Astron-6 take us both hundreds of years into the future, and about 20 years back, in their latest sci-fi acid trip ‘Manborg’; a movie which not only effectively tributes one of the greatest periods of sci-fi production, but actually manages to surpass many of the movies it parodies.
When a press release openly advertises that the movie only cost about a $1000 to make you might have some concerns, but what Astron-6 (a Canadian independent production company of recent ‘Father’s Day’ (Troma) fame) lack in budget, they make up for with imagination by the bucket load. As a result of this ‘Manborg’ is an astonishing accomplishment, without compromise.
The plot is set in an alternate reality and begins as US soldiers are making a futile last stand against the advancing Nazi-esk demon army lead by the evil ‘Count Draculon’. As the US lines fall, one soldier in particular is singled out and taunted by the count; his death however, is short lived.Dazed and confused the soldier awakens in the future to find that he has become man plus! Half man, Half cyborg - a MANBORG if you will! A prisoner in a futuristic prison and unsure of his purpose he takes it upon himself to join up with a bunch of spirited inmates to avenge his death and destroy the evil count.
The plot sounds like something from a bad sci-fi movie, and for all intents and purposes, this is one bad sci-fi movie, but then it is supposed to be, so that makes it good - right? The characters are an eclectic bunch, stereotypes chosen from a range of sci-fi niche genres from steam-punk to mortal kombat. The acting is really great (or bad with intent) and the dialogue is truly amusing. There is never a dull moment in ‘Manbog’, whether it be cheesy heartfelt scenes or ass-kicking put downs the cast look like they were having a great time playing their respective parts who they bring alive with conviction; even the evil demons have time for the odd funny scene. It’s not a laugh out loud comedy style, just very amusing in general!
Even with all the best actors in the world, making an effective sci-fi movie on a budget of a grand is going to be a strain. Having a bunch of guys running around a multi-story parking garage dressed in tin foil is not likely going to convince people of an alternate reality; but fear not, Manborg has this base covered to. What I haven’t told you is that this movie took over 3 years to make, and it’s easy to see why. Whilst Astron-6 is all about making ‘bad movies’ (in the way Troma do) these movies are a labour of love and attention to detail is everything. The movie relies heavily on its use of CGI sets to bring to life a world not dissimilar to something between that of ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘The running man’. Whether it be smoke filled back streets, lazer guarded prison cells or a gladiator style arena all fit the tone of the movie perfectly and all littered with the same level of imagination as the rest of the movie. Despite its quite garish nature, every scene is a pixelated assault on the senses. Of course we are talking lo-res pieces of art, 80s style, but this doesn’t stop the movie being set over a large range of locations and providing the backdrop to some classic action set pieces which form the driving force of the feature.
If you happened to view Astron-6’s rendition of Father’s day you will know that this particular group of individuals don’t really know the word subtle. These guys take gruesome to the same level that Troma do, it’s funny, repulsive and bizarre all at the same time. ‘Manborg’ isn’t as gruesome as Father’s day, but there is no shortage of violence. There is certainly no point in going into detail and risk ruining some of the films highlights, but rest assured won’t be disappointed with the result. A mixture of Claymation monsters firing rockets (quake style), exaggerated CGI blood splatters and old school prosthetic effects help end wave after wave of deserving evil doers in a myriad of ways.
Overall to say I am enthusiastic about this movie would be an understatement. This movie has to be seen. It is a comedy, it is a homage, but more than that this movie is an amalgamation of all of those lost 80s sci-fi movies complete with everything that made them great in the first place. It’s short, but when the 60 minutes is over you will be hitting the play button to watch it again... and again...