In the future, Count Draculon and the forces of Hell have taken over the entire world. The only ones with the power to stand in his way are a diverse crew of resistance fighters.
During the Hell Wars, two brothers fight a losing battle against the endless legions of Hell. One of the brothers is wounded, “Remember, it’s not about the killing. It’s about family,” he says, giving his brother a photograph of the two of them, before dying at the hands of Count Draculon.
The surviving brother angrily charges at Draculon but is no match for his strength and seemingly dies as well. However, his body is dragged away by an unknown individual…
The soldier awakens in a laboratory but discovers he is now a cyborg – Manborg. He finds his way out and into the world, now a cyberpunk-flavored dystopia, where he sees a group of demon soldiers (led by what appears to be a human woman, Shadow Mega) beat someone up in an alley. Manborg intervenes with assistance from his new friend, #1 Man, a shirtless martial artist with a dubbed-over voice.
The soldiers subdue the heroic pair and take them to a holding facility at the Genesis Tower, the villains’ central base of operations. There, #1 Man is reunited with his companions, blue-haired Mina and her brother, blonde Australian accented Justice.
Human scientist and collaborator Dr. Scorpius is introduced, as is the Hell commander of the Tower, The Baron, who finds himself attracted to Mina. “Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?” he asks. “You could get lost,” she replies, coldly.
The Baron sends the four prisoners to an arena to fight Hell bikers for the amusement of the other demons. There, Manborg learns more about his abilities and weapons at his disposal, including a super-powerful gun built in his arm.
Afterwards, the prisoners return to their cells and Manborg gets some alone time with Dr. Scorpius; it turns out Dr. Scorpius is secretly working against Count Draculon and is also responsible for Manborg’s creation. He feels responsible for the Earth being conquered because it was he who accidentally opened the gates to Hell (with his computer) and allowed the demons to invade.
Manborg is sent on his way, and he breaks the other resistance fighters out of their cells. They escape to #1 Man’s hideout, but Mina wanders outside and is kidnapped by Draculon. “How can we save her?” asks #1 Man. “I’ll tell you how,” pipes Manborg, “we go in there and we kick some ass.” Cue training montage as the three fighters sharpen their skills for the upcoming battle.
At the Genesis Tower, #1 Man and Justice fight demons, while Manborg takes the elevator up to Count Draculon, who has upgraded his appearance since the film’s opening scene. Manborg is quickly blown out the window of the tower and he plummets into the arena, where the two continue their duel.
Mina reappears and helps #1 Man and Justice fight The Baron and Shadow Mega (who is now in her true, monstrous form). #1 Man knocks The Baron into an electrical generator, and Justice throws a belt of grenades into Shadow Mega, destroying her.
Mina heads to the arena and distracts Draculon enough to allow Manborg the opportunity to stab him in the throat. “’Draculon?’” Manborg muses, “More like ‘Asshole.’”
Draculon is dead…but so is Mina. Manborg takes out a container of heart serum from his chest and pours it in her mouth, reviving her, but at the cost of his own life.
Suddenly, the legions of Hell rise up once more, and the three survivors must return to battle.
After the Manborg credits is a fake trailer for the fake film Bio-Cop, that mashes every cop movie trope into a beautiful, oozing ball of biomatter. After a horrifying lab accident, an ordinary cop becomes indestructible, but also really gross and constantly falling apart, and vomiting all the time. “He’s part man, part nightmare, and he’s taking justice to the streets.”
This was a low budget film, only $1,000 CA, and filmed primarily in front of a green screen, with miniature and stop-motion work for creatures. Because of this I found the film to be rather charming, with aesthetics reminiscent of a comic book or ’90s video game.
The tone is very comedic, tongue-in-cheek and campy, but played very straight, with enough serious moments to prevent the film from being a farce. Striking a perfect balance is important in films such as these because without it, they become overly silly, self-indulgent, and made more for the filmmakers’ entertainment than the audience’s. I am pleased that Manborg was successful in this regard. Part of this success comes from the filmmaker, who genuinely loved the material, and made the film as a tribute to the ’80s films he grew up with.
The characters are colorful and incredibly fun, especially Justice, #1 Man, and The Baron, who were a pleasure to watch. The dialogue was also very snappy and quotable (“shenanigrams”), and the film itself had good, clear messages about never giving up, self sacrifice, friendship, and family.
My only complaint is the slow start; the battle scene at the beginning, while necessary, felt a little too drawn out, and a little more serious than the film would later reveal itself to be. Less forgiving audience members would shut off the film then and there. It’s not until we see the future, and meet the rest of the characters, does Manborg start to shine.
Obviously this film isn’t for everyone, and its low budget, grainy, washed-out appearance with over-composited shots may be a dealbreaker for many. Yet, if you’re a fan of the genre, and looking for something fun to watch with friends, then hurry up and watch this film – it’s only about an hour long!