Cyberpunk Review » Gunhed

April 9, 2006

Gunhed

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 1989

Directed by: Masato Harada, Adam Smithee

Written by: Jim Bannon, Masato Harada, Adam Smithee

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Brooklyn: Masahiro Takashima
  • Texas Air Ranger Sgt. Nim: Brenda Bakke
  • Rating: 4 out of 10

    screen capture

     

    Overview: Gunhed is a Japanese live-action Mecha-Transformers movie done up in low-budget, gritty cyberpunk style. Unfortunately, it gives us a set of almost irreconcilable issues. On the one hand, the low-budget robots are pretty cool, as are a number of other low-budget FX. Yet, these are packaged in a barrage of incoherent plot points and truly strange sound decisions (the Japanese actors speak Japanese while the American actors speak English). When you see “Adam Smithee” in the director’s spot, you know something has gone wrong – in this case, the answer is clearly the editing. Gunhed may qualify for the worst editing of all time.

     

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    The Story: A Robot War ensued an a small robot production island in the Pacific in the year 2025, where sentient supercomputer, Kyron 5, has decided that Mankind was irrelevant. A mecha battalion of Gunhed warriors – huge transformer style tanks – were dispatched to eliminate Kryon 5. They didn’t succeed, but Kyron 5 was essentially marginalized, so no more force was sent. Now, 13 years later, due to a depletion of world resources, the key component that creates supercomputers, Texmexium (I shit you not – this is the name!), is in short supply, as are spare microchips. A group of scavengers have decided to enter the “forbidden zone” and go to the Island in the hopes of collecting Gunhed chips, which are now worth more than gold.

     

    screen capture

     

    When the get to the Island, they quickly learn that Kyron 5’s protections are degraded but still seem in place. At first Kyron 5 doesn’t recognize their presence (you’d think it would notice a plane landing, but I guess not – nor do we find out why they didn’t just bomb the Island from the air back in 2025). But quickly it’s defenses, headed up by a fly-eyed looking “bio-droid” come to challenge the scavengers. Along the way, the find the remnants of a Texas Air Ranger helicopter, which still has a passenger, Sergeant Nim (Brenda Bakke). As things progress, most of the scavengers die in gruesome ways, until only Sergeant Nim and a mechanic named Brooklyn (Masahiro Takashima) survive – but due to the Island’s defenses, they are stuck there unless they can destroy Kyron 5. Also, they have stolen the Kryon 5’s supply of Texmexium (perhaps this is constructed from stale tacos), and now the Biodroid wants them back.

     

    screen capture

     

    But that’s not all! Apparently some kids live on this Island (where they came from, we have NO idea), and they’ve decided to help Brooklyn and Sergeant destroy Kyron 5. But wait – there’s more! It turns out that one of the Gunhead tanks from 2025 appears salvageable, so Brooklyn attempts to revive Gunhed while Sergeant Nim goes off to do something unspecified (but at least it looks important). An incoherent sequence of actions ensues, whereby Brooklyn tries to bring the Gunhed to destroy Kyron 5. As he gets close, their biggest challenge awaits – Kyron 5 has resurrected a Gunhed of his own!

     

    screen capture

     

    The Editing: Gunhed could have potentially been a decent, low budget movie, but the editing kills it. Continually, we see random actors popping out in places that don’t make sense, and whole streams sequences are rendered incoherent based on completely haphazard editing choices. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that at some point, the script was relatively simple and straightforward, but due to the editing, Gunhed was transformed into an absolute mess. But perhaps this is just the English version - does anyone know if the Japanese version is different?

     

    screen capture

     

    The FX: Yes, the effects are all low-budget, and yes, it appears as if the entire movie takes place in a small factory, where the same locations are used over and over again only with different camera angles, and no, the tanks really don’t have any flexible movement. Still, even with the problems and all Gunhed has some enjoyable shots. The biodroid is pretty low quality, but the factory looked realistic enough, and every now and then, you get some cool, low budget effects. The Mecha-transformer fight is especially fun. .

