When we last left off with the wannabe film franchise Guyver, I spent an entire review pointing out just how poorly directed the first Guyver film was, being little more than a mashing together of various genres and stories without any structure or purpose other than to show off decent, but not great, monster effects. Now we arrive at Guyver: Dark Hero, a low budget 1994 straight to video sequel directed by one half of the team behind the first effort, Steve Wang. Guyver: Dark Hero by all rights should be as big a disaster as the first film. Oddly enough however, Guyver: Dark Hero does manage to improve on the first film substantially, though whether that is enough to make it worth viewing is another matter.
The major change this time out is that there is an actual story being told: Sean (David Hayter, the credited writer on the first X-Men [Singer 2000] film and perhaps best known as the voice of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid games) is living a fairly torturous life since being bonded with the Guyver Unit. While Sean uses the Guyver to fight crime, the Guyver is increasingly pushing Sean to kill, a point which has finally brought an end to his relationship with Mizky. In need of answers as to what the Guyver’s intended purpose is, Sean searches for the answers at an archaeological dig where the remains of Zoanoids have been found. Sean is not the only one who has a vested interest in the dig however, as government officials and new members of the Kronos Corporation also arrive to cause havoc. What answers and dangers await Sean? And can he come to terms with being the Guyver?
As the story synopsis reveals, Guyver: Dark Hero is heavily invested in exploring its science fiction/superhero mythology, and the end result is better for it, providing a narrative focus that the first film was lacking. This time out, Sean has a legitimate reason to be the protagonist of the film, and is given a defined, if rudimentary, sense of character. This isn’t exactly a saving grace for the film, but it is nice to see that the filmmakers were considerate enough to actually try and give the viewer a reason to invest in the mythology and characters of the Guyver universe, as cliché and absurd as they may be. Guyver: Dark Hero can hardly be considered a great piece of science fiction filmmaking by any stretch, but at least the effort to improve on past failings and take the material seriously can be appreciated.
The catch however is that in improving upon the absolute misfire that was the first film, Guyver: Dark Hero ends up being less entertaining as a result. If Guyver was a train wreck one could not look away from, Guyver: Dark Hero is a slow train that uneventfully moves from start to finish, hitting no extreme lows, but never hitting any highs either. Guyver: Dark Hero simply is what it is: a quickly made cash in which hopefully allowed the cast and crew to keep paying off the mortgage till the next job.
Returning director Steve Wang’s work is competent here, making the best of what little resources he has. Wang still seems less than comfortable with directing scenes that do not feature his creature effects however, staging and shooting everything in a fairly stiff and perfunctory manner. Wang does manage though to keep a better grip on his actors and establish a fairly stable tone throughout the film, leaving one to wonder if the problems with the first film were due in large part to the presence of co-director Screaming Mad George. Still, Wang manages to slip up in a few areas, such as shooting large portions of the film during the day, which work against both the atmosphere Wang attempts to create, as well as his own creature effects, which come across as comical as they flail about in the forests in the middle of the afternoon.
Holding the film together for the most part is star David Hayter, who easily manages to surpass his predecessor Jack Armstrong in the role of Sean, though Hayter does have the advantage or having slightly better writing to work with. It is hardly groundbreaking work on the part of Hayter, but he does manage to bring enough charisma and appropriately melodramatic energy to the role to keep things lively. The rest of the cast does serviceably, trying their hardest to make something of the stock types they have been given to play.
Beyond this however, there really isn’t that much to say about Guyver: Dark Hero. It lacks anything in the way of political or social reflection, is devoid of subtext, and has no real distinguishing marks about it. It is a film made to fill production quota, and if that is all you are looking for, well, Guyver: Dark Hero isn’t that bad of a choice.