MAD GOD *** USA 2021 Dir: Phil Tippett. 83 mins
Thirty years in the making just goes to show that taking this long to make a film does not mean it is going to be a masterpiece. Now I don’t want to dis this straight off because visually MAD GOD is outstanding! I love monsters and I love stop motion and MAD GOD is pretty much all monsters and the stop motion animation is constant. There are even some moments with some live action sequences where actors wear puppet suits as well. My big issue with this film is that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This seems to me to be where stop motion meets art house which then seems to mean that plot becomes an afterthought in favour of a place where the weird and wonderful, the grim and the grotesque and the trippy and the terrible are king!
Starting off with a rickety old diving bell being lowered further and further through what seems to be layers in the Earth. A strange humanoid masked figure holding a brief case emerges from the bell when it finally finishes its descent. He traverses his way across this crumbling world as he witnesses all manner of beasts being tortured, used as slaves or as fuel for heavy industrial machinery or forced to fight against and predate each other. Making his way seemingly unnoticed through forests, cityscapes and war zones he arrives at a place that looks to be a briefcase graveyard. Opening his case and revealing the bomb inside he is about to detonate, he himself is snatched by a hideous creature and taken to a laboratory for experimentation. This is all a little hard to follow but you get the gist of it up until this point when things get even more confusing. One thing you do learn though is that he is not the first assassin sent down there and he won’t be the last. The film continues on in a kind of loop as a second assassin arrives but there is a side story that follows the first assassin or at least bits of him. As I say, it was hard to follow at the time of watching and now having to write it all down without giving away too many spoilers when you’re really not sure what is going on in the first place is quite difficult. It is fascinating to watch as there is so much going at one time I’m almost certain I have missed key points along the way.
The detail in the monsters, characters and their surroundings are insanely precise. The textures and layers within the animation is amazing. The main setting is a kind of Hell-scape within the Earth so for a lot of the time it’s dark, smoggy and dank but there is one sequence later on that goes the other way and is full of stunning bright, vibrant and twinkly lights and colours which really stands out. There is no discernable dialogue in this aside from a few incoherent mumbles and a lot of human infant crying which will most definitely set you on edge. It certainly did with me anyway. The score was composed by Dan Wool who created a wonderfully haunting musical accompaniment to the weird and wonderful creatures on screen.
Described as Tippetts “magnum opus” it is an epic work of art that has taken a huge amount of time and effort to complete, with Tippett even getting students involved that wanted some extra film making experience. Some scenes taking years to finalise. Tippett did release snippets of MAD GOD in the form of three short movies which made up half the feature lengths run time. I don’t mean to be down on this film as it is visually outstanding and expertly executed I just don’t really get what it was all about and that really bugs me. I’m glad I watched it but it is not one I will be watching again anytime soon.
Review by Sarah Budd