This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Manborg.”
The Movie: “Manborg”
Starring: Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Meredith Sweeney
Director: Steven Kostanski
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A soldier, brought back to life as a cyborg, fights alongside a band of adventurers against demon hordes in a dystopian future.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86 percent
Froemming: Well, I can honestly say I have recovered from the motion sickness-induced vomiting from last week’s “Cloverfield” and am ready to take on this week’s film, “Manborg.”
That’s right, “Manborg.” A movie that looks like the coolest arcade game from 1992 but is actually a movie that came out in 2011. Brown, we have finally found “Kickpuncher” from “Community!”
But before we get into this very baffling movie that I am pretty sure doesn’t have a real plot, why don’t you put down your thoughts in a MONOTONE VOICE LIKE MANBORG!
Brown: Well, it didn’t exactly fit the Halloween/scary movie motif we use October for. With that said, the true terror comes from employers who try to hire anyone from this movie and see “Manborg” on their LinkedIn page.
When you said we were watching this, just hearing the name “Manborg” meant we weren’t going to watch anything good. Then I looked up the movie online and saw two words that are magic when paired together: Nazi vampires.
Good. Bad. Who cares? I was in. And I’m kind of glad that enthusiasm stayed.
Look, I could gush a little bit more, but we have the literal plot from the video game “Doom” to steal for the movie’s cold open. Get to it, Froemming.
Froemming: We get a brief description that Earth has become a legacy of the Hell Wars, and we see two soldiers dressed in WWII garb fighting this monster we learn is named “Count Draculon,” which in my mind means vampires, which technically fits with Halloween month. Kinda. I don’t know, this movie made me feel like a 13-year-old flying high on Surge cola playing “Mortal Kombat” again!
Brown: Oh, you bring up “Mortal Kombat” and it bears mentioning: This movie is shot so clunky, it’s like watching a cutscene from an old ‘90s Playstation game. Hell, that’s too generous. This was shot for a Sega Saturn.
Froemming: This movie’s charm lies in not only how stupid it is, but the fact that it isn’t even Sega Saturn level graphics, it looks like Sega CD quality.
The two soldiers are brothers, we learn. One dies, and I swear his voice-over dub is one of the funniest things I have ever heard in my life. I think they hired the voice actor from the “Powerthirst” Youtube clip for this.
Draculon, not to be confused with Calculon from “Futurama,” kills one brother and the other vows vengeance before being cut down himself. Also, we get this line in the movie “It’s not about the killing. It’s about family.”
That was said. In this movie.
Brown: It’s the most bizarre war I’ve ever watched in a movie. It’s shot in a nice green field, which made me think it was just a bunch of guys LARPing. Then, every weapon they shot did not look like how the actual weapon shoots. The bazookas, I’m pretty sure they shot Roman candles and added bazookas in post.
Then, after his brother dies, our unnamed protagonist has a fight with Count Draculon and is using his gun like a sword. Only when he shoots the Count does our Ronnie James Dio-haired bad guy finally slice the gun in half and wound him.
As he lays mortally wounded in the grassy field, our hero is dragged away. He’s about to be RoboCop’d.
Froemming: Oh, then we see from his POV a bunch of digital numbers and computer graphics that were top of the line when the TurboGrafx 16 was released in the early ‘90s. They literally crib this whole thing from RoboCop, but done very cheaply.
We see this young, brave soldier whom I am convinced is more socially awkward than Rod from “Birdemic,” become …. A dude with a bunch of crap glued/taped to his body, much like I did as a 10-year-old and was playing with my friends in the world of make believe.
He has become Manborg! And his gadgets work much like Inspector Gadget’s in the sense he has know idea how to use them and they pop out at the right time because otherwise social Darwinism would have cut this man down for a second time.
Brown: Well, let me set the world that Manborg has found himself in. His life is literally the “Blood Dragon” DLC from the video game “Farcry 3.”
And for the surroundings, it looks like he joined a world where “Blade Runner” had a baby with “They Live,” right down to a bunch of “Obey” and “Submit” signs.
Everywhere, there are decrepit sharp-toothed men in Gestapo outfits controlling the world. And, everyone moves like the claymation Terminator, which I get unreasonably giddy about.
It’s here where Manborg gets his first chance to use his gadgets. And he also meets his first ally,
Liu Kang Number 1.
Froemming: Or, according to the very brief Wikipedia page on this film, #1 Man.
This movie is the best/worst.
