Below, you can find our podcast episode where we break down Phil Tippet’s masterpiece Mad God. We discuss the film’s broader philosophical commentary, as well as address several of the movie’s more confusing elements. If you love this movie, then get ready for an illuminating conversation from two fellow fans. If you haven’t done it already, subscribe to our podcast on Apple or Spotify.
Further down, you can find Chris’s gargantuan explanation of Mad God. Enjoy reading!
The Quick Explanation
On the surface, Mad God is a “what if” that imagines a world in which God has punished human arrogance. This is why the opening cites both the story of the Tower of Babel and Leviticus 26. We see this bleak and awful world that isn’t simply abandoned by God but actively punished. The end result is a miserable existence for pretty much every living thing. And there’s no relief. No mechanism for forgiveness. In fact, the movie posits that, given an opportunity to forge a whole new world, humans would once again lead themselves into the folly of self-destruction. The journey the suited-up Assassin goes on is ultimately about destruction, planting a bomb that will end a world. At that point, an end is the only form of relief.
You could view Mad God as nothing more than an imaginative journey, a kind of existential Fantasia that’s spectacle for the sake of spectacle, and appreciate the beauty found in the ugliness.
The deeper reading is that Mad God is a statement about our world. There’s the glass half-empty reading that our world is essentially this awful, hopeless place where all of us kind of toil until our sudden demise. The glass half-full reading is that our world isn’t that bleak, that we actually have it pretty good, that there is hope for civilization and individuals within that civilization to be happy.
And I want to say up front, regardless of how you might feel about what happens in the movie, the actual stop motion animation is outrageous. Honestly, one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. So I think Phil Tippett deserves special acknowledgment just for creating a work of art that’s an unprecedented technical achievement.
- Alex Cox – Last Man
- Niketa Roman – Nurse
- Satish Ratakonda – Surgeon
- Arne Hain – Surgeon
- Anarchists – Harper Taylor, Brynn Taylor
- Phil Tippett – Director
Mad God themes and meaning
The best place to begin with the themes of Mad God are the opening scenes. First, we see a depiction of the Tower of Babel. It’s a myth from Genesis 11:1-9. Here’s the NIV of the story:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
So in the original biblical version, God puts a halt to the tower by making communication impossible and breaking the collective of people into fragments strewed across the world. Many cultures have similar myths, with several ending in calamity. The angered god or gods don’t just prevent the building of the tower but destroy it and the people. So Mad God adapts the Biblical story but intensifies it. Lightning strikes and implodes the leader of the tower people. Dark clouds fall from the sky and consume the building and everyone in the society that built it. It’s the annihilation of an entire civilization.
It cuts from the Babel adaptation, to the title screen, to parchment from Leviticus 26. The parchment reads:
If you disobey Me and remain hostile to Me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility. I, for My part, will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your cult places and cut down your incense stands, and I will heap your carcasses upon your lifeless idols. I will spurn you. I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate and I will not savor your pleasing odors. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle it shall be appalled by it. And you I will scatter among the nations and I will unsheath the sword against you. Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin.
I mean. Geeze. That’s what God sounds like when upset. So with that in mind, think about what happened in the Babel depiction. God felt disobeyed so unleashed wrathful hostility. That opening depiction is almost childish and simple. Little figures on a tower consumed by black clouds. But that only is a wheting of the appetite. It’s setting the tone. What follows in the film is a far more detailed picture of what it means to live in a world revoked by God. The ugliness. The horror. The brutality.
So this tells us what the overall concept is. The main question is why? Why tell this story? What’s it saying? When we look at the actions within the movie, you see a population completely callous to the pain of others. The suited-up character, known as The Assassin, has multiple opportunities to help people and creatures. He always passes them up. We see countless living things hurt and consumed. It’s awful. The people of this world exploit and are in turn exploited.
The only act of compassion we ever see is the little Alchemist who has a terrarium where he feeds these little creatures some maggots. The one creature happily feeds another that looks just like it. It’s a momentary bright spot in the midst of so much awfulness. But it turns out to only be a decoy. The happy creatures are actually the food for some carnivorous spider-like creatures. The creature feeding its friend? It runs away, saving itself as the spider descends upon the friend. The Alchemist is overjoyed. So there’s just zero genuine compassion. Even a baby gets sacrificed to give birth to a new universe. And the people in that universe just build their own version of Babel and end up destroyed. So the sacrifice of the baby and the hope that maybe people will get it right somewhere else just result in more hopelessness.
