Fantasia 2021 with "Mad God"

From Georges Melies to Willis O'Brien to Ken Levine to the Rancor pit.

(Note: Moviegoing, whether it be at the theater or at home, brings about some expenses. If you enjoy this blog/newsletter and are so inclined to support it, please do follow along, subscribe, leave comments, and share it around. Many thanks!)


Dear Moviegoers,

It was to my recent and very pleasant surprise that I learned filmmaker and visual artist Phil Tippet had crafted Jabba the Hut and the Rancor for Return of the Jedi. Of course! Those most alive creations were first to come to my mind when watching Tippet’s long-gestating love affair of a movie, Mad God. It’s a film of horrible beauty and beautiful horror. It’s a film of monsters and imagination. It’s a dream and a nightmare. It’s all I could ever ask for.

This selection was no easy watch, but truly it was one the more satisfying and fulfilling movie experiences I’ve had in some time - even if viewed on a computer (large format theatrical, the kind that only museums used to host, would’ve been incredible). The almost ninety-minute feature of stop-motion chaos represents every available tool at cinema’s disposal, from the days of Georges Melies to the production of the original King Kong to Star Wars itself and, yes, to the making of video games like Bioshock.

There’s an open-world feel to Mad God that I couldn’t shake, almost interactive with joystick control. For sure, the only thing I was holding was my breath, but there was this built-in world so overwhelming that I begged to explore some more. The best movies and likely the best video games play with the illusion of worlds without end, without limits. This trickery borders on sorcery here, crafted and controlled by a true “mad god” in Tippet.

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It would be silly to attempt a full description of the tale that unfolds, but a snippet I’ll try:

An explorer dives deep into an underworld of beasts and slaves, of torture and of iconography, driven by a mission and a map.

Mad God is almost entirely just a loose framework for a grand-scope exercise in creation, told with no real dialogue, but effects and behaviors most universally understood. The film taps into a language of the collective mind, something so tightly entrenched in all of us. It’s silent. Silent cinema. A throwback? It’s an interpretation of it. It’s a form of it. It is it.

Rich and boggling, Mad God surely will turn some people away, but it is for audiences everywhere. This is no movie that restricts itself to a set few - yes there’s darkness and disturbances, but what of our day-to-day lives? What of news broadcasts and short-form videos from across the world? This film wasn’t made “for the fans,” but for anyone.

While there are plenty of sequences to take away, my favorite occurs towards the end. A troll-like alchemist goes to his telescope, and views an old, somewhat “erotic” silent reel. He rubs his eyes, returns to the device, and views atomic bomb explosions. Stunning. It’s the history of humanity and the world as it is, through a device that shows us everything. I could mean telescope or movie projector. Or both.

Probably both.

There’s so much power for film to wield. We haven’t even scratched the surface. 5/5

Sincerely Yours in Moviegoing,

:)


(Note: Moviegoing, whether it be at the theater or at home, brings about some expenses. If you enjoy this blog/newsletter and are so inclined to support it, please do follow along, subscribe, leave comments, and share it around. Many thanks!)