|Directing||Alex Kamer, Eric Towner|
|Producing||Jordan Blum, Bvatine IV, rett Cawley, Grant Gish, Jeph Loeb, Robert Maitia, Patton Oswalt, Joe Quesada, Karim Zreik, Lauren Castro, Seth Green, John Harvatine IV, Brett Osmon, Matthew Senreich, Eric Towner|
|Writing||Patton Oswalt, Geoff Barbanell, Jordan Blum, Itai Grunfeld, Based on Marvel comics by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee|
|Starring||Patton Oswalt, Melissa Fumero, Aimee Garcia, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ben Schwartz, John Hamm, Nathan Fillion, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Hader, Jonathan Kite, Zara Mizrahi, Dustin Ybarra, Beck Bennett, Jon Daly, Trevor Devall, John DiMaggio, Sam Richardson|
|Genre||Animation, Comedy, Action|
|Release Date||May 21, 2021|
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is an American animated television series produced by Marvel Television (now Marvel Studios) as a Hulu original. The series is created by Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum, with Blum as the series showrunner and Oswalt as an Executive Producer. In February 2019, Hulu announced a 10 episode series featuring the obscure Marvel Supervillain M.O.D.O.K, a large-headed humanoid with small arms and legs who moves around in a hover device. Marvel Studios partnered with Seth Green’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to produce the stop-motion animation style of the series.
Early in 2020, Hulu and Marvel Studios announced the series’ cast which consists of industry staples and fan favorites of the genre. The series stars Oswalt as M.O.D.O.K, along with Melissa Fumero, Aimee Garcia, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ben Schwartz, John Hamm, Nathan Fillion, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bill Hader. In the fall of 2020, writing, recording, and filming of the series wrapped, and the season premiered in spring of 2021. Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, formerly Stupid Monkey Studios, completed its signature stop-motion filming and visual effects for the show. Stoopid Buddy created innovative technology that allowed for a more natural handheld look to the cinematography rarely seen in stop-motion animation. Towards the end of 2020, Hulu began to market the series by releasing images and its first trailer. This was the first time audiences were given a glimpse of the tone of the show. All 10 episodes of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K officially premiered on May 21, 2021.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. premiered on Hulu to generally positive reviews. Marvel Studios has had a knack for turning obscure titles and characters into fan-favorite properties. This success has lead to the series’ overall positive critical reception. Rotten Tomatoes has scored the series with an average critic rating of 88% and an average audience score of 78%. Metacritic rates the series at a 71 with a user score of 5.4. IGN has reviewed the series with an 8 out of 10, stating “Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. has innovative animation, hilarious banter, and an endearing story about a maniacal supervillain” (IGN, 2021). The critics’ consensus highlights the stellar visual effects, details in animation, and the extraordinarily talented cast. The critical response of Marvel productions, along with the critical success of Robot Chicken, has lead to an overwhelmingly positive partnership between the two studios. The series’ success has lead to the green light for a second season. Although a second season is planned, there is no release date as of yet.
Spiritual Content: M.O.D.O.K. and his family are Jewish and practice many Jewish customs. M.O.D.O.K. hosts a Bar Mitzvah for his young son.
Violence: The series is hyper-violent, with stop motion animated gore. The series features dismemberment, bloodshed, and bodily carnage.
Language/Crude Humor: The series is littered with some foul language such as S**t, and A**. The show is full of crude and adult humor.
Sexual Content: One of the characters has an extramarital affair. Simulated sex between characters is featured.
Drug/ Alcohol Use: The series features some alcohol use and very little drug use. Some characters have drinks at a bar.
Other Negative Themes: The series highlights world domination and disregard for human life.
Positive Themes: The series focuses on family values and the importance of being a father and husband.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. follows M.O.D.O.K. (Ratatouille’s Patton Oswalt), a large-headed supervillain with small arms and legs who gets around using a hover device. He is the head of the evil corporation A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), where they use science to attempt world domination. Although he is an evil genius, he is not much of a businessman. M.O.D.O.K has driven A.I.M. into financial ruin, and ultimately, bankruptcy. Learning of the corporation’s financial position, one of A.I.M.’s leading evil scientists, Monica Rappaccini (The Goldbergs and Reno 911’s Wendi McLendon-Covey), seeks to dethrone M.O.D.O.K.
