The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a weird place right now. Between shake-ups in upper management, Jonathan Majors’ legal trouble following domestic violence charges in March, animators unionizing, and a complete restructuring in how Marvel makes Disney+ shows, the interconnected superhero story has been collapsing in on itself this year. According to a new report from Variety, Marvel and Disney have been working on contingency plans, and one of them included pivoting its story to a fan-favorite villain: Doctor Doom.
According to Variety, Marvel was looking for a way out of its current arc, which focuses on Majors’ character, Kang the Conquerer, as a villain of a multiverse-spanning conflict. Majors has starred in multiple MCU projects, including Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and the Disney+ show Loki, and is set to appear in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. But given the contentious nature of the charges, Marvel considered making a hard left turn in the story and making Doctor Doom, the archenemy of the Fantastic Four, the new big bad.
However, Marvel reportedly felt Majors and his character were too well-established at this point to just drop in the middle of his story, so instead of recasting the character, the studio seems to be sticking with Majors for now. Sources told Variety that Quantumania’s middling reception had Marvel considering moving away from Kang before the domestic violence case began. The film raked in around $475 million, which is still a metric fuckton of money and more than its $200 million budget, but is on the low end of modern Marvel box office. In any case, jettisoning Majors doesn’t seem to be the studio’s play.
While Doctor Doom might have been on the table at one point, the most surprising fanservice play mentioned in Variety’s piece is bringing back Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, both of whom were killed off in Avengers: Endgame. This would be alongside the rest of the original Avengers crew, such as Chris Evans’ Captain America, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk. Reviving characters through magic and multiverse nonsense is pretty common in comics, but it would be a real shame after bringing on all these new heroes over the past few years to just relegate them to swaying in the background behind the old guard.
The Variety piece delves into various aspects of the declining quality in Marvel’s output, ranging from impossible turnarounds on VFX work, to attempts to course-correct by pulling the plug on troubled projects. One example cited is the Blade reboot led by Mahershala Ali. The film was originally meant to premiere in 2023, and has since gone through multiple writers, two directors, and a shutdown before production. According to Variety’s sources, one version of the movie was “a narrative led by women and filled with life lessons,” with Blade himself “relegated to the fourth lead.” After Ali was about to leave the project over the script, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige brought Logan writer Michael Green on and pushed the movie to 2025.
While the Marvel movies and TV shows are trying to get their shit together, the Marvel video games are having their own ups and downs. Insomniac just released Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, while Crystal Dynamics ended support of its Marvel’s Avengers game in September.