The following story contains light spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
After 31 feature films and eight television series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things are starting to get a little weird. If you would’ve told most Marvel Comics fans in 2008, when Iron Man was first hitting theaters, that 15 years later we’d be seeing the character M.O.D.O.K (which stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) in a live-action film, they probably would’ve laughed in your face. But here we are.
Part of the disconnect between some of the comic book/superhero adaptations of the early/mid 2000s was that while many comics are meant to celebrate the colorful, absurd, and exaggerated worlds of superheroes, many films tried to reign in this very spirit. Think about the first X-Men movie, when all the X-Men wore matching dark uniforms and the whole vibe of the movie just was “dark realism.” That movie is not horrible, but it doesn’t quite fit the vibe that most X-Men fans fell in love with when reading, say, writer Chris Clarement’s legendary run on the mutant team.
We’ll get another big screen take on the X-Men soon enough. But where some of those early 2000s films failed, the MCU era has largely embraced the big, silly, fun that sometimes goes into comic book and superhero stories. And Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which has a Star Wars-esque vibe and takes place int he mysterious and tiny Quantum realm, really spends some time leaning into that.
And it in particular leans into the camp when dealing with the character of M.O.D.O.K., who has a storied past in the comics but has never before been depicted in live-action. Quantumania changes M.O.D.O.K.’s backstory, and while the charater’s look may just be a touch too bizarre for some (and it’s certainly quite bizarre!), the movie certainly lets it just be as campy, weird, and funny as possible. It’s just a big weird floating head!
Let’s talk a bit more about M.O.D.O.K.
Who is M.O.D.O.K. in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?
If we’re thinking about Quantumania in terms of Star Wars, the version of M.O.D.O.K. that we meet is essentially a Boba Fett to Kang the Conqueror’s Palpatine/Darth Vader. Once Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily), Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfieffer), and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are accidentally sucked into the quantum realm, it takes them a moment to fully get their bearings. But we hear reference to an ominous figure, “The Conqueror,” who turns out to be Kang.
And we eventually learn that Kang has commissioned “the hunter” to come after Janet—whom Kang had already met when she was stuck in the quantum realm—and, perhaps most surprisingly, that “the hunter,” a nickname given to M.O.D.O.K., is actually a Marvel Cinematic Universe villain we’ve met before: Darren Cross, a.k.a. Yellowjacket from the first Ant-Man film.
How did Darren Cross become M.O.D.O.K.?
Darren was Hank’s former protege and Scott’s eventual rival in the first Ant-Man film, and during their climactic, end-of-film fight, he ended up smushed and, seemingly, destroyed. But, as we find out in Quantumania, he was actually sucked into the quantum realm, his body totally mangled. There was actually a small easter egg in Season 1 of Loki, with the Yellowjacket helmet floating around in frame.
Eventually, though, Kang found Darren, and souped him up, turning him into the MCU’s version of the killing machine M.O.D.O.K. Scott, Hank, Cassie, and just about everyone are completely and utterly surprised to see Darren at all, letalone like this. He looks ridiculous, but it kind of plays into the point of the character. It’s a fun time.
Who plays M.O.D.O.K. in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?
Corey Stoll, who played Darren Cross/Yellowjacket in 2015’s Ant-Man, returns to play M.O.D.O.K. in Quantumania. And the man is having an absolute blast. Where Darren initially had to be played as a menacing villain (and, let’s be real, a total douche), M.O.D.O.K. is played as, essentially, a comic relief joke—albeit a dangerous one. Still a douche though.
While Jonathan Majors does a fantastic job as Kang and the rest of the Ant-Man cast are good as normal, you could make a real case that Stoll’s comedic performance is the best in the movie.
M.O.D.O.K. has a storied history in Marvel Comics
M.O.D.O.K, has been around in Marvel Comics for more than five decades, with his first official appearance coming in 1967’s Tales of Suspense #93. The original version of the character was a character named George Tarleton, who was an employee of the evil arms-dealing company called Advanced Idea Mechanics (if that sounds familiar, it’s because the company was a part of Iron Man 3, headed by Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian).
The original origin for M.O.D.O.K. was that George underwent an experimental process to increase his intelligence, and while it did work, it resulted in his head growing to an enormous size and the rest of his body essentially failing to work—hence his presence moving around in that supersuit on his little hoverchair.
M.O.D.O.K. has been popping up in various Marvel Comics storylines ever since, and has appeared on numerous lists of accolades, including IGN‘s Top 100 Comic Book Villains.
In 2021, there was a M.O.D.O.K. show on Hulu
Another reason that M.O.D.O.K. may sound familiar is because he was the subject of a short-lived Robot Chicken-esque show on Hulu, appropriately titled M.O.D.O.K., that ran for a single season on Hulu back in 2021.
The show featured Patton Oswalt as the voice of M.O.D.O.K., essentially reimagined as a suburban dad balancing his own evil ambitions at work (where AIM has recently been acquired by a larger evil company) with his family at home. The show featured a handful of fun cameos including Jon Hamm as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bill Hader as The Leader.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.