Saturday, February 21, 2015

Guyver: Dark Hero

  Three years after the uneven joke-filled adaptation of the manga of the same name, The Guyver somehow got a sequel. Guyver 2: Dark Hero. In all respects this is a much better movie than the first one. So much so that it feels like a soft-reboot. They took all the complaints about the first one to heart, and really worked on it in this one. For all intents and purposes, this is the dark, serious, intense movie we should've got the first time around. The rather bland Jack Armstrong who played Sean the first time around has been replaced by David "Solid Snake" Hayter. He may only have a few default emotions he switches between, but Guyver: Dark Hero knows exactly what it is, and what it is doesn't call for deep oscar winning acting.

  Hayter pulls off the solemn brooding expressions quite well. It's most of what's required from him in the script. Sean's a tortured guy. The Guyver unit itself is shown as something of a deadly burden this time around. It's not your average Iron Man suit apparently. It has a personality of it's own, and it's bloodthirsty. The opening of the movie has Sean, as the Guyver taking the fight to a bunch of drug dealers picking up a shipment of heroin (I think?). We saw how brutal the Guyver was against Zoanoids, imagine him fighting regular humans. It's every bit as crazy as you might think... and bloody. Very bloody. Broken limbs, sliced throats. If you haven't figured it out by now, Guyver 2 is actually rated R. Woo!

  I should be clear on this though, they got away with a lot in the PG-13 from the first one, so in no way do I think Guyver 2 needed to be rated R. I firmly believe it spends it's R rating entirely in the opening scene against the drug dealers. Several f-bombs and a gory throat slice. That's the worst of it though. The rest of the movie is more or less within PG-13 bounds. More or less... There is some rather bloody Zoanoid-on-human violence much later on, but it's brief. Still safer in an R rating than a PG-13, but still. The problem with the first movie wasn't it's lack of swearing and gore. It was the slapstick humor. Which... thank God, is completely absent from this movie. For that reason alone, Dark Hero is already better. Hang on to your butts though, there are even more reasons.

  The action in Guyver 2 comes faster and hits way harder. Due in no small part to fantastic fight choreography and amazing sound effect work. There are parts of this movie that feel technically subpar or somewhat slipshod, but the fights, the action scenes, all the stuff people actually showed up for? Absolutely great. Downright impressive. Sean really embraces his heroic side and saves the day over and over in full-on high-flying fashion. The whole... murderous Guyver unit thread was sorta dropped and not picked up again after the opening. I mean, the unit keeps trying to activate itself through various points in the movie, and Sean struggles against it, but the movie quickly gets it's R rating, and it's new edgy subplot out of the way in the opening and never really touches either of them again.

  Granted the Guyver makes short work of a big scary Zoanoid at one point with graphically bloody results, but it's still rubber suits all the way around. That's one thing, killing humans is another. Visually speaking, one gets you an R rating, the other does not. Just look at Aliens Vs. Predator. Anyhow, it's the Guyver vs. Zoanoid action that I was really hoping delivered, and boy did it ever! The action scenes here are beyond top notch. Guyver 2 really sheds that whole childlike nostalgic feeling and goes straight for the action. This is an action movie to the core. It just also has alien bio-armor and big intimidating monsters. Who thankfully don't drop a sick beat before they fight this time around. The Zoanoid designs are even better this time around. Scarier, better acted, and awesome animatronics. Leaps and bounds ahead of the last movie.

  Dark Hero is not without it's downsides though. After the atmospheric opening, the movie takes place solely around an archaeological dig, where Zoanoid bones have been found. This is fine for the plot, and is actually interesting, but as far as locations go... it's somewhat boring. The first movie had great sets put to good use in even better set pieces. This movie has some wooded areas as a backdrop, and it feels less like it had to do with a conscious story decision and more to do with budget restraints. It also shows with the Guyver suit itself. Despite being pretty much identical in design to the one from the first movie, alot of the animatronic bells and whistles have been removed. The suit's color scheme has also been vastly simplified.

  In the first movie the Guyver suit was shades of grey, with subtle blues and greens, and pops of a fleshy red. Now it's just several shades of blue, and only blue. Not that it's particularly bad looking, I rather like it. But it looks simple. I miss the complexity of the suit from the first movie. The movie more than makes up for it by allowing Hayter to play Sean as a mysterious badass. Thus making the Guyver scenes all that much more fun. The transformation scenes are exceptionally cool, and in some ways even outdo the ones from the first movie. Maybe they're not as batshit crazy, but they're super fun and creative in their own way. The body-horror aspect isn't as prominent in this one, but we get lots of cool and colorful scenes via dream sequences and flashbacks that break up the visual monotony of the woods and the dig site.

  On top of disappearing plot threads, an overly simplistic story, some momentum issues, and moderately stiff acting, Guyver 2 rids itself of the silliness of the first movie and fills in the gaps with loads of hard-hitting action scenes. I never knew watching men in rubber suits go at it could look so brutal and vicious. (Sorry Godzilla...) I'm not sure what else you could want from a Guyver film. Having never read the manga or watched the anime, i'm sure I'm missing out on something, maybe the fans are still clamoring for their ideal adaptation. But I'm thoroughly satisfied with Dark Hero. It may be a bit simple, but it delivers! It's a hard-hitting, fast paced, beat-em-up, monster-filled, kung-fu flick. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you owe it to yourself to check this one out, even if you haven't seen the first. Super fun movie.

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