You begin to get the sense that Mad God is a critique of society. A statement along the lines of “The world may look nice but it’s actually as ugly and brutal as this place.” That would be the more bitter reading of what transpires. Another way of looking at it would be as cautionary. “If we’re not careful, this is the way the world could go. We’re ::this:: close to making God angry.” And then, of course, there’s the optimists perspective. The view that our world isn’t so awful. That it could be much worse. And that we should try and appreciate the time we have and do our best to stay on a positive path. To give a helping hand. To look out for one another. To retain some semblance of a soul and a conscience. In its devoutness to ghastliness of an angry God, it almost makes the case for gratefulness. Look around you and take solace.
There’s a lot more to expand upon but I’m going to have to divide it into sections about the title and the end. So, please, read on, to get a better understanding of the movie’s nuance.
Why it’s called Mad God
We’ve introduced what I think is the primary reading of the title. As told in Leviticus 26, people have angered God. And the movie is essentially showing us a world stricken by God. Given the introductory scenes with Babel and the Biblical text, there’s almost no denying the primary reading. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only reading.
“Mad” doesn’t have to mean angry. It can also refer to a state of insanity or disturbedness. Or even foolishness. That broadens the ways in which you can read what’s happening. Like, yes, God is angry and has punished the world. But isn’t bringing about this amount of chaos and pain and tragedy actually quite mad? What does it accomplish? What does it achieve? What’s the point of being the most powerful being in the universe, the creator of the universe, if this is how you use your power?
This broader application of the word “mad” turns Mad God from a critique about people to a critique about figureheads. Those in charge. Those who decide the fates of others. And the ways in which such “Gods” can go about their tenure with a churlishness that benefits no one. You see this reflected in the character of the Last Man. While the Last Man doesn’t seem to be God itself, he is a figure that lives above the rest of the world and sends these Assassins with bombs in briefcases down into other worlds to blow them up. There’s a madness to that. Why bother? What does it accomplish? Why spend the time and resources? Isn’t there a better use of time?
Speaking of time, let’s talk about the end of Mad God.
The ending of Mad God explained
The final scene of Mad God is a bit of an extended sequence. So the Last Man sends The Assassin down to some world with a map that shows where The Assassin is to place a bomb. A creature kidnaps The Assassin and brings him to a place where a surgeon digs into the core of The Assassin until finding this worm-like baby that cries just like a baby. A nurse brings the worm to this awe-inspiring floating creature that travels a great distance to another domain where the Alchemist helps the creature convert the baby into a dazzling pile of dust that’s thrown in front of a great forge that burns like a sun. This begins the final scene.
The dust ends up alchemizing into an entirely new universe. The formation sequence is actually quite similar to the “birth of the universe” sequence from The Tree of Life, though it happens much faster. It’s essentially a quick big bang, expansion, leading to suns and early planetary bodies. But all the sudden there’s an alien spaceship and planets lined up like school children in single-file waiting to march out of the classroom. A spinning obsidian rectangle, a monolith, crashes into a bland world and the impact triggers the formation of life. We see life evolve from microscopic organisms to far more complex entities. Eventually there’s aquatic life. Then human life. And human life leads to civilization. Massive, modern skyscrapers form from the ether before our eyes.
This is a moment that needs singled out. The modern city is the first thing that looks like something from our very own world rather than some distant post-apocalyptic mayhem. Behind the buildings is the same red sun we saw at the very beginning in the depiction of Babel. The single tall building eclipsed this huge, red-orange sun. And then, of course, the wrath of God occurred. So when we see the red sun behind the buildings, the expectation is that destruction will soon follow. Sure enough, it does. But it’s not lightning strikes and frothing dark clouds. Instead, we see two young women planet a bomb identical to the one The Assassin had. And they even spray an anarchist “A” on the wall. Military forces fire on the girls and take them out but the device detonates. We cut back to the huge buildings and see their collapse. But the explosion doesn’t just destroy the city. We cut to a series of buildings in different locations and different architectural styles. Every single one erupts. Dirt covers bodies. You get the sense it wasn’t just the city destroyed but the entire planet.