     

    screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: The fact that the actors speak different languages but apparently understand each other perfectly really describes the state of Gunhed – it’s interesting but never seems to hang together well. Most egregious is the Biodroid, which has swallowed one of the scavengers whole, and now has to deal with someone inside itself stopping it from killing the rest of the people (the hows and whys of this are never explained). The appearance of the kids pretty much destroy all possibility of a believable story. On the other hand, we get Brenda Bakke doing her best sultry Lauren Bacall impression, which works somewhat well. Unfortunately, her partner, Masahiro Takashima isn’t up to taking a leading role. Watch this for the Mecha fight if you like, but the movie as a whole just doesn’t work.

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Dystopic Future Movies, AI (no body), 4 Star Movies, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Android Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

    Comments

    April 10, 2006

    Kybernetica.com said (trackback):

    Gunhed…

    [Source: cyberpunkreview.com] quoted: When you see “Adam Smithee” in the director’s spot, you know something has gone wrong - in this case, the answer is clearly the editing. Gunhed may qualify for the worst editing of all time….

    April 11, 2006

    David Gentle said:

    Note also that the Land Rover in Virtual light is called Gunhed.

    SFAM said:

    Awesome! Terrific reference find David Gentle! It’s nice to know they got the name from a reputable source :)

    April 13, 2006

    David Gentle said:

    I think it’s the other way ’round actualy

    ¤º¤Ã¤³¤±FXʳƮµ­…

    ½é¤á¤Þ¤·¤Æ¡£ÁÇŨ¤Ê¥µ¥¤¥È¤Ç¤¹¤Í¡£FX¤ò»Ï¤á¤¿¤Ð¤«¤ê¤Ç¤Þ¤À¤Þ¤ÀÊÙ¶¯Ãæ¤Ç¤¹¤¬¡¢¥Ö¥í¥°¤òΩ¤Á¾å¤²¤¿¤Î¤Ç¡¢¤è¤í¤·¤±¤ì¤Ð¸«¤ËÍè¤Æ¤¯¤À¤µ¤¤¡£…

    July 19, 2006

    mattness said:

    thx, SFAM.
    I saw a movie almost 20 years ago (with german dubbing, I missed the beginning so until now I didn’t knew what it was) - and thanks to your review (pictures) at last I tracked it down!
    Yeah - all reviews on net I’ve read crush this movie.
    But I love it - I was in love with Bebe for years (costumes are really great in this movie).
    If you’ll treat this one as a summer movie - you’ll have plenty of fun. Just don’t analyze the plot and don’t look at bioroid -it looks like scuba diver with some seaweed from some Verne novel.

    August 8, 2006

    Adam Doub said:

    Fun and interesting facts about movies that should have been great, but suffered from horrible budget-editing. A rather now popular Industrial band ‘Frontline Assembly’ used cuts of this film to make their video for the song ‘Mindphaser’. I think it’s hilarious that this movie works better as a music video than a movie ;)

    SFAM said:

    Hi Adam, is that video somewhere accessible? I’d love to see it.

    Adam Doub said:

    I know it’s easily downloadable from Emule, but if you want to just simply view it right now, check out -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLg70a-slao

    Enjoy :)

    March 16, 2007

    Lukas Mariman said:

    I pretty much agree with your review, especially concerning the editing severely damaging a potentially decent movie. I still like this movie, though; it has some really cool visuals in it and a definite cyberpunk atmosphere about it.

    I also think this would make GREAT material for a computer game. Tactical combat, hacking, shooting stuff in a high-tech nightmare fortress piloting a tank/giant robot… How can you go wrong? ;-)

    About the Gibson reference, as the other person said, indeed it was Gibson who got it from this movie, not the other way around. Although IIRC he altered the spelling to “Gunhead”, for whatever reason.

    BTW, you asked about the children and where the heck they came from. The opening narration tells us how a handful of technicians and their families were stationed on the island. The children we see are apparently the only survivors. I think we see some skeletons of the others near the end of the movie.