These two get captured and are brought to Mega-Death City, a town that is much cooler than Dave Mustaine has ever been. It is here we see there is some sort of gladiator games between humans and the monsters from “Doom.” Why? Because blood. That is the only answer we get. Draculon wants blood. To drink? Dunno. He just wants it.
Brown: The plot of “Doom” is that hell has risen and it’s your job to stop hell from taking over Earth. THIS IS THE LITERAL PLOT OF “MANBORG!”
Froemming: And yet, it is much better than the actual “Doom” movie.
Brown: Oh yeah, that movie is garbage. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can’t save everything.
So we’re clear, #1 Man is a karate man because racism? And, despite looking like a man who’s ready for laser tag at all times, Manborg has no earthly idea how to use his weapons. It also baffles me that Manborg can be incapacitated by a nightstick to the head and a boot to the face. You are a Manborg, emphasis on the Borg. That shouldn’t lay you out.
But, Manborg and #1 Man are going to jail, and they are joined by Billy Idol cosplayer Justice and his sister, Mina, who despite living in literal hell-on-earth, can find a hairdresser who can dye her hair aqua blue.
Froemming: I just want to add this: Justice has an Australian accent. His sister does not. I was so baffled by this.
Brown: The only way Justice could be more Australian is if he asked everyone “How you goin’?” which is a thing Australians say because they’re adorable, quirky people.
Froemming: We learned that from watching “Crocodile Dundee.”
Justice doesn’t take a liking to Manborg, probably because this machine-man lacks racing stripes in his hair and looks suspiciously like Kyle Mooney from “Saturday Night Live.” He verbally assaults Manborg, and because Manborg is as socially awkward as I am at parties, he speaks in monotone and stands there like a doofus.
They are in a laser jail, and are being prepped for a survival game right out of “The Running Man,” where instead of facing a man on ice skates named Sub-Zero, they face the level boss from, again, “Doom.”
Brown: It bears mentioning that these four are sent into this game of death by The Baron, a higher-up for the Count and maybe my favorite character in this movie. He looks like a reject Cenobite from “Hellraiser” but he’s a lonely guy who crushes hard for Mina. And there’s one point where you see him just fed up with life and he just sits down and takes a long drag of a cigarette. I’d like to think that was an actor’s choice. Or, the actor just needed a smoke and the camera was left on. I just want The Baron to be happy, guys!
Two things about the coliseum scene that confused me. First, Justice says that “There are no losers. You win or you die.” … Pretty sure dying would mean you lost here, so your comment makes no damn sense.
Second, when Mina kills one of the Nazi vampire bikers (I love that I just typed that), there’s a cutesy graphic for Mina like she’s some sort of fan favorite.
This didn’t make sense. Then I remembered we were watching “Manborg.” Nothing was going to make sense.
Froemming: We also, around this time, in the laser jail meet Dr. Scorpious, who is there to watch over the prisoners and aid Draculon on his hell-on-earth mission. I bring him up, because he is a somewhat important figure in this movie later on.
Also, during the battle, Manborg falls on his back and just shoots right into the sky like a tipped over turtle. Because of how worthless he is, Justice blames him for almost getting Mina killed. This movie moved so fast, I think I missed a bunch of stuff because I was trying to take down my notes.
Justice gives an incredible “take a hike” rant at Manborg after this, and our machine hero just gawks at him like a moron. Also, they are in jail, so Manborg can’t take a hike anywhere.
Brown: Readers, I’m gonna be honest: I forgot what the hell happened at this point in the movie, so I’ll taking Froemming’s word on this.
So, Manborg is informed that he was created by Dr. Scorpious and that the good doctor is being held against his will. Scorpious was the one who opened the gates to hell (when he does this, the way he tries to fix the problem is by hitting DELETE on his keyboard over and over again. Hilarious) and he built Manborg to correct his mistake.
Manborg’s reaction to Scorpious being the reason for this is yelling “You dick” in his monotone robot voice. I want that clip as my ringtone.
Froemming: I am guessing Dr. Scorpious was just following IT’s tried-and-true recommendation for every computer issue: Turn the computer off and back on again?
Manborg’s mission is to save earth from hell. They escape and, for reasons I do not remember at all, Mina goes back to the arena to take on more monsters.
And #1 Man, Justice and Manborg hit the mean streets of Mega-Death City, where they meet the worst Jawa knock-off in film history and regroup so they can save Mina, I think.
