Manborg (2011) — A geeky hybrid of every great action movie

“The power of the human spirit will never be obsolete!”

Justin’s rating: I am Locutus of Manborg!

Justin’s review: Since appearing on the movie scene in 2011, Canadian film production studio Astron-6 has become something of a legendary factory for making movies that are so outside of the mainstream that they reside in the deep gulf of cult. Manborg was the first title that put this company on the map, showing what demented film lovers could do with a thousand bucks, the alleged contents of many dumpsters, and a love of ’80s scifi and action films.

Make 70 minutes of the best movie you’ll see all week, that’s what.

Manborg is a clear homage to action, scifi, and horror movies of the past, deliberately crude and messy in its construction. It’s a delicious combination of green screen backdrops, bad computer graphics, jerky stop-motion monsters and robots, horrid lib dubbing, and extreme camera techniques. Any single one of those in an otherwise normal and polished movie would stick out badly, but lumped together here shoots straight past “bad movie” and lands in a usually unattainable country. Everyone here is making a goofball of a film — but they’re doing it so passionately and wholeheartedly that it takes away any shame.

As you probably heard, humanity lost the “Hell Wars” and succumbed to the demonic invasion of the planet. Among the casualties of the conflict is a wounded soldier who is turned into a cyborg by a mysterious figure. Manborg, as the new creation calls himself, has a hard time adjusting to this dystopian cyberpunk landscape — all the more so when he’s captured and thrown into a gladiator pit alongside of other freedom fighters: #1 Man (a martial artist who’s come down with a bad case of dubbing), anime-inspired Mina, and Aussie punk Justice.

Together, they just might be able to fight back against the forces of hell and set a massive wrong right. But to get there, the group’s going to have to face off against bosses like The Baron and Count Draculon. The Baron, a frightful apparition in a rubber mask, has a hilarious subplot where he’s constantly trying to hit on Mina like an insecure and lovelorn teenager. Trust me, it’s comedy gold.

If you ever recall playing those jarringly bad full-motion video (FMV) games back in the late 1990s, you’ll have a good idea of the visual fidelity of this movie. I like that they leaned into it rather than tried to make a traditionally “good” movie, because the whole effort loops right around from being bad to being amazing.

It’s a hopeless exercise to try to list all of the homages that this movie makes, but trust me when I say that it’s in the dozens (including RoboCop, Mortal Kombat, and Mad Max). This is your geeky childhood distilled into a low-budget experience. Manborg is a zippy, kinetic throwback, and I’m all the better for having seen it.

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