Jim Carrey is one of the most underrated actors when it comes to villainous roles. Throughout his illustrious career, the New Market, Ontario native has been largely known for his incomparable comedic performance style, yet he has also bravely bucked typecasting by proving himself to be a gifted dramatic actor with leading roles in films like Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (1998), Miloš Forman’s Man on the Moon (1999) – for which I still argue Carrey deserved an Oscar nomination – and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). If the latest rumours of Carrey’s casting as a villain in the MCU, particularly surrounding who he is said to be playing, are anything to go by, then the actor could be the next instance of inspired casting from Marvel, offering him the chance to combine both his comedic auteurism and dramatic chops for what could potentially be one of the most memorable roles of his career.
Carrey is best known as a leading man, and as such audiences don’t immediately associate him with villainous roles, though when given the opportunity he has produced stellar results, such as playing Count Olaf in the film adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and his more recent role as Dr. Robotnik in 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog (adaptations are where he thrives, apparently…but let’s not mention his take on the Riddler in Batman Forever). Carrey’s signature kinetic comedy style is on full display in both movies, and without it they would have lacked a singular anchoring point and been much worse for it. However, if Carrey’s casting as none other than MODOK is to be believed, he can deliver a character that is as much comic relief as he is a tragic victim in his own right.
For those who don’t know, MODOK, which stands for Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing, is a long-standing villain of Marvel comics best known for his trademark overdeveloped head and truncated limbs, requiring use of a hoverchair for mobility. Originally a scientist named George Tarleton who works for futuristic arms dealing group A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), Tarleton was one day forced into a transformative procedure that left him with MODOK’s distinctive physical features, yet he also has the world’s largest brain (and the intellect to match it) while possessing a headband designed by A.I.M. that grants him psionic abilities. After his transformation, MODOK immediately kills those responsible and consequently takes over A.I.M. with the intention of world domination, becoming a frequent villain of Captain America in particular.
MODOK has appeared in various animated TV shows as a villain, though this year saw the debut of the stop-motion animated show M.O.D.O.K., co-created and starring Patton Oswalt as the titular character, which takes a more comedic approach to the villain as he struggles to balance leading the evil organisation A.I.M. with his role as a husband and father of two. The show is an inspired approach to a criminally overlooked supervillain in Marvel canon and proves that he can be sympathetic, while his more sinister traits can be reconciled through a darkly comic lens.
This is part of what makes Jim Carrey such an inspired choice to play MODOK. Obviously, physically embodying the unrealistically proportioned villain will require some CGI magic (let’s not forget that Carrey has an uncanny knack for facial expressions and his head would surely be blown up for this role), but a comedy-oriented approach to the character is now a proven formula, and there is arguably no one better to capture this aspect of the MODOK than Jim Carrey, yet his impressive dramatic versatility is what can elevate the character in a live action setting. The family-centric angle taken by Oswalt is of his own creation and simply would not work in live action, so both Marvel and Carrey would have to find another means of evoking the more sympathetic side of MODOK and, in turn, add the depth required for a nuanced portrayal. However, they need look no further than his origin story, which could be a tale of involuntary experimentation (admittedly this is hardly a new take in the MCU) and deep-seated insecurity due to his grotesque appearance, all the while using his supreme intellect and control over A.I.M. to mask his own shortcomings, whether personal or physical.
Obviously, this is all speculative, to the point that Carrey has not yet officially been added to the MCU roster, though a recent leak purports that he could be appearing in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and She-Hulk TV show. The prevailing rumours leave little doubt that the legendary actor and comedian is at least in talks with Marvel, if not already “secretly” cast, and if this is the case, then few villains make more sense in the hands of Jim Carrey than MODOK.