Knowledge of A.I.M.’s financial turmoil becomes public, and M.O.D.O.K. is approached by a large tech company that wants to buy controlling shares of A.I.M. and invest in the company. While M.O.D.O.K. is in jeopardy of losing his company and life’s work, he is also met with a major personal blow. Unbeknownst to the employees of A.I.M., M.O.D.O.K. has a traditional family unit with a house in the suburbs, a wife, children, and an underappreciated robotic home assistant.
After returning home from work, M.O.D.O.K. is greeted by his sarcastic daughter Melissa (Brooklyn Nine Nine’s Melissa Fumero), his energetic preteen son Lou (Park and Recreation’s and Sonic the Hedgehog’s Ben Schwartz), and ambitious yet dissatisfied wife Jodi (2014’s Robocop and Lucifer’s Aimee Garcia). After a horrible dinner experience, Jodi expresses her unhappiness in their marriage and tells M.O.D.O.K. she wants a divorce. He spends the rest of the season attempting to regain control of A.I.M. to achieve his dream of world domination, win back the heart of his wife, and bring his family back together.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. subverts expectations. The series is everything we could expect from a combo of Marvel and Robot Chicken. Every scene is packed with detail, visual gags, Marvel universe references, and sharp dialogue that delivers an endless amount of jokes. Although the series is what you would expect from such a collaboration, it is a character drama at its core. The show brings this obscure Marvel villain to life with an original take on the character and ignores the traditional origin of the title character. The story of the series revolves around the typical plot of world domination but also encompasses unconventional elements rarely seen in comic lore such as corporate takeovers, divorce, and child custody battles.
One of the highlights of the series is its extraordinary array of voice talent. The show is packed with incredible performances, from the series lead to minor talents. Patton Oswalt’s performance as the maniacal, over-the-top buffoon of a villain is spot-on casting. Science fiction fans will be delighted to hear the familiar vocal talents of Nathan Fillion as Wonder Man, a superhero film star. Ben Schwartz is delightful as M.O.D.O.K.’s preteen son. His witty, mature-for-his-age wisecracks offer some of the biggest laughs. John Hamm as Iron Man and Bill Hader as The Leader also lend their comedic timing to round out the fantastic vocal cast. Even the comic icon Whoopi Goldberg throws her hat into the ring of this stack showcase of vocal talent.
The story of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is compelling and extremely interesting as the fool of a villain struggles to find professional success while failing at being a husband, and struggling at being a father. Unfortunately, the delivery is not consistent throughout the season. The story arc feels disjointed at times, as if many sequences are stitched together to comprise an episode. This is not a surprise, as the majority of the season was directed by alums of Robot Chicken – a segmented sketch comedy series.
Though scenes are funny because the delivery of the dialogue from the vocal talent is so good and each episode is packed with visual gags (as expected from producers of the aforementioned Robot Chicken), the series suffers from its inability to provide a good story flow. The first half of the season suffers the most from this issue; however, the latter half of the season flows better and is much more enjoyable.
Although the series suffers from inconsistent storytelling throughout the majority of its season, what is consistent is its stunning visual effects and cinematography. It is rare to see such quality in camera work in stop-motion animation. Anyone familiar with stop-motion animation will recall its stationary camera due to its meticulous need for animators to adjust subjects by hand a fraction of an inch for every frame. However, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. achieves the ability to move the camera around characters and track actions and movements. This enables the series to have a more natural cinematic look and feel equal to its live-action counterparts. Marvel Studios and Stoopid Buddy developed an innovative filming technique utilizing a miniature camera rig combined with the fluid motion of a handheld camera. This makes the series like nothing else on television.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is, overall, an enjoyable watch. It may not have audiences busting any guts, but the series is entertaining enough to provide consistent chuckles. The voice cast is wonderful and Oswalt is a stand-out as the lead. The series subverts expectations as a profound character study surrounded by goofy situational comedy. M.O.D.O.K. is surprisingly emotional and has tons of heart. Although the series suffers from pacing issues and storytelling problems, it is short enough and easy to digest. The series is a triumph in stop-motion animation and has set a new bar for this dying animation style. Marvel and Stoopid Buddy have breathed new life into this animation style which has been stagnant for decades.
Fans of Robot Chicken and Marvel Universe lore enthusiasts will appreciate the series and its references. People interested in a unique story of a man who struggles to regain every important thing that was taken from him will find the series to be a pleasant surprise. The season ends with a surprise and pulls at the heartstrings. Marvel and Stoopid Buddy have delivered. Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is simply unique in every way.
The Bottom Line
M.O.D.O.K. delivers as expected of Marvel, but also subverts expectations. Although the series is what you would expect from a collaboration with the studio that brought us Robot Chicken, it's a character drama at its core.