Marvel Reportedly Pointing Fingers for Recent Failures, Considered Dropping Jonathan Majors Prior to Allegations

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Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Credit: Marvel Studios

When it comes to superheroes on the silver (surfer) screen, Marvel has reigned (sorcerer) supreme for over 10 years. Marvel and, by extension, Disney have changed the blockbuster landscape for good, and many say they even accelerated the death of the “mid-range” budget films. In their use of amazing characters, interwoven narratives, and spectacular events, they’ve successfully transformed the entertainment landscape in a way that no one could have foreseen in 2008. However, in recent times, the seemingly unstoppable Marvel machine has hit a few bumps in the road, leaving fans and industry insiders scratching their heads and wondering about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

A recent report from Variety details the recent Marvel Studios annual Palm Springs retreat. Like every year, top Marvel creatives, including studio chief Kevin Feige, gathered at the California meeting to discuss the future of the most successful film franchise in modern history. Unlike previous years, however, the main focuses of the meeting seemed to revolve around fixing and planning around a series of unfortunate events with one major player at its center.

Related: ‘The Marvels’ Suffered Behind the Scenes, Director Reportedly Abandoned Production

The Disney+ streaming series Loki and the major motion picture Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) both set comic mainstay Kang the Conqueror, portrayed by actor Jonathan Majors (Creed III, Lovecraft Country), as the villain for the next phase of the franchise. This, however, came before his involvement in a high-profile legal scandal, coupled with a damaging assault allegation. Unsurprisingly, this has thrown a wrench in Marvel’s carefully laid plans. As a result, Marvel executives found themselves at a crossroads and pondering backup plans, including shifting the focus to other antagonists like Dr. Doom.

Jonathan Majors as Victor Timely in 'Loki' 2.03
Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Major(s) Problem

The plight of Majors is just one facet of the woes Marvel is facing. The Marvels, a sequel to Captain Marvel (2019), saw its budget balloon after multiple reshoots and now is predicted to underperform in theatres. This trend of underperforming at the box office and streaming online is relatively new to Marvel. Following the 2020 pandemic and the fear of “losing” the streaming wars to competitors like Netflix and (HBO)Max, Disney initially integrated a plan to have a constant stream of Marvel content at all times. While on paper this consistent flow of superhero fare promised to keep watchers invested in the MCU, it seems that in practice it has instead instilled a “superhero fatigue” in its fans. 

According to a source from Variety,

“The Marvel machine was pumping out a lot of content. Did it get to the point where there was just too much, and they were burning people out on superheroes? It’s possible,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler, who covers Disney. “The more you do, the tougher it is to maintain quality. They tried experimenting with breaking in some new characters, like Shang-Chi and Eternals, with mixed results. With budgets as big as these, you need home runs.” 

Related: Marvel is Panicking, Looking To Bring Back the Old Avengers

This constant flow of content both in theaters and online actually harmed Marvel in ways that seem obvious now. The immense amount of CGI needed for all this content was expansive and put an immense strain on the VFX industry to keep up with more and more work in shorter and shorter timeframes. The storylines and plots also became more and more convoluted as it seemed that Marvel was committed to interweaving every story to the main canon leading to a jumbled mess of cameos and references only those with too much time in their lives could parse through. 

Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Credit: Marvel Studios

As a result, Quantumania suffered, bombing at the box office and becoming Marvel’s biggest failure of all time. Rather than effectively setting up Majors’ Kang as the Thanos-level threat of Phases Five and Six, it left many fans wondering what was happening with Marvel Studios. Between Seasons 1 and 2 of Loki and Quantumania attempting to set up Kang, Marvel has a lot riding on Majors, including the future project, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. 

However, after the failure that was Quantumania, the studio looked to point fingers, and they pointed them right at Jonathan Majors. According to a cited studio source, “Marvel had already considered moving away from a Majors-led phase [prior to the star’s legal troubles] because of the box-office performance of Quantumania, which will struggle to make a profit.”

Jonathan Majors as Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Credit: Marvel Studios

It could be argued that Marvel was already struggling, and the Ant-Man threequel just put the final nail in the coffin for a studio that desperately needed to restructure itself. The studio has been adrift since Avengers: Endgame wrapped up the original Avengers storyline in 2019. The Eternals (2021), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) have also all failed to land with fans, proving that Marvel had a problem even before rising star Jonathan Majors entered the scene. Prior to his Johnny Depp-esque legal troubles, the actor was highly praised for his performances as He Who Remains and Kang the Conqueror.

Ultimately, it seems likely that Jonathan Majors could be recast by another actor as Marvel has previously done with Iron Man’s Rhodey, replacing Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle after the 2008 film. If they had already put him in the spotlight even before his controversial assault charge, it seems as though this could all just be the tipping point. However, Marvel may need to take a serious look at its film structure following the upheaval of its TV division if it wants to figure out why it can’t recreate the success of its first decade, not just point fingers at easy targets.

Do you think Jonathan Majors is to blame for Marvel’s problem, or is it a studio problem? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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