Steven Kostanski has deliberately made Manborg with the feel of a 1990s B-budget science-fiction film. Print it on videotape and it could easily sit alongside any of a dozen cheap clones of The Terminator (1984) and RoboCop (1987) see the likes of Mutant Hunt (1986), Roboforce/I Love Maria (1988), Cyborg (1989), Class of 1999 (1990), Eve of Destruction (1990), Steel and Lace (1991), Project Shadowchaser (1992), Cyborg Cop (1993), Knights (1993), Mandroid (1993), Nemesis (1993), Cybertracker (1994) and so on. The creature effects and costumes all look like typical work from the late 1980s the character of Justice (Conor Sweeney) even comes with a mullet.
It is worth comparing Manborg to something like Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning (2005), which was made in very similar circumstances in its creators apartment using home computers to create most of the sets and effects. Where Star Wreck deliveredeffects work that could easily sit alongside the more accomplished product being turned out by studios like Industrial Light and Magic, Steven Kostanski has gone for a deliberately scrappy look. The killer cyborgs in the arena are made to look like amateur stop-motion effects and are surrounded by grainy matte lines even though the facility would surely have existed to deliver these at a much more accomplished level. The sets and backgrounds inserts have the look of obvious blue screen.
The viewers of Manborg seem the ones used to viewing bad films in quote marks where they actively deride the production values and laugh at the unintentional corniness of films. What may be missed is that amid the films self-conscious low-budget look, Steven Kostanski has made a work that houses a great deal of creativity. When you consider that the film was shot in his parents home and the basement of a neighbouring store, the ability to create battlefields, arenas filled with thousands, giant alien machines, a post-holocaust terrain and people it with all manner of creatures and action scenes, what he has produced here amounts to a genuine miracle of no-budget filmmaking. It is a film constantly filled with texture, background detail and something happening in the frame all of which has been digitally inserted where it would have been extremely easy to leave it blank. You only need contrast Manborg to one of the genuine Z-budget films from the era it seeks to emulate such as R.O.T.O.R. (1989) and see just how much creativity has gone into this work, even though that film probably had a far larger budget.
Not merely a homage to a genre, Manborg comes with a sense of deadpan humour that is often side-splitting. Watching the evil skull and mutant-faced Baron (Jeremy Gillespie) nervously trying to romantically woo Meredith Sweeney is some of the funniest things I have seen in genre cinema in a while. Or the way tiny Asian # 1 Man (Ludwig Lee) delivers all his lines in a theatrical (overdubbed) voice booming with gravitas. Equally, Steven Kostanski has a great ear for absurd dialogue cliches of the era and peppers everybodys lines throughout with numerous of these. All of the cast play with an admirable sense of straight face.
The film is also worth watching until after the credits for the trailer for Bio-Cop not to be confused with the Hong Kong film Bio-Cops (2000). This is not a real film but a mocked-up trailer that Kostanski made in order to bring Manborgs running time up to feature length for release. This proves to be a highly amusing two-three minute piece about a suicidally inept zombie police officer where Kostanski has fun referencing other 1980s films such as The Toxic Avenger (1986), Dead Heat (1988) and Maniac Cop (1988).
As part of Astron-6, Steven Kostanski also co-directed the Troma film Fathers Day (2011). He next went onto make the W is for Wish segment of ABCs of Death 2 (2014) and co-directed with Jeremy Gillespie the H.P. Lovecraft homage The Void (2016). Other Astron-6 members subsequently went onto make the giallo homage The Editor (2014).