Originally released as a short film in 2014, stop-motion effects master Phil Tippett’s Mad God was started as a side-project during some free time after his work on Robocop 2 in 1990. When he was hired to work on Jurassic Park he concluded that the future belonged to CGI and so scrapped the idea. In 2009, some of the team at Tippett Studio stumbled upon his completed footage and volunteered to help get it finished. The reception the short received led him to create 2 more shorts which were then compiled together and expanded upon to create this feature, more than 30 years after it was begun.
The story begins with a character known only as The Assassin descending into a world ruined by war. Bombs explode around him as his diving bell creeps lower and lower. Once on the ground, he carries with him only a crumbling map and a suitcase bomb as he sneaks past the various creatures and horrors that populate a world that would leave Dante cowering in fear. Every inch of the landscape is covered in filth and the denizens used as slave labor by grotesque monsters. We also meet a Surgeon and his Nurse who run torturous experiments on their charges, The Last Man, who is in charge of The Assassins, and an alchemist with the power to create universes.
There is virtually no dialog in the entire movie so the story needs to be told through its visuals, which is no small feat, even when said story is as thin as this one. The plot exists mainly as a way to take us on a tour of Tippett’s richly imagined hellscapes, and that’s actually fine here, as they are the main selling point to a film like this. As expected from such a master of the craft, every part of the production design is as awe-inspiring as it is repulsive. And it is frequently VERY repulsive. Seriously, the weak-stomached should steer clear. The tone is relentlessly bleak as well, with those in charge treating life as worthless aside from whatever material value they can extract from it (figuratively and literally) and the world having been utterly devastated by an apparently pointless, never-ending war. Tippett’s film isn’t without its flaws, but he was quoted in Empire saying that, “the final form of Mad God isn’t the film itself, but the memory after you watch it. It’s bringing you to that moment just after waking up from a dream, frozen, exploring fragments of your feral mind before they fade back into the shadows,” and by that metric it is a success. ★★★★
NOT Rated. CONTAINS graphic violence, bloody and disturbing images throughout, nudity, and brief sexual content.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor