Jokes fall flat, but locally-shot sci-fi parody is worth watching

Despite its deep flaws, Manborg is never boring

Matthew Kennedy (left) is the title character in Manborg. Supplied
Meredith Sweeney is the tough as nails Mina in Manborg. Supplied

Manborg is the second feature film release by Canadian ‘80s cult revivalists Astron-6, whose first feature, Father’s Day, garnered international attention for its inventive and audacious satire and piqued the interest of genre film stalwarts Troma, who picked it up for distribution.

Manborg is a different beast, mostly being the brainchild of the collective’s resident FX guru Steve Kostanski, as opposed to Father’s Day‘s truly collective production, and not quite reaching feature film length at 60 minutes.

Customarily, this part of my review is a paragraph of plot exposition to give people an idea of what the movie is about.

With Manborg, I don’t really know if I could fill a whole paragraph.

Have you seen Star Wars? Robocop? You get the basic idea. Man loses family, becomes stronger via corporeal then ethereal mentor, eventually seeks revenge against an evil force.

That’s a simplification, as the movie’s plot has many touchstones and references to other classics, and given its short runtime, this should probably be sufficient.

However, the difference is that Manborg, although faithfully aping some true classics, misses any heart that made those movies classics to begin with.

I understand that Manborg is intended as parody, but an essential part of parody is comedy. Not to say there are no jokes, but they fall flat for the most part and miss the humour that Astron-6 pulled off so effectively in Father’s Day, which managed to strike a balance between homage and satire.

Manborg’s version is essentially taking the material it’s paying homage to, farting afterwards and calling it a joke.

All that being said, the net result is pretty entertaining, mostly due to the fantastic effects.

The entire movie was probably shot in a broom closet, but Kostanski’s prodigious skills and artistic vision make the whole thing seem expansive.

Aesthetically, it reminds me of an 8-bit version of Blade Runner infected with Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

In what is becoming a trademark for Astron-6 movies, there is a fair bit of stop-motion, of which I personally am a huge fan.

I am ever-so-glad there’s someone with the actual skills to produce it, too.

The gore is typically excellent and widespread. Thus, despite its deep flaws, Manborg is never boring for one second, and it’s worth a watch for any sci-fi or cult movie fan.

Published in Volume 67, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 24, 2012)

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