When I first saw the trailer of Father’s Day, it was love at first sight. With lines like, “You know how many dads go missing around here, motherfucker?” and a plot that focused on the Fuchman, a rapist and murderer of dads, I knew I had to see it as soon as possible. This was my introduction to Astron-6, the Canadian filmmaking team, and a pretty good one at that. For some utterly absurd reason, Father’s Day was banned in Australia last year. This ludicrous censorship only brought more attention to Astron-6 and acted as a good reminder that I needed to watch Manborg, which recently received both a local and American release.
Canada, 2011, Steven Kostanski
The plot is an excellent meld of genres, throwing bloodthirsty demons into an industrial post-apocalyptic setting. We open with a soldier (Matthew Kennedy) battling against a horde of demons from hell alongside his brother. Both brothers are killed, but one – via a truly amazing title montage – is brought back to life in the future as Manborg – a weapon-clad cyborg. Manborg joins the fight against Draculon (Adam Brooks) and his demonic army in an attempt to save the human race. Fighting alongside Manborg is hysterically overdubbed martial artist #1 Man (Ludwig Lee), the Australian-accented Justice (Conor Sweeney) and his not Australian-accented sister Mina (Meredith Sweeney). I have to give Astron-6 credit in their naming of characters. Much like my response to the Fuchman in Father’s Day, every time someone uttered “Number One Man”, I laughed, really hard. And that’s what sets Astron-6 apart from a lot of other cheaply made genre films coming out at the moment. Astron-6 are actually funny. The dialogue in Manborg is sharp and the characters are hilarious (particularly the bewildered titular character). Manborg is treated as a comedy first, but it also doesn’t give off the attitude that it’s sneering at the films that it parodies. This is a film made with love.
With its brisk running time, Manborg is relentless and over before you know it. The action is nonstop, as is the death and destruction. The effects are a mixed bag. When the film implements stop-motion and practical effects, it works wonders. There is a fantastic sequence where Manborg fights a giant skull-faced monster fitted with enormous weapons. The old school methods of achieving this creature are truly beautiful to see in motion. Unfortunately, there’s also a fair amount of computerised gore. While this would normally leave me irritated, these effects almost work in adding to the film’s arcade style. Either way, its not enough to seriously detract any enjoyment. I’ve read quite a few reviews lamenting Manborg‘s supposedly “terrible effects”. Personally, I found the film’s amazingly detailed backgrounds impressive. The post-production sets are obviously constructed on a low budget, but this is in no way a bad thing and only adds to the film’s charm. With little money, Manborg creates a consistent and fascinating universe.
I hope Astron-6 continue to make excellent work. I’m not sure what’s next on their plate, but if Father’s Day and Manborg are any indication. I have no doubt that it will be worth watching.
Manborg is available locally (in Australia) through the always great Monster Pictures at a very affordable price. For those in the USA, Manborg is also easily found on DVD. Both releases are packed with extras, so your choice comes down to convenience.