Filmed entirely in a garage over the course of a year, with a production budget of $1000 and two years of post-production, Steven Kostanski’s retro sci-fi Manborg (2011) is a titanic achievement of fun, a riotous adventure through a desolate and pixelated dystopian CGI landscape. After a computer error leads to the gates of hell being opened – a portal that invites the vehemently evil Draculon to wander the Earth – the Hell Wars begin, with humanity eventually crumbling to the might of demonic Nazi forces. The human race’s last bastion is Manborg, a cyborg creation built from the body of a slain soldier, a la RoboCop (1987).
When our android protagonist (played by Matthew Kennedy) awakes in the unspecified future – a landscape that sees Adam Brooks’ Draculon ruling over the entire planet – Manborg must team up with a misfit band of rogue humans who are fighting the resistance cause all on their own. Siblings Mina (Meredith Sweeney) and Justice (Conor Sweeney), both ripped straight from a video game (something along the lines of Street Fighter) are in cahoots with Ludwig Lee’s #1 Man, a philosophy-spouting kung fu action hero, more than reminiscent of the best of Golden Harvest productions.
Admittedly, the cheese is laid on thick like an overly generous layer of Philadelphia on a fat gentleman’s bagel, but it’s this aspect that makes it the antidote to the plethora of dry, stuffy cinema that populates our screens day in, day out during awards season. While Manborg won’t be scooping any Academy Awards come 24 February (sadly), this reviewer fell so drastically in love with its sense of humour, general exuberance and wonderful awareness of retro entertainment, that he’s ready to set up his own Academy just to honour it annually.
At a brisk 70 minutes, the feature zips by at the speed of a hover bike, priming you for repeat viewings. With a script packed full of raucous one-liners, acting so deliberately bad it’s good, and a phenomenal retro aesthetic that will fill fans with glee, Manborg is utterly essential. It’s certainly one of the most unique films you’ll see in 2013, and quite possibly one of the best. As a caveat, the DVD includes a trailer for a film called Bio-Cop. This runs after the credits of the main feature and it’s almost as funny as the film, don’t miss it.