The Big Picture

Marvel Studios is facing challenges and uncertainty in the aftermath of the highly successful Infinity Saga, with a need to find a new big bad villain for the next generation of superheroes. Jonathan Majors was initially cast as Kang the Conqueror after his standout performance in Loki, but legal issues have put his future in question, causing Marvel to consider alternative plans. Marvel is reportedly discussing the possibility of fast-tracking Doctor Doom as the next major villain, who could potentially appear in upcoming projects and serve as an Avengers-level threat.

The multiverse is broken, and we’re definitely not in a Sacred Timeline for Marvel and Disney. Amidst a creative, PR and fiscal disaster of a year for Marvel Studios, the company is currently at a crossroads for its next step. Having hit the grand slam of all grand slams with its epic decade-long Infinity Saga that culminated in Avengers: Endgame, it seemed like everything Marvel touched turned to gold. But it seems like that peak is a long way off now.

In September of this year, the Marvel Parliament — the brain trust tasked with figuring out the creative pathways for the franchise going ahead — met for their annual retreat. It was not all sunshine and roses though. Having built the first Avengers saga around the Infinity Stones, and the looming threat of Thanos (Josh Brolin), a truly mighty adversary who defeated the team of superheroes comprehensively in Avengers: Infinity War, it fell on the Parliament’s shoulders to come up with the next big bad for the new generation to tackle.

From the brawn and brains of Thanos, they settled on Kang the Conqueror. For those not entirely aware, Kang is known for his mastery of time travel technology, allowing him to manipulate time and alternate realities, making him a complex and powerful character. He often seeks to conquer different time periods and alternate realities, which leads to conflicts with heroes like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. His character has a complex and convoluted history due to his time-traveling exploits, and he has been portrayed with varying motivations, from power-hungry conqueror to someone attempting to manipulate time for noble purposes.

With their villain set, Marvel cast Jonathan Majors, the rising star who debuted in the franchise in the Season 1 finale of Loki, the Disney+ series. Majors had been signed on to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as the villain, too, but Marvel altered their course dramatically when they saw Majors’ performance in Loki. Having seen Majors, Marvel threw all of their weight behind the character and in the post-credits sting of Quantumania, it was teased that Kang and his many variants were set to dominate the MCU going forward, with even the next Avengers film based around the character – The Kang Dynasty.

Nonetheless, those intentions were swiftly derailed as Majors faced arrest and assault charges within an ongoing investigation. Consequently, the prospects of centering Phase 6 around Majors have become uncertain, even though the studio maintains that no definitive decisions will be made until the legal proceedings progress further. Disney has also removed Magazine Dreams, a Majors movie which it produced, from its schedule — Majors had his bid to have his charges dismissed last month, and his case is heading to trial.

This all presents an enormous problem for Marvel and Disney, known for their family friendly entertainment. In a report by Variety, it’s now been reported that at this particular retreat back in September, alternative arrangements are being made, with plans discussed to swiftly bring in a new villain that would present an “Avengers-level” threat. The name mentioned in the article is that of Doctor Doom.

Doom is known for his high intelligence, mastery of technology and magic, and his iconic suit of powered armor. His main goal is often to achieve world domination and to prove himself as the greatest intellect on Earth, and has most famously faced off against the Fantastic Four — about whom a film is ready to shoot, SAG-AFTRA strike pending — and Marvel has discussed the prospect of fast-tracking him to main villain status.

There’s one other problem — Loki. Majors is currently appearing in the second season of the series alongside Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson as Victor Timely, another Kang variant. Timely was killed off, seemingly, in the most recent episode, but the Variety report adds that Kang will feature in the series finale, adding that the events of the episode will lead into the next Avengers film because, due to the writers’ and SAG-AFTRA strikes, they haven’t been able to rewrite or reshoot anything. One source labels Marvel as “absolutely f*cked”.

Marvel are now left with a star who is toxic, a brand that’s flagging, and a villain they can’t use. No wonder the retreat wasn’t the party atmosphere it used to be. The source adds: “I don’t see a path to how they move forward with him.”

The next major film release is set to be Deadpool 3, which brings in Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman from the Fox/X-Men universe acquired by Disney some years ago. The film is expected to link closely into the events of Loki, involving the Time Variance Authority, and is currently midway through shooting. By the end of that movie, we might know the direction of Marvel’s future, and if that future includes Victor von Doom.

 Things aren’t looking good for Jonathan Majors’ ‘Loki’ villain.  Read More