Marvel Studios is struggling with an uncertain future, with their biggest problem currently being Jonathan Majors, who portrays the MCU’s Kang the Conquerer but is also about to go on trial in New York for domestic violence charges.
Marvel’s Majors Problem
Marvel executives, including Kevin Feige, gathered in Palm Springs for the studio’s annual retreat this September. Variety says that the usual “confident” retreat was “angst-ridden” and the situation with Majors was the biggest issue discussed.
Majors was arrested on March 25, 2023. A 30-year-old woman claimed he had assaulted her and she sustained minor injuries. Majors faces misdemeanor assault and aggravated harassment charges. Majors’ criminal defense lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, claims the woman involved is lying and that Majors is the victim. No matter the truth, the situation has garnered bad press for Majors and his management and PR teams dropped him almost immediately.
Kang the Conquerer is supposed to be the MCU’s main villain during the ongoing Multiverse Saga. Majors has already portrayed variants of Kang in both seasons of “Loki” (season 2 of which is airing now) and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” The story is meant to lead up to “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” in 2026.
Disney hasn’t made any public announcements or decisions regarding Majors’ role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it was heavily discussed at the September retreat. Executives talked through backup plans, including potentially replacing Kang with a different Marvel Comics villain. Dr. Doom was one suggested character. But it would be hard to switch gears from Kang to someone else at this stage.
The problem was exacerbated by this summer’s WGA strike and the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. Only with the recent end of the WGA strike has Marvel had the opportunity to rewrite anything. Both strikes have meant delays to movie releases — although that could work in Marvel’s favor, giving them more time to make major (no pun intended) decisions.
A top dealmaker who has seen the final episode of “Loki” season two told Variety, “I don’t see a path to how they move forward with him.”
But a source told Variety that Marvel was already considering moving away from Majors because of the disappointing “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quntumania” box office performance. Of course, there is also the option of recasting Majors — something Marvel has done with multiple characters, most notably Bruce Banner / The Hulk (replaced Edward Norton with Mark Ruffalo) and Rhodey / War Machine (replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle).
On October 27, Disney removed Searchlight’s “Magazine Dreams” starring Majors from their release calendar.
Other MCU Issues
Majors isn’t the only issue going on with Marvel Studios right now. The next Marvel film will be “The Marvels,” which is poised to have low box office results after four weeks of reshoots and a middling response to a preview showing. The studio has also been stretching to maintain the interconnected, constantly-airing storyline of their movies and Disney+ shows.
“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,” Wall Street analyst Eric Handler said. “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.”
One source says Feige is stretched too thin between projects. “Kevin’s real superpower, his genius, has always been in postproduction and getting his hands on movies and making sure that they finished strongly. These days, he’s spread thin.”
Marvel VFX workers have also voted unanimously to unionize with IATSE after years of overwork and recent criticism of Marvel’s special effects.
“The year 2023 was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” former Marvel Studios VFX assistant coordinator Anna George said. “The pay and long hours at Marvel were the reason we had to start our unionization process there. The conditions were completely unsustainable.”