Film Review: Mad God (2021)

I struggle to find adequate words to describe this mixed-bag of a film, let alone review it… but, here we go. 

The candidly titled Mad God is the over-30-year passion project for director Phil Tippett, the man whose resume includes miscellaneous animation and visual effects work for properties such as RoboCop, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars. Now, when I say “over-30-year passion project,” that’s not to say that Tippett has simply wanted to make this film for decades, but that he literally has been; filming initially took place during Tippett’s time working on RoboCop 2 (1990), was shelved after his work on Jurassic Park (1993) led him to believe the days of stop-motion were over, and then eventually picked up again some twenty years later. When it was revisited, volunteer animators and Kickstarter donations helped Mad God to completion; this film is a true product of creative willpower, and it’s a wonder it reached a finished state at all. 

The animation itself is astounding. If you thought the stop motion edginess of something like Coraline (2009) was dark, wait until you feast your eyes on this nightmarish abstraction. With a blend of stop motion and live action, it’s a surreal extravaganza of horrifying, oppressive imagery — think a full-length feature of a Tool music video. It’s clear from the first few minutes that this really is a passion project for Tippett and all those involved, and, particularly with an outlook of cookie-cutter cash-grabs for cinema, it’s refreshing to see a film released which is so bold and uncompromised in its delivery. This is a cinematic vision in its purest form. It may be futile to even hope for such a thing, but I would very much like to see Mad God start a niche little revolution of adult stop motion films in the next few years.

We follow a gas-masked explorer as he traverses a terrible land of death, slavery, torture, and ruin; it could only be described as either the depths of hell projected onto Earth or a literalization of the term “hell on earth.” Then again, both of these descriptors assume the landscape we witness actually IS Earth. While I have nothing but praise for the passion that went into bringing this labor-of-love to completion, it’s so heavy in its self-indulgence that it almost fatally smothers any semblance of plot or theme. It would’ve been nice to have a bit more of a coherent narrative to accompany such a memorable design. Still, Mad God remains a must-see gem if you’re into animation or experimental horror. 

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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