Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Mad God, on Shudder

Never stand in the way of a man in a gas mask, who is on a mission. In this case, the nature of his mission is somewhat open to interpretation, but his sense of purpose is admirable, as is true of his creator. After thirty years of intermittent production, special effects wizard (celebrated for his work on Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Starship Troopers) Phil Tippett’s truly long-awaited stop-motion animated feature Mad God premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

The “Assassin” travels via a diving bell down to a weird shadowy world that is beyond dystopian. His assignment is to leave a briefcase bomb within this enemy netherworld—and then just wait to die. Plenty have failed before him and he will probably fail too, judging from the pile of briefcases. Unfortunately, an ugly fate awaits the Assassin, if and when he is captured by the “Surgeon” (a.k.a. the “Torturer”).

Mad God is an amazing film. The design of the Assassin sort of recalls some of the militaristic animated sequences in The Wall, yet Tippett’s attention to hair and fiber is also somewhat akin to the style of This Magnificent Cake. Nevertheless, storytelling remains an aspect of filmmaking—and in this respect Mad God is a little weak. Things like causal effects, motivations, characterization, and inter-character relationships are only vaguely implied at best. Clearly, Mad God is intended first-and-foremost to be a spectacle, which indeed it is.

The whole point of
Mad God is to tour Tippett’s macabre world, much like Piotr Kamler’s largely narrative-free Chronopolis. Indeed, it truly looks amazing. Tippett also instills a sense of forward moment thet brings to mind Frank Vestiel’s underappreciated Eden Log, which also shared a similarly Boschian aesthetic.

There are many arresting images in
Mad God that clearly establish Tippett as an artist and an auteur. However, this is a very dark world, filled with brutality and sadism. It is not remotely appropriate for younger viewers and could very well distress the hyper-sensitive so-called grown-ups out there.

Regardless, those who enjoy sophisticated animation for adults will be fascinated with
Mad God. It is features some of the most striking world-building you can find and also some of the most disturbing. Highly recommended for animation connoisseurs, Mad God starts streaming tomorrow (6/15) on Shudder.