A cut back to outer space shows this area that had a burning sun and many planets is now in eclipse. A black hole has formed and engulfed what was there. Fleeing from that galaxy are several of the monoliths. They had given life. Now they depart with it, leaving the galaxy to catastrophe. From there, we cut back to the Alchemist’s workshop.
The implication of all of that is that the floating creature attempted to create a universe where life could form. My assumption is there was hope that life in another universe could do better than it had on the creature’s planet. I know I said this movie was all bleakness, but that actually strikes me as kind of hopeful. As actually kind of noble? (Though there are other ways to read it). But the end result is only more disappointment. People, once again, angered God. The experiment was a failure.
Back in the Alchemist’s workshop, we see a baby in a jar. This is one of several nods to 2001: a Space Odyssey. The first being, of course, the monoliths that brought life to the other world. I’ll elaborate on this in a section further down specifically about the reference to 2001, but suffice it to say the baby in the jar probably represents something to do with human potential. We cut from that baby to a mass of ticking grandfather clocks. Their moving hands callback to the bomb planted by The Assassin and how the hands on the timer were moving towards 12 o clock before sticking between 10 and 11. All the clocks spinning hour of after hour represent the fact time is passing. In seconds, decades pass. Centuries. The objects in the workshop age. Dust and cobwebs cover everything. The terrarium fills with mold. Candles burn low and out. Then suddenly the clocks reverse. The candles reform. Sand refilled the top of the hourglass. We backtrack through various entities and places encountered earlier in the film. The imagery gets more demonic and religious. It’s full of mythology. Shots of people. Life.
Finally, we cut back to the stalled bomb. The hands resume. The clock strikes midnight. And the last shot is of a cuckoo bird flying out of a grandfather clock as it strikes the hour. While we don’t witness an explosion, the cuckoo bird serves as a metaphor for the eruption. Almost as if it’s calling out, “Time’s up. Time’s up. Time’s up.”
In terms of meaning, I get the sense that with the universe experiment failing, the world ran out of options. All that was left was for time to run out. There was no preventing the annihilation to come. That bomb that hadn’t detonated, thus giving the world time to try and fix things, finally blows. Which can feel like a pretty sad statement about what we can do to try and fix our world. Is there anything an individual can do to improve things? Or is our fate inescapable? All there is is to end. You wait until the end. That’s a statement on the totality of nihilism that Nietzsche would be proud of. The bomb always goes off. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day. No one escapes this life alive.
The very last shot is of the Last Man at the launch pad for his diving bells. He stands on the platform, above the hole, looking down. Near him is the rope that leads the diving bell down into whatever world. Around the platform, Dozens of motionless Assassins. The rope is in motion, meaning another Assassin has descended to another world. Then we cut to “Phil Tippett’s MAD GOD.”
While that last scene is brief, it actually has a lot going on. First, there’s the discussion as to whether or not the Last Man is the Mad God or a Mad God or has, in this God forsaken world, become like God. I’m not sure there’s a good answer or an intended answer. All potentials have meaning and I think are worth thinking about. But, beyond that, the framing of that scene resembles a miniature of the opening Babel sequence. The Babel sequence saw a leader atop the tower and their followers below. And that final shot shows the Last Man atop the platform and his followers below.
That could simply be a nice visual callback and nothing more. If it is more, it seems to be indicating the Last Man’s setup is similar to Babel. If he is just a normal guy with weird hands then you’d think he would, soon enough, suffer the same booming fate as Babel and the city. But if he’s the mad God, then there’s kind of an irony. Or maybe not even irony but a…pettiness? Like, “Only I can have this. Not you.” Which would tie back to what we talked about earlier with “mad” having multiple meanings. Standing there, watching the diving bell descend, hoping your Assassin destroys another world? It’s just sad. Or, I mean, if the movie really is just about how bad people are, then the Last Man embodies simply how bad people are. Regardless of what interpretation you want to go with, the main takeaway is the Last Man is kind of insane and a disappointing final representative of humanity.
The eye after the credits
Okay, so we’re not done with the end of the movie. After all of the credits, there’s thunder. Then a brief close-up of someone’s eye. There’s so much shadow you can only see the eye because of some ambient light. It goes wide then closes. And the thunder closes everything out.
Now that isn’t the first time we see the eye. Its first appearance is at the beginning, after the Leviticus document explodes into fire. The smoke and fire gives way to the crackle of electricity and the eye appears, Again, the face is shadowed. Only the eyeball is lit. But it’s wide and manic, looking all around. Maybe at the electricity or maybe something else. The shot actually ends by a zoom into the pupil. Then we cut to the film’s first scene, which shows another tower and the diving bell with the main Assassin descending to the floor of that world.
