Gunhed (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Rose
Review Date: Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The fate of the world rests in the hands of a ragtag group and a previously defeated robot.

What They Say
On July 4th in the year 2025, the Khyron 5 Super-Computer declared war on the world. The Allied forces attacked Khyron's base, Island 8JO. Nobody Won. Now, 13 years later, a small tea, of techo-bandits and a lone Texas Air Force Ranger are about to land on 8JO.

Prepare for the ultimate in heavy-metal action as a hit team of ruthless techno-thieves take on an entire island controlled by an insane super-computer! At stake: A precious vial of radioactive isotope and the fate of the human race... and mankind's last hope is the 30 ft. armored battle robot Gunhed! With an international cast, stunning state-of-the-art special effects and amazing full-scale robots, Gunhed is the wildest cyber-punk adventure to ever hit DVD!

The Review!
Audio:
The film contains both an English and Japanese track, though calling it a Japanese track as it is a bit of a misnomer as about half the film-from narration to it's international cast members- speak English. It feels a little like Firefly in that it seems that characters are able to converse in one language but understand what is said to them in the other. The film has a decent stereo mix with most of the dialogue coming from the center speaker with a little mixing through the front sides to provide a little more depth to voices while the rear channel are used for the occasional special effect but mostly provide a general background noise to make it seem that the environment the characters are wading through has an auditory depth as well. The track is fairly straight forward with no noticeable drop outs or distortions, though there are a few moments where effects or music covers a few words of dialogue.

Video:
The presentation is in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Produced in 1989 the film has a fairly decent budget look to it for the time though there are a good deal of the scratches and noise visible one can generally expect of a film its age that has not been remastered. The film also has a fairly high level of grain to it and in a few SFX scenes it seem to double as the grain becomes almost as visible as anything else in the scene. The film makes use of mostly muted colors which plays into the idea of it being a dystopian area lacking in human presence. There is also a point where for a few seconds the frames jump around in a manner that I haven't seen outside an anime release where the cells were improperly placed and one camera shot where a reddish haze appears on the top right of the screen.

Packaging:
The cover features a very nice shot of the GUNHED with a number of the characters on it but it gives a false impression of the center character and the type of character they are. The back features an early scene from the film and a couple scenes from the film itself but nothing particularly special.

Menu:
Just a static GUNHEAD picture from the cover with the people removed dominating the center/left and the GUNHED logo plus rights info on the bottom half of that with the menu on the right with the choices over a black background. It features a sound effect that sounds like the whale song form Star Trek IV as well a flyby sound effect that uses the speakers well but is short and quickly repeats. The menu is a standard set up that is simple and responsive.

Extras:
The only extra included is the original theatrical trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prologue: On July 4th 2025 the super computer Kyron 5 which was built on an island 1000 miles off the Asian cost to run a factory building advanced robots declares war on mankind. Mankind retaliated by sending a battalion of soldiers to the island in response which includes a number of 30 foot tall robot weapons called GUNHEDs (Gun Unit Heavy Elimination Device) to stop Kyron. The battle seems to end in a stalemate with the GUNHEAD battalion wiped out and Kyron going silent.

The story then shifts to 13 years later as a group of treasure hunters (or alternately bandits depending on ones interpretation) have decided to raid the island to collect computer parts which mankind can no longer manufacture in quantity due to the depletion of resources. The airship Mary Ann's crew has decided to ignore the government's claim the island is radioactive in order to salvage what parts they believe are left of the super computer. As they are landing on the top of the 400 floor building they hear a news report that cyborgs known as Biodroids had attacked a number of Hyper reactors including one in London and Dallas and that the Biodroids were developed by Cybortech on the very island they are about to land on. In short order they find the burning remains of a Texas Air Ranger helicopter that has been recently shot down which worries them that they may have gotten themselves into more than they thought.

Shortly after deciding to press on they to come under assault and find their numbers being thinned out by an enemy they only catch glimpses of. The survivors of the initial attack encounter Nim, a wounded Texas Ranger who survived the attack on her helicopter after she and her partner followed the Biodroid that attacked the Dallas hyper-nuclear plant and then made for the island. The group also discovers that an electric barrier has been established that will hamper their efforts. Due to persistent attacks the group is reduced to the bandit member Bebe, the bandit's mechanic Brooklyn and the Ranger Nim as the only ones to make it to the computer core where they discover a vial in the center of Kyron's core as well as a Biodroid.

Brooklyn and Nim fall through a weak point in the floor and find that Kyron's ultimate defense-the giant robot Aerobot-is active and hunting them. To escape they descend a shaft to the bottom of the building where they discover two surviving children of the few people who worked on the island prior to the Robot War-a mute young woman named Eleven and a young boy named Seven. They also discover that the electric barrier surrounds the island and the only way off the island is to climb back up to the Mary Ann.

As they find themselves in the robot graveyard where the GUNHED's fell 13 years ago Brooklyn finds a GUNHED in good enough shape to analyze the vial and they discover that it is a material known as Texmexium which is a ultimate energy source. Even more sinisterly the GUNHED postulates a scenario where Kyron stopped the war and waited as it calculated that Texmexium would be harnessed in the near future and now it is preparing to use the energy to wage war once again. Brooklyn and Nim part as Brooklyn becomes convinced of the need to rebuild a GUNHED to fight Kyron's giant robot but Nim and Eleven press on without him. Thus begins a race as Brooklyn tries to repair the GUNHED and follow Nim up the tower while fighting Kyron's forces.

The film has the look of a very decent budget and the robots and sets come off with a fairly realistic manner and believable feel to them for the most part, though a few blue screen FXs are obvious and the opening shot of the tower model is a very poor one considering the effort put in elsewhere. Sadly the robots and environment have more work put into them than any of the characters-which makes it difficult to care about any of them as they are placed in danger as there is no real connection to be had with them and in another two cases leaves a giant mystery as to why what happens to them in the climax and their impact on the climax is important as the movie just hints poorly at an answer. Another fault is that while the budget was clearly used on the giant robots, the Biodroids come out looking like a generic sentai series monster and about as threatening to the leads. The film also suffers from some really poor editing which makes some fight action unclear.

In Summary:
GUNHED is a movie that feels that it had a good amount of potential given the effects team, apparent budget and the core of the story but suffers due to some poor editing, lack of character development and a couple of places where the audience is forced to guess as to why things are happening. Just a few lines of dialogue along the way could have made clear and greatly increased the overall story and impact of the events of the story. What is left is mostly a SFX pic and in that regard it still looks nice and has some impressive scenes for its age but there is little overall story to make it worth recommending to anyone not a fan of the genera and era it was produced in though those willing to read into events may find a decently entertaining film.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic TH-42PX80U 42 in. HDTV TV, Denon AVR-790 Reciever with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD



Mania Grade: D
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gunhed