Monday, February 10, 2014

Manborg (2011)

I don't think you are prepared for the plot of Manborg, but I'm going to throw it at you anyway. During the Hell Wars between humans and Nazi Vampires, a human solider is killed in combat by the vampire leader, Count Draculon. The soldier's body is given robotics and he returns to life as Manborg, who vows to get his revenge by defeating Count Draculon with help from the resistance. His comrades are Mina who looks like she fell in a vat of New Wave, her brother who is a gunslinger and Billy Idol look-alike, and a martial arts fighter called "Number One Man" voiced by anime voice actor Kyle Hebert.
Manborg is a pastiche, parody, and homage to 1980s action and science fiction movies. Of course there are references to The Terminator, Robocop, and Blade Runner, but Manborg is more focused on emulating the style of 80s B sci-fi flicks such as Eliminators, Robot Holocaust, Future War, The Dungeonmaster aka Ragewar, etc. As somebody who has seen those movies and had fun with them (thanks in part to MST3K!) I completely understood what they were doing. The tongue is planted firmly in cheek here and great efforts were made to capture the look and feel of these movies.
I love the above poster for Manborg. It looks like a VHS cover you would see on the shelf of a video store in the 1980s or a comic book cover circa 1990!

Manborg uses green screen to create a unique look in a way that I haven't really seen before, which is sometimes combined with stop motion animation. The art direction is inspired by 1980s neon and pastels, cyberpunk imagery, and video games. Manborg was made on a $1,000 Canadian budget and while the movie looks low budget, that number surprised me as it doesn't look THAT cheap.
If you have seen movies like Cyborg, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe or any of the ones I mentioned earlier, you'll have fun with Manborg as a loving parody of low budget 80s sci-fi movies. Otherwise you probably won't get it. I can easily see people who have never heard of movies like Robo Vampire mistaking Manborg as an honest to goodness terrible Z grade sci-fi flick. Although I enjoyed Manborg for what it was, I couldn't help but think it would've worked better as a fake trailer, short film, or internet mini-series in the vein of "Ninja the Mission Force." Manborg is only 75 minutes long but still overstays its welcome as this sort of thing generally works better in short bursts.
I had never heard of Astron-6, the Canadian production company behind Manborg, but looked them up after I watched this movie. Astron-6 has a bunch of cool 70s and 80s homage stuff on their website, most of which is shorter than Manborg. Check them out if you are into that type of thing. They nail the clothing style and film look of the 70s and 80s. If you do watch Manborg, be sure to stick around for the fake Bio-Cop trailer shown after the movie!

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