I have a few potential explanations. First, there’s the idea that everything we’re seeing is essentially happening in the brain of someone. It’s their thoughts. Their feelings about God and people and civilization and mortality. It gives a little bit of a frame narrative to everything and grounds what happens in terms of Jungian psychology, getting into symbols and archetypes and things like that.
Second, is that the eye belongs to the floating creature. The creature wears a plague doctor mask with that long, bird-like nose. The mask actually has openings for the eyes. The openings don’t provide for a lot of visibility. But there’s at least a small window to see out of. If you think about if the camera were looking through one of those openings, what would it see? Not much. The mask would be incredibly dark inside, obscuring the wearer’s face. But there’d be enough light on the eye to see their eye. Which is exactly the case in both eyeball scenes. What kind of seals the deal for me is that after the creature throws the baby dust to create the new universe, there’s a profile shot where it gazes about the formation. And you see the eye hole lit up.
The following shot is of the new universe hanging in the air. Our POV is essentially that of the creature. Then the universe flies at us, engulfing the camera. Which is exactly what happened at the beginning of the movie when we saw the lightning and the eye. The eye overtook the camera just like the new universe does. That kind of brings us back to the first idea. The eye led us to this universe that’s in someone’s mind. Or it could just mean that the creature created this universe at the very beginning and we flashed forward to seeing the machinations that led up to its demise, the same way we see the final explosion of the new universe.
Regardless, I do think there’s some connection between the perception of the creature of the new universe and the eye. Especially since the eye closing is very tonally in-line with the clocks moving forward, everything wasting away, and the bomb going off. It’s almost like the person who envisioned all of this, or perceived it, can’t look at it anymore, as in it’s too overwhelming, or that it’s actually drained them to and left them unable to watch, or indicates their passing. That initial manic-ness of the open eye versus the calm closing does kind of capture, very succinctly, the binary aspect of our lives. We trash. We sleep. We’re alive. We’re not. We’re open and awash in the kaleidoscope of it all. We close forever.
There’s probably more discussion to be had about this but I think I covered enough here to leave you to your own theories.
What’s the factory in Mad God?
The factory segment is the film’s first extended sequence. The Assassin has traveled a good distance in this world before finally arriving at the outskirts of this immense factory. He sees these forges that produce these ashen humanoids that emerge and march to the factory and set about various tasks. For the next 7 minutes, The Assassin observes what happens.
What happens is a controlled chaos. There’s clearly a process at work. Things get processed and become products. But along the way a lot of those humanoids are unceremonious casualties. Crushed by one thing. Obliterated by another. Incinerated by something else. Life pales in comparison to the work. These things don’t work to live. They live to work.
Metaphorically speaking, it can hit close to home. Many of us grind and grind at our jobs and feel that we’re just caught in a compassionless capitalistic system that doesn’t necessarily care what happens to the employees. That system chews people up and spits them out. All day. Every day. That makes it easy to see the factory as simply a dramatization of what most of us experience.
There’s also something to be said about The Assassin’s fascination. This is really the only thing it takes the time to observe. It’s not too far from his situation with the Last Man. The Last Man has all these Assassins and sends them down into the world to blow things up. We see when The Assassin reaches the X on the map that there are hundreds of briefcases. If not thousands. That means that others have made that trek. They reach that spot but never get to detonate. The Assassins are just as expendable as these workers and caught in a very different yet similar enterprise.
As to what’s happening at the factory. At one point we see these slugs on a conveyor belt. A little later we see monoliths. The sense I got is that the slugs are raw material and the monoliths are final product. Somehow they convert the living thing into this charged object. Another machine then blasts the monoliths with some kind of energy that allows them to fly through the air. These are the same monolith’s that we see in the new universe that gives life and intelligence to the barren planet. That makes this pretty important work. And, again, pretty similar to our world. Most of us benefit from the hard labor of others. All of our electronics don’t just magically appear. It’s well known that factories in third world countries pay ludicrously low amounts to mass produce components. How many times have you heard about Nike’s labor issues? Or just the overall labor issues with clothing factories in third world countries? Many of us benefit from that labor without giving a second thought to the human cost of having what we have.
