Directed by: Phil Tippett
Written by: Phil Tippett
Featuring: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda, Hans Brekke
The Assassin is lowered into the upper levels of some type of hell by the ‘Last Man’ his mission is to navigate his way around the madness and hideous aspects that surround him to sabotage the great infernal machine. Should he fail then the Last Man has thousands of other assassins waiting…
It is very difficult to give an opinion of Mad God. Everything about this film is imagery as would be expected from visual effects people who have worked at the top of their game. Here we go back to the Willis O’Brien King Kong days, herkie-jerky stop motion, which must have taken a decade of months just to complete one or two scenes, especially in time off and at weekends. But the effort pays off. The visuals are arresting, beguiling and horrifying. You somehow connect with the Assassin despite knowing exactly what he is and how he came to be on your screen. That just in itself is a mighty skill. I reiterate there is no dialogue, no easily followed narrative. The viewer must get everything they get from the film by watching the images placed in front of them and nothing else.
So without waffling away too long I can only give a short opinion. As I mentioned above there is no easily followed narrative or plot which is indeed the film’s weakness and its strength.
The strength is a film with an indecipherable story featuring almost exclusively stop-motion models is still engaging and well worth watching.
The weakness is with an indecipherable story you are forced to focus on the images presented. Hellscapes, tortures, both real and surreal but by the hour mark it starts to get wearing. I was more intrigued when we were transported, along with Assassin to clearly recognisable areas. The level of ‘war’ was intriguing. huge monolithic tanks warring with each other for eternity, devastated cities, atomic bombs constantly going off. A level of Hell that must simply be called ‘war’. I particularly liked the early level with the let’s say ‘dust bunny men’ being crushed by the relentless machines and gods of industry, destroyed, swept up and then reconfigured to work for all time and have the same things happen over and over again. That was as great as it was depressing.
Others that watch those scenes will interpret them another way. That is the beauty of any great art, the viewer sees what they see in it, the person next to them something else. No one is right, no one is wrong. Mad God is very much this way.
I will confess, heresy to some I would imagine, my mind started to wander in the final quarter, I saw what was going to happen coming and was at least partially correct and by then the relentless weird images, rather like steak every day for dinner, were starting to lose some lustre, as it were.
This is not to say Mad God is a bad film or boring. It is not, the skill and dedication and attention to detail are up there as clear as day. The idea of a thoughtless, heartless, cruel, netherworld of pain, death, deviation and never-ending horror is all very Hieronymus Bosch but for the medium of film I felt this needed a tiny bit more narrative and perhaps a smallish break from the bleakness.
Oh and ever wondered what happened to that unique director Alex Cox? Apparently, he’s been growing his nails….
I read that Phil Tippett wanted to make this longer and not knowing what he had in mind it could have then been perfect or possibly worse. We will never know.
Mad God is indeed mad. It is a work of mad love and dedication and showcases a vivid and dark imagination produced by a person at the very top of the tree.
If you are a film buff of any type you must see Mad God. Even if it is only once.