“Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” Offers Two Great Villains: One Pure Charisma, the Other Pure Lunacy
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania arrives in theaters on February 17, and the reviews are already calling it a mind-melting, psychedelic sci-fi extravaganza and a stellar way to kick off Marvel’s Phase 5. If you’ve been keeping up with director Peyton Reed’s film, you know by now it introduces the next Big Bad in the MCU—Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror. Unsurprisingly, critics say Majors absolutely crushes his performance. There’s a reason he’s one of the most sought-after actors of his generation. Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote, “Jonathan Majors holds you with the quiet force of his pensive scowl… You hang on his every word; he makes vengeance and genocide sound like the most hypnotically casual of propositions.” Over at The Hollywood Reporter, critic Frank Scheck said Majors “invests his performance with such an arrestingly quiet stillness and ambivalence that you’re on edge every moment he’s on screen.”
So you know Majors is going to bring it—he always does—as Kang, but he’s not only the villain lurking in the Quantum Realm and threatening Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), or Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton). If you don’t want to know anything more about Quantuamania, now’s a great time to stop reading.
The Quantum Realm is filled with bizarre creatures, wild tribes, and all sorts of dangers. Kang the Conqueror is, without a doubt, the gravest threat of them all, so grave, in fact, the fourth Avengers film has his name in the title (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty). Yet there’s another force lurking in the miniaturized madness of the QR, and his (or its) name is M.O.D.O.K., played by original Ant-Man villain Corey Stoll.
In the original Ant-Man, Stoll played Darren Cross, a real pain in Scott Lang (Rudd)’s side and the man who eventually became the Yellowjacket. Ant-Man defeated Yellowjacket in the first film (obviously), sabotaging his suit and shrinking him to bits. In Quantumania, however, Darren Cross/Yellowjacket has become M.O.D.O.K. (now that the MCU has begun meddling with the multiverse, these sorts of things are possible), the Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing. And he’s a total lunatic.
The first iteration of M.O.D.O.K. appeared in 1967, created b Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, in “Tales of Suspense #94” as a human cyborg with superhuman intelligence and psionic powers. He started out as George Tarleton, a technician for Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) who underwent a slew of medical experimentation that gave him superintelligence, but with a costly side effect; it gave him a gigantic head. Because his dome was so massive, he required a hoverchair to move around and, ultimately, became a killing machine. He often fought Captain America and also tangled with Doctor Doom, Iron Man, and Namor. M.O.D.O.K. went on to have a colorful, demented life within the pages of Marvel comics, truly one of the more bizarre and most evil supervillains. He even had his own moment on the small screen in Hulu’s Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., which was stop-animation and totally nuts. M.O.D.O.K. was voiced by Patton Oswalt, no less, and delighted in being a show that wasn’t afraid to devote an entire episode to the 90s band Third Eye Blind. It had zero connection to the MCU, of course, and it only lasted a season, but it was bizarre and worthy of one of the weirder Marvel villains of all time.
Which brings us back to Quantuamania, where M.O.D.O.K. is a floating menace with the canon-correct colossal head. And yes, he’s designed only for killing, but crucially graced with Stoll’s deadpan wit. While Quantuamania and Marvel’s Phase 5 will be dominated by Kang, don’t sleep on the lunatic joy that M.O.D.O.K. will be bringing to the party. Stoll’s M.O.D.O.K. won’t have the same origin story as the one from the comics, of course, but he’s got a big role to play. Which is fitting for a villain with such a big head.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania hits theaters on February 17.
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Featured image: Jonathan Majors as Kang The Conqueror in Marvel Studios’ ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo by Jay Maidment. © 2022 MARVEL.