This sequence concludes in a brutal way. The Assassin is ready to leave and finds a hatch to escape. Just then, one of the humanoid workers approaches. These workers had seemed mostly void of consciousness. They marched. They worked. They got steamrolled or splattered. A few times we see a little more in the way of consideration, like when one pushes over a row of monoliths and squashes some others. Even though these things look human, they don’t necessarily seem human. Especially since they lack facial features. But when the one stands in front of The Assassin, the humanity is suddenly undeniable. And three is resonance. Both lack faces. Both are doing a job that will kill them. Both kind of lack autonomy. When a factory guard approaches, there’s a moment where The Assassin could save the worker. Instead, The Assassin drops into the hatch and leaves the worker. The guard wastes no time stomping the runaway into mush. It’s awful and one of, I think, the saddest moments in what is already a very sad movie.
What’s going on with the surgery and the baby?
After The Assassin activates the bomb timer, a monster that’s mostly tech parts swoops in and drags him away. It had actually been stalking him for some time. I would assume, given all the briefcases left in that exact spot, that the thing actively waits for the Last Man’s Assassins and plucks them when they finally reach this spot. That would explain the building we see that has all the operating rooms with all the dissected bodies. Every body was probably a previous Assassin.
What’s the point of the surgery? Well, it seems there’s some form of entertainment as the initial de-clothing of the Assassin happens before an audience. There’s a similar sense of dehumanization going on here as in the factory scene. We talked about the pain of the workers being to the benefit of other people who never really will know or recognize the workers. Here, The Assassin’s going through a very real ordeal that leads to his death. And people are viewing it, chuckling at it, applauding it. His pain is their entertainment. You can start to argue there’s some commentary here to the very real blood, sweat, and tears people put into their films and how often that aspect isn’t really acknowledged by the general audience.
Before the surgery takes place, there’s an emphasis on clocks. We know at the end of the movie the clocks are part of the end of the world. Of time passing. Of, essentially, mortality. And this is a very mortality-driven scene. It’s like the clock is signaling that time is running out or is up for The Assassin. Individual character, individual clock. Whereas at the end, it’s many clocks and the end of all things. Which is kind of a nice touch to show this motif scaling with the scale of the obliteration.
The symbolism ramps up once the surgeon enters and begins the dissection. Initially, we see organs and viscera. The kinds of things you’d expect to see inside a living thing. But soon after, the surgeon scoops out handful after handful of coins and jewels. Like…a treasure trove of coins and jewels. Like…a pirate would consider finding this many coins and jewels the best day of their life. My interpretation is that this represents the internal value someone has. Their wealth and worth isn’t just in their bank account or what they own. But each of us has varying amounts of true worth inside of us. The Assassin didn’t just have to be an Assassin. The same way the workers didn’t have to be simple, expendable workers.
I’d apply similar thinking to the book pages the surgeon finds. It’s symbolic of, say, The Assassin’s most private thoughts. Or maybe memories. Or even hopes and dreams. Or represents how The Assassin could have been a writer. Maybe another Assassin has a violin in them. Or another has cooking ingredients. Another has a microphone. Etc. etc. I don’t know if there’s a specific right answer here, but I think, at the very least, it just gets back to the rich interior world of a character that had seemed so outwardly devoid of emotion.
Eventually, the surgeon starts pulling out little creatures. To me, they look similar to the slugs from the factory but more like a worm. And even though it’s ugly, this was at the core of The Assassin. I think of it kind of like representing the soul. Or inner child. Or some vital component. With how the worm cries like a newborn baby, you can start to apply some of the same thematic associations inherent to a baby: hope, future, potential, life. That lines up with the fact the worm ends up as the alchemist’s main ingredient in creating a new universe.
I guess the implication here is that there’s a whole system in place for capturing Assassins, dissecting them, finding the worm, then using them to create these new universes. To what end? I guess to find a better world? Or maybe an answer to how to save this world? Or just morbid curiosity? Whatever the hope, we know that at the end of it all they fail and the world eventually ends.
Who is the Last Man? What are the women witches doing under his table?
We first see the Last Man when the surgeon uses a probe to look into the mind of The Assassin. The monitor goes from static to visuals of the Last Man’s domain. He lives in a tower that’s very low to the ground (no Babel mistakes here) and in the midst of what looks like a prisoner of war camp. Some kind of gulag. There are Assassin-looking characters doing manual labor. Guards. Then a random assortment of others. It’s unclear if the Last Man is the overall leader of this or simply an observer of it. The Last Man isn’t stop motion but an actual actor (much like the surgeon and nurse).
