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Awesome: 25%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Half-man, half-machine, half-digital, half-VHS."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: For what it is, "Manborg" is damn impressive. Director Steve Kostanski estimates that he and his friends made the movie for about a thousand dollars, although I suspect that is the sort of estimate that severely underestimates the value of one's own time. Those who share Kostanski and the Astron-6 team's affection for 1980s VHS are in for an entertaining hour.

In the near future, the forces of Hell are invading Earth, laying waste to human armies. We see one soldier (Matthew Kennedy) make a valiant stand until he's cut down. But! In the less-near future, he emerges from a techno-coffin cybernetically enhanced. He is now... Manborg! Soon hooking up with freedom fighters #1 Man (Ludwig Lee with the voice of Kyle Hebert), Justice (Conor Sweeney), and his somehow less-Australian sister Mina (Meredith Sweeney), they attempt to fight back against the local Baron (Jeremy Gillespie) and Draculon (Adam Brooks), the demon who took Manborg's first life.

Manborg is cheap and looks it, embracing the 1980s VHS aesthetic by shooting actors in front of a green screen at less-than-HD resolution even as Kostanski and company use digital tools to pile their cast and stop-motion creations onto one other. It's actually some fairly impressive work, technically; while many of these throwback movies feel like the filmmakers allowed themselves to get lazy because the original inspiration didn't look that great, Kostanski puts genuine effort into his craft. The individual elements are hand-made, but they are meticulously constructed and composited with great care. Some shots have more layers (which interact well) than expensive blockbusters, clear and well-staged in ways that people with a couple hundred thousand times the resources could learn from.

Given how hard they clearly worked on everything, it's kind of a shame that they went and processed everything to make it look more like beat-up VHS. For the most part, Kostanski is actually pretty good about showing affectionas opposed to mocking; the script has a droll sense of humor that never crosses the line to outright winking parody; even when doing things like dubbing #1 Man's voice, the film seldom goes overboard. Of course, Manborg is generally at its best when sticking to effects and action, and Kostanski is smart enough to keep it to one trim hour of mostly the good stuff rather than let it wear out its welcome. Though the running gag of a demon's crush on Mina holds up surprisingly well, moments of characters talking to each other or padding the runtime by cooking macaroni & cheese don't become that much more enjoyable by being imitations of something done badly.

Of course, a lot of the people who are going to buy a ticket or DVD for "Manborg" are going to be into that, and will likely enjoy the movie without reservation. I do hope, though, that in praising the film's deliberate hokiness, they don't ignore the underlying things that Kostanski and company actually do very well - well enough that it would be a shame if they didn't move on to things that are unironically great.

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originally posted: 04/13/12 09:15:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2011 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: ActionFest 2012 For more in the ActionFest 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

User Comments

11/09/13 bored mom Number One Man - BEST HERO EVER 5 stars
5/07/12 Adam Myles If "Fathers Day" was any inidication as to the talent of Astron-6, We're in for a treat! 5 stars
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  DVD: 30-Apr-2013



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