Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. Review: A different slice of Marvel villainy that’s incredibly fun
Marvel has delivered plenty of tv shows this year that have expanded the MCU on the smaller screen, but there was one show that released that was unlike anything else they were offering. Although most probably don’t remember its release on Hulu, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. let a familiar animation team play around with the titular Marvel villain to create a unique Marvel series that contains more adult-centric humor and heart.
The series follows the delusions and misadventures of M.O.D.O.K. (voiced by Patton Oswalt) as he tries to reclaim AIM from a millennial tech company led by Austin Van der Sleet (voiced by Beck Bennett), keep his dysfunctional family together, and, of course, continue his plans to build a utopian fantasy that he rules over as emperor. A key component of what makes Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. so special and unique is the talent that’s behind it as it consists of key players who created the iconic Adult Swim animation series Robot Chicken. With Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich on board as co-executive producers, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is basically Robot Chicken’s stepsibling as it shares a lot of elements.
First and foremost, Robot Chicken’s iconic stop-motion animation is used all throughout Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. and plays a pivotal role in the overall look of the series. That same style of wacky adult humor exists in all the characters, especially the titular Marvel villain. The same brand of Claymation violence comes along meaning that this is easily one of the most gruesome and bloody Marvel series to date, but it’s done in a humorous and light-hearted way. Even with a lot of Robot Chicken’s DNA, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. manages to stand out with how it brings the notable, big-headed villain to life for an incredibly funny and surprisingly heartfelt journey.
Through the stop-motion animation, M.O.D.O.K. comes to life like never before with a perfect character design that turns his egotistical intelligence into absolute hilarity. His look is literally ripped right from the comics and M.O.D.O.K. being a big-headed, narcissistic man-child whose ego always manages to get in his way is endless fun to watch. Whether it’s seeing him constantly fail to regain control of AIM or missing the bigger picture that’s right in front of him, M.O.D.O.K. is a big goofy villain that constantly steals your heart with how adorably angry and mischievous he can be. Oswalt absolutely nails the snively intellect and ego-driven shouting of M.O.D.O.K. and he’s captured well as this maniacal boss that doesn’t really have much control of anything.
There are definitely some Michael Scott vibes from M.O.D.O.K. that are incredibly enjoyable, and the series unsuccessfully tries to emulate the free hand/documentary style filmmaking. Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. isn’t like The Office where it’s told as a look inside AIM or a documentary on M.O.D.O.K.’s rise to power so the free-hand camera movement doesn’t add anything to the series and can be a little distracting at times. It’s a style that can work for some of the jokes, particularly with some of the blank-faced AIM agents, but ultimately feels like a tacked-on choice.
Outside of M.O.D.O.K., there are plenty of hilarious characters that both stem from the comics and are pure originals. M.O.D.O.K.’s family is a total blast and create some really fun storylines that shows the failing suburban dad side of one of Marvel’s most intellectual villains. His wife Jodie (voiced by Aimee Garcia) has some great storylines weaved in with M.O.D.O.K.’s and watching them both try to fix their image simultaneously is a lot of fun. M.O.D.O.K.’s children, Melissa (voiced by Melissa Fumero) and Lou (voiced by Ben Schwartz), add their own style of chaos to M.O.D.O.K.’s life as he struggles to connect with them. Schwartz makes Lou a constant blast of energy with his overly excited personality and Melissa has fan-favorite written all over her as she’s gained her father’s evil mindset as well as his big-headed body that instantly gets a chuckle out of you the first time you see her.
The AIM agents can equally be a lot of fun as they’re greatly utilized to provide some strong comedic sidebars or act as something for M.O.D.O.K. to aim his aggression at. They provide some good workplace humor that includes a parody of a phone conference that’ll leave you in stitches and are basically The Minions from the Despicable Me movies all grown up. Gary (voiced by Sam Richardson) is easily the most notable AIM agent as he’s literally given life and limb for AIM and his adoration for M.O.D.O.K. as well as the “happy-go-lucky” personality that Richardson gives him makes Gary an unexpected treat. M.O.D.O.K.’s feuds between his second in command Monica (voiced by Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Austin are really the best though as they just constantly undercut him and strip away his power in hilarious ways.
Humor is definitely a consistent strong point in Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. with Robot Chicken crew’s signature style, but it’s even better that there’s still some strong heart to M.O.D.O.K.’s adventures. Although M.O.D.O.K.’s ego getting in his way is always hilarious, it can lead to some surprisingly heartfelt moments between him and his family. M.O.D.O.K. and Jodie’s time-traveling adventure to make up for lost time ends on a sweet note with them reminiscing on their relationship and the fatherly moments between M.O.D.O.K. and his kids are touching. M.O.D.O.K. can definitely be a rage monster and is a true villain at heart, but it’s nice that this series gives M.O.D.O.K. some real heart and the way he tries to maintain his family and supervillain power can be surprisingly emotional.
Unfortunately, a lot of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.’s strengths eventually lose its steam in later episodes. The series tries to build towards a big conclusion for M.O.D.O.K. that involves a time-traveling twin of his that really doesn’t land in the final episode. The big ending the series tries to leave you on is a little too cold and underdeveloped. Plus, everything with his alternate version is basically concluded before the final episode so it literally feels like the series ran out of ideas. Even worse is that there’s a lot of potential wasted for other villain characters in the series. The group of likeable D-list villains are fun but not utilized as something more, the way that another under-used villain Arcade (voiced by Alan Tudyk), who I would love to see brought to the MCU, ends up being underwhelming, and the long-running Hexus threat completely fizzles out for no reason. The last few episodes really feel inferior to the strong start the series provides and leaves things on a relatively unsatisfying and disappointing note.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. definitely struggles to stick the landing in the end, but still manages to be an incredibly fun ride with how it provides a different look at the titular Marvel villain. It certainly provides enough hilarity with an adult-edge and surprising heart to be a worthy watch for those looking for some Marvel content outside the MCU with a delightful Adult Swim/Robot Chicken style.
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