How I Would Have Done THE GUYVER (1991)
I know I said earlier that future "how I would have done it" posts would be going on the Myopia Movies Patreon newsletter, but sometimes changes of strategy are a good idea. So here are my thoughts on how I would have done The Guyver, which we discussed once upon a time. This movie, notable for featuring once and future Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill as a chain-smoking CIA agent with a mustache, wasn't nearly as good as I remember it being on the Sci-Fi Channel when I was in elementary school.
But many times a badly-done movie can still have a good concept. So here's how I would have done it...
*The canonical version had a Star Wars style opening crawl and a voice-over, which was so stupid. Instead we have a cold open with Dr. Tetsu Sagawa (Greg Paik) running from what seem to be a bunch of gang-bangers in the not-so-nice parts of late 1980s Los Angeles. You think it’s a robbery or some kind of hit and the suddenly everybody starts turning into the monstrous Zoanoids. Their leader, the bald and brutal Lisker (Michael Berryman), still kills Dr. Sagawa and retrieves the box he was carrying. Unbeknownst to him, Sagawa had stashed what was inside in a random lunchbox he found just before the gangsters caught up to him. Lisker takes the box back to the offices of the sinister Chronos Corporations and his boss CEO Fulton Balcus (David Gale). Balcus is none too pleased to find that the Guyver Unit is still missing and does that weird psychic-torture thing to Lisker like in the main film, hinting that he’s a lot more than he seems.
*Cut to a Los Angeles karate dojo, where Max Reed (Mark Hamill) has to deliver the bad news to Dr. Sagawa’s daughter Mizuki “Mizki” Sagawa, who this time will be played by Billie Lee. In the sequel Guyver 2: Dark Hero (which I liked a lot better), she did a better job in her one scene than Vivian Wu did in the entirety of this one. Her fellow student and love interest Sean Barker, played by David Hayter from the second film who did a better job than Jack Armstrong in the first, follows her and Reed to the dumpsite where they found Dr. Sagawa’s body. There he discovers the Guyver and takes it with him. Attacked on the way home by gang members — who I’d initially let the audience think are associated with the crew from the beginning — Sean is overwhelmed by their numbers despite his training. In the process of getting whupped, he gets his head slammed into the Guyver and it forms a suit of powered armor around him. His defeat of the gang members and accidental reversion to his human form play as in the actual film, although hopefully Hayter would do a better job conveying Sean’s shock and horror than Armstrong did.
*While Sean is still processing just what is happening to him, Lisker and his crew strike again. They attack Mizki at her apartment, killing an inconvenient witness, and carry her off. Sean and Max both arrive at roughly the same time looking for her and pursue them to an ominous warehouse. They manage to rescue Mizki, but are then set upon by Lisker’s full brute squad. Here we can elaborate on the Zoanoids a bit—Lisker and fellow Chronos enforcer Weber (Spice Williams-Crosby) are a couple and Sean’s killing her drives Lisker into a fury, the aspiring rapper M.C. Striker (Jimmie Walker) is a reluctant villain in over his head and has to be egged on by the others into doing evil things like hitting Mizki and generally thugging it up, etc. There’s a prolonged chase scene — including Striker stumbling into a horror film shoot in his monster form and everybody assuming he’s the movie monster, which I thought was pretty funny — with some of the lesser Zoanoids getting killed along the way. Much like in the canonical film, the Zoanoids eventually overpower Sean and Lisker kills him by tearing the control unit out of his head in front of the terrified Mizki. With Sean literally melting before everybody’s eyes, both her and Max are taken captive.
*One problem I had with Mizki, in addition to Wu’s mediocre acting and unbelievably bad accent, is that she was terrified and passive most of the time except the one moment when the plot demanded. If she and Sean are both martial arts practitioners, I would have made her a better fighter in the scenes where the Zoanoids abduct her. Yes, the Zoanoids are a different class of enemy than a rapist or a mugger — significantly bigger, able to take more damage, and scarier in appearance — but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’d dissolve into a quivering mess, especially if she has some awareness of what her father’s been up to. Even though the Zoanoids eventually defeat her and take her captive, it doesn’t have to be that easy for them. For example, many judo techniques are intended for a smaller person to use a larger opponent’s size and momentum against them. These are the kinds of things Mizki could have used against the Zoanoids, especially given how most of them are comparatively-untrained gangbanger types.
*Balcus receives Mizki in his lair at the Chronos Corporation office and does his expository villain monologue, perhaps hoping to recruit her in place of her dead father or simply because he’s a gross old pervert and wants to get into her pants. In the process he takes her to the lab where they’ve put Max into some kind of experimental tube and are transforming him into a Zoanoid, perhaps reasoning that once he’s become one of them, they’ll get some Transhuman Treachery and he can be their mole in the CIA. Mizki spots the control unit torn from Sean’s head beginning to regenerate flesh and takes it hostage, throwing it at one of the lesser Zoanoids when he tries to rush her. He starts to choke and seize and the Guyver is reborn out of his body like a man-sized chest-buster! The resurrected Sean breaks Max out of the experimental tube and the battle is on.
*Sean proceeds to battle all of Lisker’s remaining Zoanoids and brutally kills them, with the exception of the cowardly Striker who’s just too pathetic to bother with. Lisker still gets his ironic death of having a chunk of his head ripped out much like he’d done to Sean. However, in my version Max and Mizki’s contributions are somewhat less ridiculous than getting chased around the lab by a couple of minion types in a sequence that looks like a Benny Hill routine. Seriously, they needed the Yakety-Sax for that sequence. In addition to Mizki’s karate techniques, we see earlier in the film that Max is handy with a gun. Even if Zoanoid hide can shrug off bullets, he could still get one in the eye or provide a useful distraction.
*Once Lisker and company are dead, Max undergoes the grotesque transformation into a man-faced, man-sized roach and dies. I’ll give Mark Hamill credit—he does a much better job conveying genuine agony in this one than he did as Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. This allows for Balcus to guilt-trip Sean over ending the transformation sequence before Max had time to stabilize. Rather than succumbing to his manipulations, however, Sean has had enough of this crap and lashes out, sending Balcus flying much like he does here.
*But Balcus isn’t dead. Instead he transforms into the monstrous dragon-like Zoalord. Mine would be smaller due to the whole “conservation of mass” thing, but still clearly superior to Sean. Rather than have the New Powers As The Plot Demands reveal that the Guyver has energy weapons, I’d simply have Sean use his karate training to outmaneuver the comparatively-unskilled and larger Balcus and slowly bleed him to death with a thousand cuts. Think the duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane in Game of Thrones before Oberyn gets cocky. My more karate-savvy Mizki can help fight the Zoalord herself or, if she’d much rather not go hand-to-hand with the monster of monsters, throw things or blast him with fire extinguishers rather than just cower behind pillars. Balcus’s death is more brutal and less silly rather than him getting blown through a door, coming to a stop, and then EXPLODING.
*With the Zoanoids destroyed, Sean and Mizki walk away together. All is well. But then we see they’re not alone — Striker and Max’s CIA partner are watching. Sequel Hook!
As you may have gathered from my contribution to Myopia so far, I see a lot of potential in many films that on the surface kind of suck. As you can see here, The Guyver is one such movie. If you want to listen to the actual episode, join the Patreon. If you want to listen to newer episodes, here's the podcast website.