Only a few short years ago, the trailblazing MCU had near-universal acclaim, competition-crushing box office numbers, and a firm grasp on the cultural zeitgeist. 2019’s Avengers: Endgame marked the culmination of eleven years of colorfully adept visual storytelling in a climactic conclusion that left global audiences awestruck and satisfied.
But despite its inaugural decade of unchallenged dominance, the MCU has struggled to retain its exalted status in a post-pandemic entertainment landscape. Thanks to a string of middling Disney+ series, diminishing box office returns, and loudening chatter of superhero fatigue, the MCU has found itself in an undeniable slump.
The latest addition to Marvel Studios’ laundry list of issues is the arrest of Kang the Conqueror actor Jonathan Majors. On March 25, 2023, Majors was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman with whom he was romantically involved. Despite the cavalcade of conflicting media reports and fan reactions on social media, Marvel Studios and Disney have kept their future partnership plans (or lack thereof) with the controversial performer close to their chests.
Marvel Studios has had to deal with losing performers before, but there is something distinctly challenging about the prospect of losing Jonathan Majors. If we’re to take Marvel Studios’ upcoming Kang-heavy film and television slate at face value, never before have they tethered themselves so inseparably to a single performer. Already having appeared as different Kang variants in Loki season one and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Majors was to be the multifaceted centerpiece against whom the entire cinematic multiverse rallies to thwart.
If Marvel Studios decides to keep Majors, its veneer of social progressivism could be irrevocably tarnished. If they decide to recast him, the post-Endgame continuity it has been building will be in shambles. Suffice it to say the MCU has a colossal Kang problem on its hands. But what if the MCU could find a viable path forward that eschews problematic performers and continuity-damaging recasts altogether? What if the future isn’t all doom and gloom for the MCU? On second thought, maybe a little Doom is exactly what the MCU needs.
The Future Is Doom
It might sound ill-advised to propose that Marvel Studios should reimagine its enormous slate of upcoming films and television series to replace Kang with Doctor Doom, but if ever there was a time for the MCU to make a potentially risky course correction, it’s right now. The MCU’s Phase Four had its highlights, but hindsight reveals a less-than-stellar consensus.
For the first time in the MCU’s history, fans and critics seemed harmonious in decrying one of its phases as unmistakably bloated and directionless. Phase Five has shown promising signs of improvement with Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3, but it’s also given us Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which carries the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of any MCU entry to date.
If Marvel Studios continues to allow this quality decline to compound itself with the ongoing Majors situation, it could be the perfect storm that brings down the once-unsinkable S.S. MCU. Before Captain Kang goes down with the ship, why not enlist a new character to guide the franchise through these troubled waters?
Doctor Doom has stood tall as one of the most beloved and dynamic villains in the Marvel Comics rogues’ gallery for decades. He blends the sympathetic character motivations that made audiences fall in love with Thanos, the technological brilliance that made Iron Man so cinematically dazzling, and the mystical powerset that made Doctor Strange’s MCU appearances so spell-binding.
What’s more, at a time when so many fans and critics are growing tired of the MCU’s stale brand of highly sanitized humor, Doctor Doom can inject a much-needed dash of darkness into the snark-centric world of the MCU. Since Disney acquired Fox (and by extension, the rights to Doctor Doom) in 2019, Kevin Feige and his expansive creative team have been plotting a grand entrance for the notorious villain.
Clearly, they planned to develop Majors as Kang first, but with the actor and the character mired in such problematic territory, wouldn’t it be savvier to expedite the MCU’s road to Doom?
Doom and Secret Wars
There’s no denying that it would require a grueling overhaul of the MCU’s current configuration to make this last-minute switch-up jive. We didn’t forget that Marvel Studios’ next big tentpole team-up film is called Avengers: Kang Dynasty. But everyone with even a cursory knowledge of comic books knows what the MCU is truly leading up to is Avengers: Secret Wars.
Of all the big event runs in Marvel Comics’ history, there are perhaps none more revered than Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 masterpiece Secret Wars. After a final universal incursion destroys the Marvel multiverse, Secret Wars finds a diverse swath of heroes on a brand new planet called Battleworld, pieced together with bits of multiversal wreckage by none other than Doctor Doom.
Since its first film in 2008, the MCU has been no stranger to liberally adapting comic source material to achieve its cinematic vision. It’s doubtful if hardcore comic purists will ever forgive writer/director Shane Black for his far-less-than-faithful interpretation of The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Nitpicks aside, it’s hard to deny that some comic arcs allow for less leeway than others.
Unless Avengers: Secret Wars intends to alter its comic source material beyond the point of recognition, it’s hard to imagine how the story could retain its core composition without the presence of its flagship villain Doctor Doom.
If the MCU were to replace Doctor Doom with Kang the Conqueror in Avengers: Secret Wars, it would be akin to replacing Thanos with Galactus in Avengers: Infinity War. If the thought of a Thanos-free Infinity War makes you shudder, you’re not alone.
Time for a Change
Even if the troubling arrest of Jonathan Majors never happened, Marvel Studios was still in need of a major wake-up call. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 certainly served the MCU fan community with a timely dose of high-quality filmmaking, but the beloved trilogy’s end and the departure of the greater franchise’s most skilled auteur are not promising indicators of repeatable future success.
These days, a quick scroll through Marvel-related comment sections, forums, and Twitter threads reveals a deep and widespread dissatisfaction with the once-unassailable film franchise. There are some fundamental issues plaguing the MCU, and replacing Majors’ Kang with Doctor Doom won’t fix all of them. It could, however, mark a turning point that begins to whip this sputtering franchise back to its former glory.