For a movie that clocks in at an hour, I don’t remember much of the details.
But I do know we get A TRAINING MONTAGE for Manborg to learn his weapons and how to fight!
Brown: I also recall that Dr. Scorpious gives Manborg a future cassette at one point. Do I remember what it’s used for? Nope! But I do know I love how (REDACTED) ‘80s this movie is.
Froemming: The cassette is a hologram message to Manborg…a pre-recorded one that somehow functions much like Force Ghosts in “Star Wars.” Manborg communicates with these recordings. It makes zero sense.
Brown: We watched “Manborg.” Our lives make no sense.
So, our heroes are reunited and they head to the outskirts of Mega-Death City to strategize. And really this plan should be doomed to failure. Know how I know this? Because Justice and #1 Man find a way to light macaroni and cheese ON FIRE.
It’s a literal “Simpsons” joke. And between there being a hotplate for their food and his turning out to be illiterate, I’m convinced Justice is “Always Sunny’s” Charlie Kelly in an alternate timeline.
These people should be (REDACTED).
Froemming: Folks, the mac and cheese scene alone is worth watching this. I was crying from how hard I was laughing. This was comedy gold.
With Mina off to battle Draculon, our illiterate heroes are off to aid her. She first battles this red haired woman I am pretty sure has no name and just kinda looms in the background of this movie with no real purpose.
Brown: Her name is Shadow Mega. They mention it once in passing. And I’m pretty sure she was cast only for her ability to scowl. To be fair, she’s good at scowling. She’s also a monster somehow. This movie is named “Manborg.” Nothing makes sense.
Froemming: Well, I think Mina takes her out. And we now get our heroes and Mina to fight Draculon, The Baron (poor Baron, he just wanted love) and save the day.
And during the battle, I kid you not, Manborg says this: “THE POWER OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT WILL NEVER BE OBSOLETE.” It is in all caps because of how monotone this guy is when he speaks.
Brown: Remember that program in old Mac computers where it would speak whatever you wrote? That’s how Manborg talks.
So we have a big donnybrook with our heros against the Nazi zombies and we see that Justice can just point a gun anywhere and kill a target. Also, #1 Man uses nunchucks to deflect lasers. … Sure, why the (REDACTED) not?
While they deal with the riff-raff, Manborg has a one-on-one confrontation with Count Draculon to deal with.
Froemming: We can’t gloss over the death of the hero of this movie. The Baron dies in battle with #1 Man, who for some reason is caked in blood after he cuts The Baron down in his prime, but not once during the fight.
RIP The Baron.
Brown: I should also mention that Manborg drops the “IT’S NOT ABOUT THE KILLING. IT’S ABOUT FAMILY” line right before he dismisses #1 Man to go fight Count Draculon alone.
Now, I don’t remember anything about this final fight except for this: Manborg’s one-liners need work. His line is “DRACULON… MORE LIKE (REDACTED)-HOLE.” I’ll let Bruce Campbell speak for me here.
Froemming: Much like you, I do not recall much of this fight. I remember Mina throws a knife into Draculon’s neck and that wounds him.
Look folks, I just looked into this. The budget for this film was $1,000. I am kinda impressed by that.
Now, as I was writing my notes, Draculon dies and Manborg is fatally wounded. And the end of this movie is one of the best things I have ever seen in my life.
As Manborg lays broken and knocking on Heaven’s Door, he sees Dr. Scorpious and his brother via pre-recorded hologram.
Brown: The brother introduces himself: “Hey bro, it’s your brother.” YOU DON’T SAY.
Froemming:His brother, there to comfort Manborg in his final moments, gives him encouraging words such as “There is no heaven.”
This is the end of the hero’s journey, folks: His dead brother informs him there is no heaven as he is about to die. Holy (REDACTED) I was not expecting that.
Brown: Look, I’m not an especially religious person, but hearing that line end a movie, my jaw hit the floor. Like, I wanted to laugh, but I was more befuddled that a line like that would be uttered right as the credits are about to roll.
Then, I remember we watched “Manborg” and it all made sense.
Like The Baron, I need to take a long drag after that review. Let’s get to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Yes. This movie is, in my opinion, the third of our classic terrible-but-good film trilogy of this year. “The Room,” Birdemic” and this.
Brown: This may be the most campy movie I’ve watched. And I love camp. Yes, grab a case of beer, get some junk food, watch with a couple weird friends and just have fun laughing at this love letter to ‘80s B-movies.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: