MODOK: Let’s Talk About His MCU Debut, Because I Have Some Strong Opinions

The following story is going to dig into spoilers for the new Marvel Studios movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Stop reading now if you don’t want to go into the movie knowing any sorts of details regarding what is waiting for you in the Quantum Realm.

At the end of the first Ant-Man movie, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) confronted Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), the man who had been trying all movie to steal Hank Pym’s pioneering tech. Their fight took place inside the bedroom of Scott’s young daughter, Cassie. And because Scott and Darren had assumed the super-powered roles of Ant-Man and Yellowjacket, the fight appeared tiny, toppling over a Thomas the Tank Engine. A very funny visual gag. 

In order to finally stop Darren, Scott had to shrink himself to subatomic levels, allowing himself to infiltrate Cross’s suit. This threatened to strand Scott in the Quantum Realm… as we had learned Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) did at an earlier time. Scott pulled it off, and Darren kind of shrunk into himself until he finally disappeared. It looked like this:

It took until the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania for us to learn what became of Cross. And Marvel Studios used his predicament as the origin story for a comic book character who has a very weird backstory, but fits into the goofiness of the Quantum Realm. At least, in my opinion. 

MODOK dates all the way back to 1967, when he appeared in a book titled Tales of Suspense. He was a weapons manufacturer working for A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), and conducted so many experiments on himself to enhance his intelligence that he eventually warped his physical appearance. MODOK has always looked like a gigantic head on a tiny, levitating body. In the animated series that recently ran on Hulu, MODOK (voiced by Patton Oswalt) looked like this:

MODOK on Hulu

(Image credit: Hulu)

The MCU now has an official version of MODOK – which stands for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing. And we learn in the movie that it’s Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), banished to the Quantum Realm by Scott Lang in the first movie, and left for dead. He is revived and repurposed by Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) to serve as his chief assassin. And the people of the realm fear MODOK. Except, when he reveals himself, Scott only knows him as Darren… and that strips away all of MODOK’s menace. 

Let’s get this out of the way. MODOK looks ridiculous on screen. Instead of somehow altering Stoll’s face to better fit MODOK’s giant head, the visual effects artists stretch the actor’s actual face, almost as if he were peeking at us through a fish bowl that created a distortion. He talks with his regular voice (very strange), and he is perched, the way MODOK should be, in a miniature mechanized body that floats. “It’s a little bit like a Bjorn,” Scott says, referencing the way parents carry babies in slings. And he’s right. 

However, MODOK should look terrible, especially in live action. His head is comically gigantic, and his body is laughably small. It reduces any tension generated by his anger, because you can’t believe that this monstrosity is even able to attack without toppling over. Paste Corey Stoll’s bald head into the design, almost lazily, and it’s exactly the cheesy, bizarro live-action MCU MODOK that I’d hoped to see in the Quantum Realm. 

In other words, he’s perfect. 

MODOK in Quantumania

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

There have been plenty of effects in the MCU that have looked unfinished. Thor: Love and Thunder and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness suffered from truncated post-production processes on their way to theaters. But MODOK looks like that in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantiumania on purpose. It’s a choice to make him grotesque and a little surreal. That fits the M.O. of the Quantum Realm. And it sells Rudd’s reaction to being totally surprised to seeing Darren in that suit. He’s a long way from being Yellowjacket. 

Thankfully, the bulk of people responding to MODOK on social media also understand the Frankenstein nature of his design, and are embracing him for all of his weirdness.

This observant viewer went with more of the Humpty Dumpty reference. Also correct:

The bottom line is that MODOK is divisive, but I think the audience members who dug the abnormal design understood that it fit well in the Quantum Realm, but would look awful in our world. Quantumania can, and does, get very strange. MODOK is one of many examples, and a terrific one, at that. 

The audience score on Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is much higher than that of critics, so I hope that bodes well for its box office chances. We will track the movie’s progress, and continue to roll out features regarding more cool stuff we found in the latest MCU movie.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.