominence of animated cinema arose specifically in order to depict wild stunts and crazy monsters that Japanese film companies of the early-mid 20th century had neither the money nor the real estate to film.
The Guyver is kind of a media dynasty. There’s comic books, movies, TV shows, and, one would assume, cuddly Guyver plushes. For those not in the know, the Guyver is a suit of armor aliens built in order to shove humans inside and make cheap frontline soldiers for their horrific space wars. The prototypes rebelled and the aliens left Earth, leaving behind some dormant Guyver suits and an army of angry, lonesome mutant soldiers. Everyone wants a Guyver suit of their own, but predictably plucky young people get most of them. Rather like Power Rangers, said hero wanders about encountering danger, transforming with their armor, and kicking lots of faces. Because the Guyver is dark and edgy, there’s lots of blood and screaming and the suit comes out of you eww gross yuck! It’s kind of an adult cartoon, as envisioned by ten year olds.
Dark Hero follows the original properties as well as it can with no budget. Sean (Solid Snake) has what he believes to be the only Guyver suit. It makes him run around fighting crime, even though he’d rather just sit around his filthy apartment doodling in his dream journal. When he sees some symbols on television that he believes are related to the Guyver suit, he sets off for Utah to visit an archaelogical dig. Wouldn’t you know it, an entire corporation of bad guys in rubber monster suits is after the dig as well, and it’s up to Sean to pretty much kill every last one of them as savagely as rubber suit science permits.
Coming up since small times on the 60s-70s Godzilla films, I really got into this film. The suits are surprisingly good, and the Guyver armor is pretty on-model with the anime. The fights are pretty decent too, although there’s a surprising amount of non-fighting and it isn’t particularly interesting. Sean whines and moans about having awesome alien space armor that lets him shoot lasers out of his head, he romances an average-looking archaeologist, and some stuff happens with the FBI. But none of that matters because this is a guys in rubber suits hitting each other movie, and it totally delivers.
Actually, it may deliver too well. The violence in Dark Hero can be surprisingly graphic, and contrasted with the rather silly-looking suitework the effect is sort of confusing. It’s like if you were watching Sesame Street, and Big Bird pecked out Grover’s eyes. But if you can get past that, Guyver: Dark Hero offers something interesting: a live action anime adaptation that is both entertaining and faithful to its source materials.
6/10 (bump it up to 7/10 if you’re like me and giggle with glee when dudes in rubber suits body slam each other)