You have to hand it to the creators of Hulu’s stop motion animation “Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.” The ability to get something like this greenlit, but also boundlessly experiment is impressive and commendable. The problem with “M.O.D.O.K” isn’t so much that the show isn’t good, but rather it’s inaccessibility to everyone. This is about as niche as you can get in the Marvel Universe (or any superhero/supervillain for that matter) and seems to be made specifically for someone and not necessarily for everyone.
If it’s for you, it’s almost flawless. But if it’s not your thing, everything starts to wear thin real quick. I’m unfortunately part of the latter, as I found it a drudge to get through the whole series. This is unfortunate too because I really have nothing but compliments for the writers, voice cast and animators, all of which are operating in top form. “M.O.D.O.K” is more of an extended “Robot Chicken” than say “Harley Quinn,” falling somewhere between stretched sketches and a fully realized narrative.
“Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K” follows Modok, supervillain continuously thwarted by his own narcissism and desire to rule the world. His company A.I.M ends up going bankrupt due to his mismanagement of funds and is bought out by silicon valley tech giant GRUMBL. He is let go from A.I.M and his wife asks for a divorce. Modok experiences a mid life crisis and decides to do whatever it takes to get both his company and his family back.
There is a lot of fun to be had here, and this review is going to be more complimentary than my rating would entail. But that’s primarily because I can see what they’re doing with “M.O.D.O.K” even if it’s not me they’re doing it for. For starters, the brilliance of the animation cannot be overstated. Stoopid Buddy Studios have quite literally reinvented stop motion animation here, with every frame packed with unimaginable detail and a beautiful digital gloss that makes you forget someone is moving every individual part split second by spit second. It is painstakingly crafted and the hard work and innovation shines here. “M.O.D.O.K” is stunning to look at, regardless of where you fall on the content of the series. Seeing as how this is the same studio that brought you “Robot Chicken,” you can see how Stoopid Buddy Studios has worked to perfect their craft.
The voice cast is also stellar, with Patton Oswald’s Modok chewing through scenery and breathing life into one of the most obscure Marvel villains out there. Oswald beautifully blends the ridicule and self parodies of a being a narcissistic supervillain with the charm of a regular guy down on his luck looking to turn his life around. I’m an Oswald fan and have been for a long time, and his voice work solidifies why he’s one of the best writers and performers particularly in the nerd world working today. The rest of the cast includes Aimee Garcia as Modok’s wife Jodie, Ben Schwartz as Modok’s son Lou, Wendy McLendon-Covey as Monica and guest appearances by Nathan Fillion, Jon Hamm, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bill Hader. In the great words of John Hammond, the voice cast for “M.O.D.O.K” spared no expense. Everyone is having a lot of fun and it shows. They are given free rein to experiment within a very experimental show and this was clearly the right move.
The writing for “M.O.D.O.K” is sharp as well, with just about every line sporting some kind of joke or self parody. It is assaulting, much like “Robot Chicken” if that show was a collection of 15 second sketches and had a narrative that connected them. The series is mostly written by series creators Patton Oswald himself alongside Jordan Blum (“American Dad” writer). There is a familiarity with the material that both men possess that many others don’t, and they seem to have intimate knowledge of the more obscure side of Marvel. This is both a strength and weakness of the show itself, and ultimately where the show collapses in on itself like a failed dying star created by Modok at A.I.M headquarters.
Hyperbole aside, “M.O.D.O.K” suffers from being too obscure and too niche for its own good. A vast majority of audiences have never even heard of 80% of the characters in the show including the main protagonist Modok. So to dive headfirst into a self referential, self parody stop motion animation series about him is already off putting from the start. That’s not to say the show doesn’t work (it does), but rather that it doesn’t work for everyone. I found the schtick wearing thin around the halfway point of the first episode, and really only stuck it out to write a fair review. It just didn’t grab me despite seeing all the wonderful things the show is doing. It starts to feel like a little stretched and stuffed at the same time, packed with one liners and jokes for characters I’m not entirely connected with to begin with. Again, Oswald does an incredible job in making Modok not only funny but relatable, but there is only so much a single actor/writer/producer/stand up can do before you decide it just isn’t your cup of tea.
While very well made and funny, it has a very specific audience that all of that work is made for. This is a strange show based off even stranger Marvel characters, so you’d be forgiven if you easily turned it off and watched something else. On the flip side, “M.O.D.O.K” may be JUST the thing you’re looking for, and may resonate with you in a way it didn’t really do for me.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
“Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K” is a show everyone should try but not everyone will see through to the end. All episodes are currently streaming on Hulu now.