The premise of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is quite simple: it is star wars meets rick and morty meets Marvel’s least interesting superhero franchise. Aliens that all look weird! Spaceships ! Gigantic ants! Horndog Old Guys! The personification of evil versus the personification of good!
But all that goofy, standard sci-fi stuff actually makes one of the most interesting marvel movies in a minute, at least aesthetically. It’s a Marvel movie that’s not afraid to get ugly, but on purpose for once. So ugly, in fact, that it even introduces by far the most disgusting Marvel character to the cinematic universe canon.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
frog is one of Marvel’s most memorable characters, thanks to his particularly unsettling face. I seriously wonder what drugs Stan Lee and Jack Kirby inspired its creation on, because MODOK sounds like the brainchild of a heavily psychedelic dream. (I’m not speaking from experience.) He has the limbs of a child and the body of an oversized, overweight candy. Introduced while he was locked in a metal super-suit, MODOK ends up unmasking to reveal that he has no neck, no toros, no pelvis: he is 100% face.
It is infuriating! He is scary ! He’s a character no one dared touch in the realm of live-action – until Quantum, that’s to say. And bless Quantum for picking one up for the team and daring to bring this heinous creature to live action. MODOK’s appearance is by far the most exciting thing about the movie: he represents a willingness to get really, really, really weird with it. Like, nightmarishly weird.
In the comics canon, MODOK – Mechanized Organism Designed Only to Kill, For Long – began life as George Tartelon, who underwent experimental surgery to boost his intelligence. It backfired, turning him into this big-faced creature with impaired mobility and a thirst for blood. At least he’s really smart!
In QuantumMODOK is Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) former colleague/enemy, Darren (Corey Stoll), whom he defeated in the first The ant Man. For usually convoluted reasons, Darren is reborn as MODOK. The big reveal of who’s behind the mask has Scott and his daughter Cassie (whom Darren, in supervillain form, nearly killed) cringing, both because it’s Darren and because he has the awful looking. Instead of going full CGI, director Peyton Reed decided to take Corey Stoll’s real face and edit it Photoshop-style, zooming and stretching it multiple times from its usual size.
As MODOK, Darren’s role is to help conqueror Kang (Jonathan Majors) break out of the Quantum Realm and back into the destruction of timelines. But really, he’s here for comic relief. His attempts to convince Scott and Cassie that he is a threat are constantly undermined by his clumsy social awkwardness and lanky limbs; even Kang can barely take it seriously.
Luckily Darren is funny, because otherwise he would be downright unbearable to watch. Worse, his MODOK would be a lazy way to introduce a fan-favorite comic book character into the MCU, only to get rid of it quickly. Instead, Darren delivers some of the best lines in the movie, including his words after the defeat that, thanks to his decision to help Scott, he “will die an Avenger.” (He isn’t, but let the man die with dignity.)
Yes, it is rude, as MODOK is supposed to be. (Maybe that’s why his Hulu seriesin which Patton Oswalt voiced an animated version of the character, was cancelled.) Still, between his comedic styles and boldly bizarre design, he brings something interesting, even fun, to a film that sorely lacks character. one or the other trait.
Reminds me of last year Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, an equally gruesome film that only forced the exposition down viewers’ throats. Thanks to the director Sam Raimi, however, the film dabbled in body horror, which was shockingly grotesque. Marvel movies are usually animated, often unintentionally ugly; when Doctor Strange appears as a reanimated corpse in the third act, it’s a surprising shift into off-putting, anti-mainstream territory.
I don’t want movies like Quantum Or Multiverse of Madness, the two storytellers spanned two hours. But if Marvel movies could continue to delve into their weird catalog of curiosities, I’d welcome that – and the uglier the better.
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