This is gonna be a quick one, folks. At least, I hope it’ll be a quick review, because Mad God may have only been 80 minutes, but it felt freaking interminable.
Special effects visionary Phil Tippett started this stop-motion film all the way back in 1990, while he was hard at work on Robocop 2. Shortly afterward, he got to work on Jurassic Park and saw the writing on the wall: CGI was the way of the future, so there would be no place left for stop-motion animation in cinema. Thus the project was shelved.
Cut to Summer 2012, when workers at Tippett’s studio convinced him to bring the project out of storage and raised over $120,000 on Kickstarter to help fund the production. Another ten years later, and what did we get? Fuck if I know.
Imagine if somebody adapted Dante’s Inferno as a live-action/stop-motion hybrid, but with no spoken or subtitled dialogue of any kind. And every character (with one minor exception) wore a mask at all times. Thus we have no idea who any of these characters are, where they are, or what they’re doing here. Because of the masks, we don’t get to know how any of the characters — not even our protagonist! — feel about anything going on or how we’re supposed to feel. There’s no clear conflict or crisis, no rising or falling action, no motivation, no world-building, no plot of any kind, and no clear thematic statement.
Without all of that, we’re only left with a pointless and soul-sucking journey from one fucked-up location to the next. A never-ending parade of creatures and characters barely recognizable as human, all subjected to unspeakably cruel torture for no apparent reason. And that’s exactly what we get here.
The artistry on display is unimpeachable. The filmmakers put Herculean effort into conjuring the most indescribably fucked-up imagery ever committed to film, and animating all of it superbly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much talent and ingenuity and creativity put into something so impeccably crafted, yet so ugly and cruel and thematically opaque. Not even in a Lars von Trier film.
I didn’t think it was possible to be so intractably fascinated and yet so mind-numbingly bored at the same time for 80 continuous minutes, yet Mad God delivered such an experience. Much as I applaud the craftsmanship on display, it’s all for naught without an identifiable thematic statement, a coherent plot, or even a single character we can connect with or even understand. I don’t even know if this technically counts as a movie when the film was defiantly made without offering a single clue as to what the fuck was going on.
With all due respect to the artisans who poured their hearts and souls into this project, I have no idea why they bothered and they probably shouldn’t have. Absolutely not recommended.