What Marvel can do to fix the multiverse after axing Jonathan Majors

The actor has been found guilty of two counts of assault and harassment

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in Marvel Studios' LOKI, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Jonathan Majors (pictured in Loki as He Who Remains) has been axed by Marvel Studios as Kang the Conqueror after he was found guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend Grace Jabbari. (Marvel)

Jonathan Majors has been fired by Marvel as Kang the Conqueror after he was found guilty of two charges of assault and harassment on Monday, 19 December.

The actor was also cleared of charges of intentional assault in the third degree and aggravated harassment at the trial, which was held over an alleged incident with his ex-girlfriend Grace Jabbari in March. Majors will be sentenced on 6 February, and could face a one year prison sentence.

Following the actor's guilty verdict, Marvel Studios was reported to have cut ties with Majors who was set up as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) main villain for its multiverse saga. The actor first portrayed the character He Who Remains in Loki season 1, later returning to play variants of Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Loki season 2 this year.

But with Majors now out of the MCU for good, what can Marvel do to respond to it onscreen? And how might a shift in focus impact the superhero franchise? Yahoo UK explores the options.

Recast Kang

Jonathan Majors as Victor Timely. (Marvel Studios)
Jonathan Majors has appeared multiple times in the MCU as variants of Kang the Conqueror, most recently he played Victor Timely in Loki season 2. (Marvel Studios)

The simple answer is that Marvel can recast Majors. It would not be the first time that the studio has done so, Terrence Howard originally played James "Rhodey" Rhodes in the first Iron Man film before stepping away from the franchise, at which point Don Cheadle took over the role.

Finding an actor like Majors may prove a challenge, as he gave a very different performance for each iteration of Kang that he had played onscreen prior to his guilty verdict. However it is not impossible to find another actor to take on the role.

The question is, if Kang is recast, would the franchise acknowledge the change? This seems unlikely because Cheadle taking over the role of Rhodey was not given much fanfare, he simply played the character and the story continued as normal.

Don Cheadle will reprise his MCU role as War Machine in the series 'Armor Wars'. (Marvel/Disney)
Marvel has recast characters before, Don Cheadle took over the role of James "Rhodey" Rhodes after Terrence Howard left the role. (Marvel/Disney)

Kang is stepping into the void left by Thanos and the Infinity War saga, and the villain is meant to have a huge impact on the MCU, so much so the fifth Avengers film was named after him — though the subtitle "The Kang Dynasty" has reportedly been dropped.

The beauty of the multiverse is that it doesn't seem entirely unbelievable for a character to be played by a different actor, and with so much riding on Kang's appearance in the MCU the way to ensure it continues with as little disturbance as possible is to recast the role. This brings us to Marvel's next best option.

Change the villain

Another thing that Marvel could chose to do is change the villain of Phase 5 and 6 entirely. It was previously reported that the studio was considering bringing an iconic bad guy like Doctor Doom into the mix as a replacement for Kang, but would this make sense?

So far, Phase 4 of the MCU has largely been focused on setting up new characters as successors to the original Avengers, with the multiverse being hinted at at various points throughout. Loki season 1 was the first to outright focus on the way in which the multiverse works and what will happen if it is set free, while Spider-Man: No Way Home helped solidify the notion by bringing three iterations of Spider-Men into one film (which also lends weight to the argument that multiple actors can play the same character).

What has been seen of Phase 5 so far, and what we know of Phase 6, suggests that Kang is hugely important to the storyline. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania saw Paul Rudd's titular hero take on Kang and defeat one of his variants, but the post-credit scene hinted at a whole army of variants ready to take control of the multiverse.

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Marvel Studios' ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. Photo by Jay Maidment. © 2022 MARVEL.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania saw Paul Rudd's Scott Lang face Kang the Conqueror and defeat him, but set up the introduction of a whole army of Kangs in future films. (Marvel)

So Marvel would have a big challenge ahead of it to rework the narratives that were already planned in order to fit in a new villain should they go down this route. Is it impossible? No. But it seems like it would require a lot of work and time to fix the MCU so that the introduction of a new villain would make sense.

However, there is an argument that Marvel could do with a little breathing room to reassess the MCU as it stands right now because of how confusing the narrative has become and the general sense of superhero fatigue felt amongst audiences as shown by dwindling box office numbers. Perhaps a break wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Start over

The Avengers was a high point for Marvel, and since the end of the Infinity War saga the franchise has focused on introducing new characters. (Marvel)
The Avengers was a high point for Marvel, and since the end of the Infinity War saga the franchise has focused on introducing new characters. (Marvel)

This brings us to the next option for Marvel: wiping the slate clean and starting again. Granted, this would be the most difficult of Marvel's options to execute because it would require big changes in the MCU and would undo a lot of what has been seen in Phase 4 and 5 so far, but it could be the key to saving Phase 6.

So far, Marvel has introduced characters Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac), Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslaney), the Eternals, and has also seen Shuri (Letitia Wright) take the Black Panther mantle from her brother T'Challa (played by the late Chadwick Boseman). In January, Hawkeye villain Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) will be getting her own series: Echo.

With so many characters entering the MCU the franchise has begun to feel lost, with storylines and heroes difficult to keep track of let alone the timeline, which has become so confusing even the creative teams behind the projects simply refer to each as being set in "present day" to avoid deciding which film or show comes after another. This increasingly confusing narrative has had an impact on the quality of the stories the MCU has told in recent years, which has in turn impacted its box office numbers.

Going back to the drawing board and finding a way to streamline the narratives and characters so they are more coherent could help reignite interest in the MCU again. It wouldn't even be the first superhero franchise to attempt to do so, because DC are currently doing just that following James Gunn and Peter Safran's hiring as co-chairmen and co-CEOs of DC studios to help launch a soft reboot of the film series.

Of all the options presented to Marvel, though, it seems unlikely that the studio would choose to overhaul the MCU entirely in order to solve its Kang issue, but a re-examination of the MCU's Phase 5 and 6 plan may still be beneficial. Given there are films like Deadpool 3, and superhero teams like the Fantastic Four and X-Men to come, there is plenty for fans to look forward to that doesn't involve Kang the Conqueror.