There are movies we cannot fully comprehend, yet they hold a mysterious and irresistible fascination, just as Mad God of 2021 does, with its bizarre and eerie atmosphere.
Now that I have to describe the plot, I am aware of not knowing exactly how to begin. However, as director Phil Tippett did, I will follow my instincts and let the ideas flow freely.
To put us in the right mood, the movie opens with a biblical reference from the book of Leviticus.
No one knows how much time has passed since the disaster when an explorer soldier lands on the surface of this devastated world populated by incredible creatures.
His task is to find an industrial and military complex, but the map shatters every time he consults it as if the air itself were poisonous.
Following the directions, the soldier finds his way to the facility’s lower levels, which follows a crazy logic with monstrous creatures guarding and attacking even the ordinary workers who operate the machinery.
The soldier’s mission is to place a bomb at the lowest point of the complex, but before he succeeds, a sadistic surgeon captures and tortures him.
Before he dies on the operating table, the surgeon extracts a strange creature crying like a baby from his body.
The nurse attending the operation has no time to ask questions because the surgeon entrusts the tiny creature to her care.
So she must traverse the dark meanders to the offices of one of the monsters in charge of this madness.
There she must deliver the infant into the hands of authority, knowing the end awaiting it will be horrible and cruel.
However, all this is just a prelude to what lies ahead, as another soldier will descend from the sky trying to complete the mission.
The destruction and re-creation of the animation genre
Before or after 2021, it was hard to find a stop-motion animation movie like Mad God, and it is no coincidence it came from a master of the noble art of puppetry, Phil Tippett.
It is an art where this little genius has already amply demonstrated his talent in cult hits like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, or Robocop.
Working with stop-motion requires incredible patience and precision, but visually it achieves a unique and surreal effect that is difficult to reach with other cinematic techniques.
Despite its length of only one hour and twenty minutes, the feeling after watching Mad God is of having experienced something much longer.
Indeed, the movie is so intense and alienating that it feels like an hours-long journey leaving a strong impression and a sense of upheaval.
The attention to detail and realization of every creature, setting, and object is impressive, and even the most disturbing parts are so original you cannot help but admire the artists’ work in its making.
Tippett delivers a work of art exploring the boundaries of the macabre and surreal with such skill and precision that it becomes impossible to remain indifferent.
The strength of this masterpiece lies in the visual narrative, which uses images to convey meaning instead of relying on a linear plot based on dialogue or explanatory monologues.
In this world, every beast seems like a cog in a bio-mechanical machine in which life and death alternate in an endless cycle of creation and destruction.
The feeling is to witness a ruthless assembly line in which nothing seems to have a life of its own but is simply part of a larger, darker mechanism.
However, what is this story really about?
A God without mercy or justice
Despite being made in stop-motion, the movie also has some live actors, including Alex Cox, a mad god who dwells in the heavens.
A god who does not hesitate to send his creatures to their deaths, such as the soldier mentioned earlier, are the victim of torture and dismemberment by the perverse surgeon Satish Ratakonda and his unusual nurse Niketa Roman.
Although he appears only halfway through the story, it is unclear precisely what the ultimate purpose or goal is in this war, nor how this God obtained the power to create his kingdom in the sky.
Whether he left hell on earth and created his flying domain and soldier subjects is just one of the many unanswered questions surrounding this enigmatic character.
The world of Mad God is where a few figures seem to be in control, while all other creatures are helpless victims of the forces around them.
There is no justice in this post-apocalyptic universe where life and death seem to be dispensed randomly, depending on the whim of machines.
Fear and despair are everywhere, as with the infant born and dying in a few scenes in one of the movie’s scariest and most cynical sequences.
This life is as short as insignificant in this hell where everything seems to be doomed to destruction and decay.
Mad God is a movie that did not gain much visibility in 2021, remaining a film intended for an audience of fans of weirdness and visual experimentation.
Those who like to look for metaphors and symbolism in every shot and dialogue will find this film a real treasure trove, as director Phil Tippett infuses every moment with a wide range of hidden meanings and enigmatic allusions.