June 17, 2022

Phil Tippett’s “Mad God” Exceeds the Limits of Imagination (Review)

Despite the prevalence of CGI in the modern film landscape, there’s a certain magic about stop-motion animation that is impossible to beat. Its organic nature and seamless feeling — when done right — is the perfect symbol of pure imagination brought practically to life. And while there aren’t many films released these days that are entirely stop-motion animated, Mad God, a film by legendary visual effects master Phil Tippett, has joined their ranks.

Tippett’s is a name you may not have heard, but you’ve seen his work. From Star Wars to Jurassic Park, his fingerprints are present on many iconic (and forgotten) franchises and science-fiction projects dating all the way back to the 1970s. But since the late 20th century, he’s been working on a film that I’m sure will come to define his career.

Mad God is the very definition of a passion project, created in segments by Tippett and various volunteer groups and filmed over the course of 30 years. Its intricacies are evident and the work put into it is awe-inspiring, as we’re brought through countless levels of a strange future civilization. The film is relatively light on story, but that’s actually for the better — I have a feeling Mad God was made for the very purpose of expressing what stop-motion animation is capable of doing and showing, and that ends up being its biggest success.

But if you’re a “visual metaphor” kind of person, there’s plenty of that here, too. I saw it over a month ago and I’m still contemplating its themes and ideas, which is certainly a testament to the film’s lasting effects. If there is a story, it’s centered around a gas-masked figure, simply called the Assassin. He dives into the world beneath the surface, home of hellish creatures beyond conception, in a diving bell, armed only with a bomb-laden suitcase that he intends to detonate somewhere down below. As to why he’s doing this and what exactly his intentions are, those are questions for Tippett himself. Somehow, I doubt we’ll get a straight answer, because one isn’t necessary. Immersion in the world should be enough.

With all sorts of horrific imagery and obscene weirdness on display, Mad God labels itself starkly unique from its inception. Even though there’s not much to chew on narratively, I was blown away by its imaginative prowess, and I think Mr. Tippett can rest easy knowing that stop-motion is not going anywhere, at least not while he’s around. It’s a remarkable achievement, and not bad as far as magnum opuses go.

Mad God is streaming on Shudder.

No comments:

Post a Comment