The Jonathan Majors Problem Signals The End Of Marvel’s Supremacy

Marvel has issues going into Phase 5, starting with Jonathan Majors, that could make the empire tumble.

By Kevin C. Neece | Updated

Marvel Studios is currently facing a host of problems, of which the scandal surrounding Jonathan Majors’ mounting abuse allegations is only the latest. Speculation that the studio should be ready to replace Majors as Kang the Conqueror is already circulating, and the moment feels like a potential tipping point for the media giant. While the podcast The Hot Mic is speculating about Damon Idris as Majors’ replacement in the role, we’re wondering if Marvel needs a replacement of strategy as well.

Marvel‘s Phase 5 has more than Jonathan Majors working against it as interest in the studio’s properties has flagged in this era, but the casting crisis highlights the many fires they have to put out. The first and most obvious problem is that audience response and engagement is down, with more and more viewers finding Marvel films bloated and overwrought, with little to connect to. Such problems are risks any VFX-heavy films take, but special effects have been another problem.

Marvel brought Jonathan Majors in for the role of Kang in the film that is perhaps the poster child for the studio’s VFX crisis, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, whose insanely trippy visuals and heavy CG environments have been widely criticized as poorly made. That perceived lack of quality has a lot to do with Marvel’s reported overworking of VFX artists, who have complained for some time about the poor working conditions, long hours, and increasingly impossible demands coming down from execs. These artists provide so much of the backbone for comic book films that it seems ridiculous for Marvel to mistreat them, but without union protection, the visual effects industry is scrambling to try to obtain better conditions.

The other problem is that Marvel might be mishandling the Jonathan Majors situation by keeping the actor in his role as Kang for upcoming projects. Deadline reports that Marvel/Disney+ is retaining Majors for Kang’s upcoming appearances in Season 2 of Loki and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. This could be a huge mistake that, along with the generally poor reception for Phase 4, could threaten to tank the studio or at least end its current reign of dominance.

Another upcoming problem, The Marvels

If Marvel is seen as siding with Jonathan Majors against the wave of accusations, including his arrest on 25 charges of strangulation, assault, and harassment, they could be setting themselves up for the failure of the forthcoming projects featuring the actor. Since his character figures prominently in the next Avengers tentpole—in a film series that has long been the core of Marvel’s universe—they could find themselves tumbling further toward collapse. So far, fans have seen fit to make known their disapproval of the studio’s decisions on a number of fronts, and it’s not likely they would let this gaffe go unpunished.

If Marvel sticks with Jonathan Majors, it may not be able to right itself as quickly as its execs might have hoped. Every series and franchise lags at some point, no matter the medium. Stories wear thin, higher quantities of production tax creative energies and resources, and fans lose interest. This has been true in the comic book publishing industry for decades and has seen Marvel Publishing nearly fall apart and bounce back multiple times.

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But Marvel Studios might need an overhaul based on the issues it has already, not including the Jonathan Majors problem. Adding this mistake to the list could make the load of problems Marvel is carrying top-heavy and send the studio crashing in short order. Its over-taxed artists, weary audiences, and distended production schedule are all working together to cause the once seemingly invincible powerhouse to begin to look close to toppling.

There are ways out of this mess for Marvel, particularly if it cuts ties with Jonathan Majors in the near future, but all of them will take work and sacrifice. Probably the lynchpin for the studio will be cooling its production jets and clearing its overstuffed pipeline to allow audiences and creatives some breathing room. In that process, it will need to negotiate better deals with VFX houses that allow their artists more time and less demanding schedules—particularly by letting go of the practice of rewriting films in post-production, using VFX artists as the typewriter.

If Marvel does experience a Jonathan Majors-fueled downfall, all of those changes and more may be forced on the studio, and that could ultimately be a good thing. Sometimes the ravenous hunger for further success can blind people to the mistakes they’re making that are undermining that success. Maybe this scandal will become the wake-up call Marvel Studios needs.