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Jonathan Majors’ ouster puts the Marvel universe in a precarious position

Illustration by Jabari Courtney 

Marvel Studios fired rising Hollywood star Jonathan Majors from his role as Kang the Conqueror in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) after he was found guilty of two domestic violence charges. Following a three-week trial and two days of jury examination, Majors was convicted on charges of misdemeanor assault and harassment. 

Majors was first introduced to the MCU in the first two seasons of “Loki” in 2021 as well as an appearance in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania” in 2023. Majors was also set to appear in “Avengers: Kang Dynasty” as the main villain in 2026. With this rollout, Majors was on track to be the biggest stars in Hollywood, however, the jury had other plans for Majors’s future. 

Majors’ firing clearly proposes an issue for Marvel Studios, as he was slated to be Marvel’s next main villain. Now, the multi-billion dollar studio must seek to restructure the entire future of their upcoming phase, phase 5, to maintain continuity within the already complex storyline birthed from phase 4, as well as recoup the excitement lost in the lackluster performances and mixed reviews of previous movies. 

As we roll into phase 5, Marvel Studios is in a challenging situation. The studio is seeking a solution to the underperforming films they’ve released in the past few years. In November 2023, Marvel Studios was hit with its lowest-grossing movie in history “The Marvels,” which recorded record lows of $46 million domestically on opening day. A large issue fans had with the film was with the main villain, Dar-Benn, played by Zawe Ashton. 

Simply put, the villain was boring. There are gaps in the character’s timeline that prevent the audience from attaching a proper motive, reducing Dar-Benn to a character solely utilized for the plot, and failing to stand alone as an interesting being. According to Collider, “planting more distinct examples of Dar-Benn’s personality and her perspective before she twisted herself into an apocalyptic vengeance dispenser, would’ve made a multiverse of difference.” 

The financial state of Marvel Studios as a whole seems to be volatile. Since the pandemic, the only Marvel movie to surpass the $1 billion mark has been “Spiderman: No Way Home,” mainly due to the star-studded cast and high anticipation. Films like “Eternals,” a movie that went over budget for Marvel, faced criticism and fell short at the box office, debuting to $71 million at opening weekend. Second to “The Marvels,” “Eternals” is labeled as one of the MCU’s biggest failures.

In recent years there have been few box office successes, such as “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which generated $845.5 million globally, and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which generated $859.2 globally, that have worked to carry the slack from certain underperforming movies. The success of these movies has been pivotal in sustaining Marvel amid their financial failures.

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The success of previous box office hits like “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame,” was due to the long-awaited encounter with our favorite heroes and Thanos, the super-galactic villain. Building up to the looming threat of Thanos while maintaining his mystique over several years was critical in keeping the audience invested in the saga. 

Marvel Studios seemingly did the opposite with Majors’s character, Kang the Conqueror, introducing him at the beginning of the post-endgame arc. Kang’s ultimate goal is to “conquer the multiverse and reshape reality in his own image,” however, he has shown to be easily defeated in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania,” failing to strike fear in the hearts of fans in the same way Thanos did. 

The future of Marvel Studios is uncertain as of now, however, amid chaos lies opportunity. Ceyair Wright, a Junior communications major, and entrepreneurship minor from Los Angeles, California shares what a promising phase 5 looks like to him

“I think it’s very unfortunate that Johnathan Majors is not portraying Kang the Conqueror anymore, but I think that Marvel should cast somebody to play as the villain Galactus,” Wright said. Galactus, on par with Kang and Thanos, is a commonly linked villain in the upcoming Fantastic Four release. “Adam Driver would be a good actor for that role,” he said.

The upcoming “Fantastic Four” movie is highly anticipated by Marvel fans, as the most recent interaction of the franchise received infamously bad reviews. Marvel acquired the rights to Fantastic Four in 2019 when they acquired 21st Century Fox. With their hands on the steering wheel, this movie has the potential to reignite the excitement that the MCU is known for producing. 

Darrell Taylor, a junior marketing major from Cleveland, Ohio, has some ideas about the future of Marvel. 

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“The next few movies may be rough without a main villain to build to, they should honestly just recast Kang as someone else, they’ve done that in the past with other characters,” he said. “In the long run, it won’t matter. Also, I’m hoping that the focus for the Avengers becomes the Fantastic Four.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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