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Mad God Review

Mad God

Mad God is a film of two stories; the director, Phil Tippett’s quest to make the film and the narrative of the movie itself. Tippett began to conceptualize ideas for Mad God as early as during the production of Robocop 2, where he was a stop-motion effects artist.

During the mid-production of Jurassic Park, Tippett was producing stop-motion effects for the dinosaurs but it was also when director Steven Spielberg had a breakthrough with CGI. Tippet would never compromise on his vision of Mad God being stop-motion, but his effects team adapted to the changing industry and would transition to computer effects.

Tippett’s studio has worked on movies with some of the most convincing effects like Starship Troopers, as well as several short films. Mad God is his most ambitious and is possibly the most daring animated movie ever shot. What is this film about? Find out in this Mad God review!

Mad God (2021)
Production Company: Tippett Studio
Publisher: Shudder, RLJ Entertainment 

Director: Phil Tippett
Release Date: June 16, 2022

Mad God is not a film for general audiences. This is an avant-garde, art-house, post-apocalyptic odyssey that explores many themes without any dialogue. It is a visual tour de force where almost every frame of the movie is made up of hand-crafted models and armatures.

The only times Mad God deviates from relying on miniatures or stop-motion puppets is when live human actors are used for close-ups or insert shots. There are a couple of instances where human actors are used for specific characters- and even when they are featured, they are shot like a stop-motion armature.

The film’s ominous beginning is biblical and utterly nihilistic as it cites Leviticus 26:18 and 26:29-34. The world we are about to enter is completely abandoned by its creator. The world is utterly scorned and what remains lives in a constant state of punishment.

The production design and style of Mad God are unlike anything ever animated. The setting is richly textured and lit in such a way that it almost is sickening.

There are influences of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of revelations, mixed with modern industrialism and World War II aesthetics. These choices are very fitting considering Mad God’s scenario.

The story begins with a nameless soldier who is dropped deep behind enemy lines. His mission is to drop off a bomb at his target and for a while, much of the film centers on this masked figure wandering through the world.

The assassin is completely indifferent to every weird and sickening thing around him. He encounters a factory that produced literal men made of prisoner shit and a naked, violent creature that constantly oozes puss and feces, and has the most gnarly sack of balls ever animated.

The dookie dudes are an especially powerful sequence. These poor workers are so utterly pathetic, that they often kill themselves to escape their suffering. If they don’t kill themselves, then the working conditions will. It’s an honest statement of the wage slave culture and the disposability of labor.

The imagery blurs the line between beautiful and grotesque. The Kubrickian style symmetry makes very graphic-looking angles and the way how scenes are framed with objects in the foreground gives an illustrative impression.

A lot of these shots had to achieve optical effects because many of the props and characters are different scales. Using process shots and optical composites can put huge figures on much smaller sets and the differences in scale creates an uncanny effect. Even more impressive is how the lighting is very closely matched.

After a certain point in the story, the point-of-view shifts from the assassint to other characters. This happens a few times and it makes Mad God have an episodic feel to it. The run time is a very lean 83 minutes and it feels longer due to the scope of the story.

This is where the staccato production becomes apparent. The stream-of-consciousness flow of the story is a byproduct of Mad God‘s on-again and off-again development.

This bizarre approach to the narrative does add to the dreamlike nature of the atmosphere. Scenes will transition to another like a half-remembered nightmare.

Each frame is packed with details that suggest a grander tapestry. It is a shame that Mad God is under 90 minutes.

If it could go on longer, then the artists and builders could further compound their ideas. A keen eye will take notice of various details and amusing examples of irony in the world’s design.

Mad God is a very immersive movie. Music is mostly diegetic and all the sound design is upfront and centered for maximum effect. This is a very gooey movie and sounds the way it looks; utterly filthy and gross.

When Mad God ends, there will be much to speculate about and discuss. The conclusion will undoubtedly spark debate on its meaning. It is a very spiritual film, but also a very surreal and experimental one that explores a side of mysticism that is rarely depicted.

There will never be a movie like Mad God ever again. One man’s dreams that he nurtured for three decades and almost every aspect of it is crafted by hand. Stop-motion is a dying art as is and the only times it is ever done is for films aimed at children. Mad God is a very rare example of an animated film aimed at adults, not man-children.

This is the kind of movie that stays with you after you see it. You never forget it and the impression it leaves is like a traumatic experience, but the good kind where you feel like you learned something about yourself. It is a true nihilistic masterwork that is a thin-air miracle that it came from such a major figure in the Hollywood system.

Mad God was reviewed on Blu-ray using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Mad God is available on DVD and Blu-Ray and is streaming on Shudder.

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The Verdict: 9

The Good

  • The nightmarish imagery and intense symbolism will capture the viewers imagination
  • Visual-driven narrative with no dialogue that transcends language
  • Unbelievably creative and thrifty approach to stop-motion animation that mixes materials and styles
  • Insane world building and attention to detail
  • Some of the most elaborate and meticulously produced stop-motion animation shot

The Bad

  • The avant-garde premise and free flowing story will be alienating to general audiences
  • 83 minutes is too short for this kind of movie

About

A youth destined for damnation.


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