We observe him look through his clothes and delight over having nice things. There’s materialism. It seems he’s preparing for the launch of another Assassin down into a world. But he has to wait for the completion of a map by these three witches that hang out under his table. They stitch the map together with thread and needle. I take these witches to be inspired by the Fates. Various ancient mythologies have a trio of female characters responsible for determining the fate of someone’s life. Usually, they weave a tapestry of the person’s life. At the end, they cut the thread. Tippett seems to play on this notion. The witches craft these maps that will guide the Assassin to the place where they should detonate the briefcase. Which, as we discover, is to destroy worlds. Pretty serious stuff. There’s an interesting question of whether the witches work for the Last Man or the Last Man works for the witches. It would seem since they live under his table that he’s the one in charge.
It’s never elaborated why the Last Man does any of this. Is he a dictator? Does he think he’s doing something good? Is he supposed to be God? Or embody the person who fancies themself a god? Is he “purging” these worlds God has broken? I wish I had a good answer. But that’s part of the fun when things are left a little vague. It allows you to theorize or just simply ask “What does it mean to you?”
The last thing worth pointing out is that after the Last Man launches the diving bell, he goes to a room to monitor the progress. We hear morse code SOS blasts. Which raises the question, who is he trying to signal? What is he hoping to find? Does he want to see if other humans still exist? Is it trickery, signaling for help when you’re actually hoping to harm?
Why reference 2001: A Space Odyssey?
We mentioned earlier that there are several references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey. First, the monoliths. Second, the baby in the jar. Why make that connection? To explain, I’ll need to recap 2001 a little.
2001 is generally looked at as a very confusing film. The nice thing is that it’s actually pretty basic. Aliens exist and gently guide the advancement of human technology via encounters with alien monoliths. Over the course of millions of years, they manage to lure humans to a specific point in outer space. There, they take someone, David Bowman, prisoner and hold him like an animal in a zoo. At the end of his life, Bowman comes face to face with a monolith. He then transforms into a fetus and appears in a glowing orb near Earth. He’s become the Star Child.
While it’s a very strange conclusion, 2001 is really about technology and the relationship humans have with technology. The first part is the discovery of technology by using a bone as a weapon. The second part shows the advancement of technology to space travel. The third shows the advancement to AI and this battle between humans aboard a spaceship and the AI that’s supposed to help them but ends up fighting them to the death. I think the very end with the Star Child gets at this idea of merging technology and humans. Of humans evolving from what they were to something entirely new where they kind of are technology. Not in the sense that they’re part machine. But in the sense of being more than flesh and blood. There’s power. There’s transcendance.
With that in mind, hopefully you can see the similarities between the monoliths in 2001 and their role in Mad God. 2001, each human encounter with a monolith led to a new development in civilization. In Mad God, a monolith lands on a planet and creates life and leads to humanity and civilization. Except in Mad God the end result, each and every time (it seems), is humans creating a Tower of Babel that angers God and leads to their annihilation. While 2001 sees hope, Mad God does not. Which is why there’s that shot back in the Alchemist’s lab where we see the face of this baby-looking thing stuck in a jar. It’s reminiscent of 2001’s triumphant Star Child but strips away the triumph. It’s simply an oddity in a flask. It won’t change the world or signal a new era of humanity. It will perish like everything else.
And Mad God does seem to have a good amount of…anti-technology sentiment. Most of the tech we see throughout the movie is used to outrageous ends. Whether it’s the people in the electric chairs. Or the factory creating the monoliths. Or the tech monster that steals The Assassin. Or whatever the Last Man is doing. Time and again, technology is put to brutal use. When we see the new universe created, its version of the Tower of Babel is a cityscape that doesn’t have a single figurehead standing atop the tower like in the opening scene. Instead, it’s an antenna sending out a radio signal. You get the idea that in that world, technology is the ruler.
Making such obvious references to a movie about that relationship signals, to me, that Mad God also wants to comment on that relationship. I look at 2001 as the glass half-full film about humanity’s relationship with technology and Mad God as the glass-is-entirely-empty film.
Thanks for reading! If you have thoughts you’d like to share or questions you want to ask, leave a comment below!