TADFF 2011: MANBORG Review
The Gates of Hell have been opened and the Earth is engaged in worldwide battle with Draculon and his army. A young soldier, killed in battle, is pulled from the battlefield and rebuilt with an array of cybernetic parts and weapons. He awakens as Manborg in a future ruled by Draculon and his evil henchmen, The Baron and Shadow Mega, and teams up with a rag tag groups of freedom fighters: Kung fu fighting #1 Man, laser pistol wielding Justice and the pretty girl with the knives, Mina. Together they must fight for their lives and for the fate of the world.
There has alway been an appeal to the way that the guys from Astron 6 made their films. Wearing their love for low budget straight to video VHS movies in the 80s on their sleeves their films had, up until Father's Day, a particular esthetic. They've always shown love for prostheitcs and makeup, lo-fi visual effects including stopmotion animation, and lasers, you cannot forget about the lasers. Manborg is directly influenced by the 1986 video store classic Eliminators, a film very much cherished by Kostanski. There are also flourishes of anime themes and the arcade game Mortal Kombat. Cases can also be made for early 90s studio standards like Robocop and Terminator and many may feel that Albert Pyun films like Cyborg and Nemesis also factor in. And if we are reminded about our own lazy summers of our youth browzing the shelves of the local video store then I'm okay with that. Whatever the influences may be Kostanski's world still stands out on it's own accord as a post apocalyptic neon nightmare.
Probably the greatest appeal of Manborg though is the characters. Particularly good is the scene chewing The Baron; Draculon's second in command. I have written before about the amazing humor that the guys from Astron 6 interlace into their movies. The Baron is pure comedic relief as he attempts to express his affections for Mina. Each and every time The Baron appears on screen is comedic gold. And shout outs for some Justice moments and to voice actor Kyle Hebert for helping the lads by providing the voice for #1 Man. Like the Canadian and Kiwi voice actors who dubbed chopsocky martial arts flicks in the 60s and 70s the voice dubbing for #1 Man is awesome and damn funny sometimes. Hats off to Ludwig Lee as #1 Man for bringing the mad kung fu skills and a wink and a smile to Meredith Sweeney for making our cosplay dreams come true through Mina.
Manborg is a creative and hilarious love letter to a VHS sub culture. Perhaps it has limited appeal to only those who know what we mean when we refer to a top loader. Perhaps those weened on a diet of CGI will fail to understand the beauty and static grace of stop animation. Kostanski didn't make Manborg for the masses but he has openly expressed his love of this sub-genre of cinema for everyone to see. He made Manborg for those of us who lived and breathed it in our youths and it was a welcome trip down memory lane and a rocking good time in the theatre last night.
I saw on Steven's facebook page that his mom offered up the garage for the sequel. If Astron 6 ever reassembles in Winnipeg, Manitoba again perhaps they will. Perhaps they will.