    BTW, there was a 3-part Gunhed manga published at the time; I myself got hold of parts 1 & 2 but never got the 3rd part. It was drawn by Kia Asamiya (sp?), known from series such as “Silent Möbius”, and it fleshed out the story; and explained among background stuff such as why the main character is reluctant to get in a cockpit.

    March 17, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Hi Lukas, thanks for the details on the people and the manga. I would like to get a hold of those.

    March 23, 2007

    Lukas Mariman said:

    About the manga, you may be interested to know you can still get hold of that on Amazon.

    April 19, 2007

    Fluke32 said:

    Hi does anyone know where I can get a torrent for this film?

    June 25, 2007

    nikita said:

    HI HI
    i think thats the movie i am lookng 4 ages…is the battle in a complex under the ground?????/ if yes, PLEASE where can i download it???my father is lookg for more then 10 year for this movie!!!PLESE!HELP and TKS xxy

    @nikita: I don’t think it’s underground, although the complex probably has underground levels… As for it being available online, I can tell you I looked for it for ages. I guess it’s not known well enough for that.

    Eventually I found a decent copy on Amazon. Don’t remember what I payed for it, but it was worth it. Very decent DVD release with nice looking menus and some nice anime trailers. Unfortunately, no featurettes, just a trailer.

    June 26, 2007

    nikita said:

    @lukas:hi tks a lot for that information.to b honest i never liked that movie when i was a child but my father just loves it…even after all this time..so to make him happy i ll keep looking :-)

    November 6, 2007

    Curtis Blackburn said:

    “and truly strange sound decisions (the Japanese actors speak Japanese
    while the American actors speak English).”

    You find it strange that the characters actually speak their own languages…?
    What are you? German? ;)

    January 5, 2008

    wiredcoma said:

    lol, i was just going to mention that A.M.D.A.

    Does anyone know if that was fan made, or if it’s an official FLA music video?

    Lukas Mariman said:

    No, that was official FLA video clip. As the info on the various YouTubes (who are not a truck) says it even won an MTV Award at the time.

    May 24, 2008

    Axis said:

    Hello!

    I have the English version, and the Japanese version with subtitles for the non-English parts. It is different, like the difference between Sony and Magnavox, when it comes to robots that can mimic conducting an orchestra.

    I just erased a LARGE comment detailing those differences — there’s little point because what I would like to see happen is I’d like to see this movie re-reviewed and hopefully get a higher rating.

    Let me know how to get “Gunhed, the De-F*cked Version” to you, and I’ll oblige. It will have to be a DVD copy, because I’m not sure how to rip subtitles.

    July 20, 2008

    jmalmsten said:

    Not only is the valuable currency named Tex-mexium… the kids seem to be named Seven and Eleven…

    and the people using their own language and still understands each other made me think of Godzilla Final Wars… Which has similair babel-fish-weirdness… my only explanation, coming from a non-english-speaking nation, is that sometimes, to ensure foreign sales, movie-makers include enough english dialoge so that the story can be followed without reading subtitles… didn’t exactly work for me in this case, but I think that was the initial thought…

    and I too think the english-release has the Alan Smithee for a reason…

    I actually found out about this movie years ago when I on a whim bought a couple of Kia Asamiya manga’s at a flea-shop… One Gunhed and two Silent Möbius. Reading in the manga about the cool “new” live action movie always intrigued me. Actually watching the film makes me hope that the unbotched version is better.

    And if I remember correctly, the script for this film was actually a competition-winner for an upcomming Godzilla movie at Toho…

    here’s a quote from IMDB’s trivia section:

    “The concept for the film came from a story contest that Toho held in 1986, which was to decide on the narrative for the next installment in the Godzilla series. Jim Bannon was the contestant who was noted for his Godzilla 2 script, which had Godzilla facing off against a giant computer, but was beat out by Shinichiro Kobayashi with his early draft for Godzilla vs. Biollante. However, Toho didn’t scrap Bannon’s second place entry, but instead had Masato Harada heavily rework the idea, removing Godzilla and other elements from the film, until they were left with the final product: the infamous Gunhed.”

    so what can we say?… only in japan… only in japan ;)

    September 1, 2008

    Splicegraph said:

    Directed by: Adam Smithee? IMDB has it listed as Alan Smithee. LOL Either way it’s a name used by a director that wants to remain uncredited for work that he/she’s embarrassed by. It is to laugh! Wonder who it was?

