Manborg is one of those movies I’ll watch because I’m curious to see how the creators could have possibly pulled it off. I go in with a healthy skepticism; but, deep down, I’m hoping they did it right.
How do you do right by a movie that posits an alternate history in which there was a war between mankind and an army of vampires led by count Dracula (Sorry–Draculon) himself? I’m no authority on the subject–no one is–but I would say director, Stephen Kostansky, and writer, Jeremy Gillespie, came pretty close with this one.
The plot goes like this: a soldier is killed during a world war with Draculon and his army of vampires. He is brought back to life as a cyborg long after the war has ended, the vampires having won, and the world is a dystopian wasteland. Only one man can overthrow the Nazi-esque vampire regime and restore some semblance of peace on Earth…Manborg. He’ll team up with a motley crew of adventurers and save the millennium.
A few things stood out for me about this one. The apparent lack of a budget forced the producers to get creative with the battle sequences and the development of the dystopian world. This makes for an aesthetic that’s more interesting than overwrought. The world Manborg moves through is an almost impressionistic representation of a future dystopia. The cinematography is thick with smoke and fire, shadows and rent metal. The film’s actually kind of beautiful in that way, I think.
I also appreciated Manborg’s gradual realization of his abilities. He doesn’t wake up and begin kicking ass right off the bat. He slowly learns the various functionalities of his new body, and he grapples, lightly, with the existential questions that come from waking up decades into the future as a half robot half man. He’s not overly confident or cool, either. He’s actually fairly dorky, which lends him a certain vulnerability. He’s clumsy, uncertain, and despairing, which leaves him room to grow over the course of the film.
Those were the aspects of the film I liked. One problem I had with the film was the overly ironic treatment of some, if not all, of the characters. It’s obvious from the start the creators are aware they’re not making a grade-a blockbuster here. This movie is meant to be cheesy fun, and they pull it off. But Manborg’s friends in the film are caricatures of various staple character types, which is fine in itself; but they never stray far from their established molds. You have a poorly dubbed martial arts master, a greaser, and the tough chick. While Manborg comes across as vulnerable and possibly inept at first, only to rise to the occasion over the course of the film, his friends pretty much stay the same, and seem to serve no purpose other than to spew clichés and poke fun at the archetypes they represent.
However, these complaints are small for a movie called Manborg. This is worth a watch if you enjoy genre-benders, or if you simply want to see a wacky movie.
She Who Wears the Flesh of Her Enemies has made her decree: