Nowadays, Phil Tippett may be best known in the public consciousness as a meme. You know the one – where his end credit panel as Dinosaur Supervisor for Jurassic Park is overlaid with the chiding text, “You had one job, Phil.” But make no mistake, Tippett truly is one of the greatest visual effects masterminds in cinematic history with work spanning the original Star Wars films, Robocop, Starship Troopers and even The Twilight Saga (hey, it takes skill to make those vampires sparkle). But in his downtime, Tippett has also been steadily chipping away at his own DIY labour of love – a chaotic kaleidoscope of stop motion animation called Mad God.
Now, after a painstaking 30-plus year production process which at one point pushed Tippett into a weeklong stay at a psychiatric ward, the finished product is finally here. Certainly reflecting its creator’s crazed state of mind throughout, Mad God portrays a journey into Hell that’s among the most viscerally hallucinogenic as anything ever seen in the medium, following a soldier as he descends from the sky into an apocalyptic terrain filled with all sorts of ghastly creatures and fiendish degradations.
Mad God eschews dialogue and any sense of recognizable narrative in favour of pure, unadulterated aesthetic wonder. Directly inspired by Dante, Tippett has essentially made his own personal “Inferno”, using every effects trick he’s learned over his career to create an artistic statement. (Tippett does have one prior feature directorial credit to his name, 2004’s direct-to-video trash heap Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, but the less said about that the better.) Even though Mad God’s journey began a generation ago, its existentially depraved vision of humanity feels discomforting close to our modern society, one that continues to crack apart at the seams with each passing day.