The ’90s Sci-Fi Action Thriller Live-Action Anime With A Star Wars Icon

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

If you’re in the mood for a unique 90’s film serving up abundant action thrills counterbalanced by cheesiness (you need cheese to make a cheeseburger, as they say), check out The Guyver, featuring everybody’s favorite Skywalker Mark Hamill.

Guyver Was Mutronics

Released in Europe and South America as Mutronics, the 1991 science fiction tokusatsu superhero film amounts to a daring, one-of-a-kind international collaboration. 

Indeed, directed by someone named Screaming Mad Geroge (alongside the less incredibly named Steve Wang) and a live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series Bio Booster Armor Guyver—how could such a film go wrong? 

Mark Hamill In The Guyver

Additionally, the movie sports an eclectic cast. Most noticeably, Hamill leads the way, though he’s flanked by Vivian Wu and Jack Armstrong—all contributing their unique, if not disparate, sensibilities to the special project.

Production of The Guyver was actually a collaborative effort between the United States and Japan, which commenced when Bandai and Hero Communications approached Screaming Mad George. 

Becoming The Guyver

the guyver

What drew the production companies to the (unforgettably named) director? His reputation for impressive effects, primarily due to his effects work in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. 

Principal photography spanned five weeks (a pretty short stretch) and was shot across Simi Valley and Los Angeles locations.

The narrative concerns Sean Barker (played by Jack Armstrong) discovering an alien artifact known enigmatically as “The Unit.” As mysterious alien objects often do, The Unit transforms Barker into a hybrid super soldier—”The Guyver. 

Mark Hamill Is A CIA Agent

the guyver

Soon, Barker finds himself opposed to and threatened by Chronos, an evil corporation intent on employing the hybrid super soldier for nefarious ends, primarily the creation of genetically engineered monsters (nefarious indeed). 

For his part, Hamill plays CIA agent Max Reed, a side-kick of sorts assisting the protagonist in navigating his newfound super-solider nature and thwarting Chronos.

The plot enjoyable weaves between intense action scenes—boasting an impressive blend of martial arts and special effects, a hallmark of the tokusatsu genre.

Mixed Responses

the guyver

While certainly ambitious, the film received a decidedly mixed response from critics and audiences alike.

Experts, like Entertainment Weekly’s Glenn Kenny, enjoyed The Guyver’s convincing and entertaining costumes and effects, alongside the film’s energetic direction, but couldn’t help calling out its adherence to direct-to-video clichés. 

Critics also derided the movie’s abundant overacting and contrived plot elements. Nor was Armstrong’s acting—a little too cheesy—let entirely off the critical hook.

Creating A Niche

the guyver

Still, despite these critiques, the film managed to create a niche among fans of the genre, carving out a bonafide cult status.

The film’s classic special effects, old-school martial arts, and lack of CGI are also a welcome relief to the typical Marvel fare we’re oversaturated with today. 

And mixed critical reception or not, The Guyver did eventuate a sequel, 1994’s Guyver: Dark Hero. 

In a surprising turn of events, the second film enjoyed a markedly better reception than its predecessor. Perhaps this was due to its lead actor, David Hayter, replacing the cooly-received Armstrong. 

Ultimately, the film represents a unique—if not bizarre—installment in the annals of 90s cinema. Hamill’s involvement particularly enriches it, and Star Wars devotees can be forgiven if they hunt down this cult rarity merely to watch Luke ham it up.