    Splicegraph said:

    Ah, just read that; Masato Harada had his name removed from the US version. He is credited on that release as Alan Smithee instead.

    October 30, 2008

    自閉世界 said (trackback):

    ガンヘッドのファンサイト…

      ▲筆者が思いついたファンサイトのアイデア 『ガンネット』(笑) 「こんなサイ…

    November 13, 2008

    wushu said:

    Hi all!

    I actually think this movie is awesome (but I have some kind of love for low budget asian films). The GUNHED stuff vaguely remembers me of the Metal Gear.

    I recently got a DVD copy, but I couldn’t find a suitable cover anywhere…

    Anyone has? Could you please post a link to it?

    Thanks in advance.

    April 15, 2009

    Otakustu said:

    Interesting film this, I remember seeing the original Japanese trailer on an old Manga Video release back when I was a kid in the early 90’s and was fascinated with the film. Fast forward to 2009 and I eventually tracked down a R1 copy published by AD Vision. I have to say that I was pretty dissapointed with the nonsensical plot but the visuals are pretty good in an 80’s sort of low budget way.

    June 13, 2009

    Sonne said:

    Have no idea hoew this masterpiece for so many years escaped my universe being the nerd i nerdedly am :-)
    The scenography is awesome, all the sci - fi gimmicks computers tons of wires cables machines scrapmetal and what not are awesome.
    The story though confusing to say the least = just makes me ictch to watch it over and over in happy happy joy joy childish bliss ;-) combined with the incredible cast and locations and settings makes it believable and not make you go “Hey that’s just far fetched!”
    I boldly put it up there with Alien I - IV specially reminds me of I - II and Terminator, not to mention M.A.R.K. 13 a.k.a. Hardware and Deathmachine!
    I strongly disagree with 4 out of 10 to me this is one of the rare sci-fi cults and definately immidiately a 10!!!
    No offense guys!
    Peace out to all you passionate movielovers!

    August 24, 2011

    Sinningflesh said:

    I have owned several copies of this movie (VHS/DVD & English/Japanese) and can say that yes, there are differences between the Japanese release & the “Western” release. All I know is that what this film really needs is someone with a copy of the actual script to re-edit this movie into a proper film. Hell, perhaps Toho still has some of the removed footage stored?

    One bit of trivia I remember about this from an article which got me interested in Gunhed - the article said they actually built transforming Gunhed tanks. I am inclined to believe they built transforming prop-tanks as I can’t see where else they spent the $10 million (U.S.) in the movie. There is/was a “real” Gunhed on display in Japan. Does anyone have more details on an “actual” Gunhed?

    SilverFox said:

    hi gunhed is so coll ^^
    i have found the manga.
    here can you read the manga
    http://www.mangafox.com/manga/gunhed/

    Axis said:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_9yJP9po2fAk/TP21jlLUDgI/AAAAAAAAA8M/2s5nMjQuCxU/s1600/GunHed.jpg

    There’s a shot of the tank & the actor sitting astride it — apparently the entire thing was fiberglass over metal tubing with hydraulics for movement. Not sure if it ever made it to public display, I’ve been looking for a “making of” video, but my Japanese Kanji is weak…

    January 3, 2012

    regulatory scientist said:

    Hello there, simply turned into aware of your blog thru Google, and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of other folks will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

    March 13, 2013

    Krytron said:

    Adam Doub said:
    “A rather now popular Industrial band ‘Frontline Assembly’ used cuts of this film to make their video for the song ‘Mindphaser’. I think it’s hilarious that this movie works better as a music video than a movie”

    Their 1992 album “Tactical Neural Implant”, which “Mindphaser” was a single from, is considered by many *the* cyberpunk album - it would be really great to see it reviewed here in the cyberpunk music section (perhaps also “Hard Wired” from 1995, but definitely “TNI” first).

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