The Superhero Multiverse Trend solves the Embattled Stars problem

What’s the best way to handle struggling stars like Jonathan Majors and Ezra Miller? Make them interchangeable (and make them canon).

Following the new awareness of who Hollywood elevates to superstardom, the world of superhero films has landed on a clever solution: the multiverse. With numerous scandals, accusations and criminal charges against their marquee, franchises like Marvel and DC are probably more grateful than ever for the rise of this narrative conceit.

After all, what better way to handle stars in combat than to make them interchangeable?

For multibillion-dollar franchises, the rise of multiverses within the Marvel and DC franchises has become an unexpected PR crisis management safety net. The concept offers the perfect narrative loophole to undo past mistakes, change the storyline, and introduce new characters (or new iterations of the same beloved characters) with a handy casting switch.

As Quentin Tarantino reminded comic book audiences, DC and Marvel actors are just vessels for real stars like Hawkeye, The Flash, and Kang the Conqueror to shine. But what happens when on-screen superstars turn out to be more villains than heroes off-screen?

Studios now have a built-in option to rework it and make it canonical. Hollywood seems to recognize that nothing (and no one) is certain, and it’s better to side with an IP than a person fighting a lawsuit. This is not luck; it’s an industry revolution.

This possible replacement may take effect sooner or later. This past weekend, newly anointed Marvel star Jonathan Majors — who was set to lead the superhero franchise through the next half-dozen films — was arrested for an alleged assault on a woman that involved strangulation and harassment. The “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” actor was charged March 26 with multiple counts of third-degree assault, three counts of attempted assault in the third degree, one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree and one count. is considered second degree harassment. The Majors’ lawyer denied any wrongdoing on behalf of the actor in the domestic dispute.

Majors himself has already teased that there could be many versions of Kang moving forward, with the character (or characters, plural) expected to appear in “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars,” which will introduce the MCU are meant to be closed. The sixth phase and its overarching “Multiverse Saga”.

Major roles in “Lovecraft Country” and “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” helped land him a Marvel contract. Majors is still making her mark in the indie space with “Magazine Dreams,” which debuted at Sundance in January (and is currently being released by Disney’s own Searchlight Pictures in an awards-themed December slot). Majors also met Michael B. Jordan in “Creed III” and soon goes from portraying Dennis Rodman in “48 Hours in Vegas” to leading Spike Lee’s “Da Understudy.”

As for DC, the future of the franchise seemed to be in tatters when star Ezra Miller was arrested numerous times for assault, disorderly conduct, harassment and trespassing. Accusations of grooming minors and operating a cult have also followed the “Flash” star, who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

The film, which opens on June 16, is set to create a multiverse for the DCU. Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton will return as two iterations of Batman in the film, opening the door for a number of actors to play the same role. For now, Warner Bros. and DC Studios stand by Miller as The Flash.

“Ezra is fully committed to their recovery, and we fully support the journey they are currently on,” DC studio head Peter Safran said at the 2023 DC presentation earlier this year. “In our conversations with them over the last couple of months, they seem to be making tremendous progress.”

Ezra Miller as "The flash"

Ezra Miller as “The Flash”

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Miller released his own statement last year, referring to enduring an “intense period of crisis” that included years of erratic behavior and the apparent strangling of a woman in Iceland. “I now understand that I have complex mental health issues and have begun ongoing treatment,” Miller said in the statement.

Prior to the introduction of the multiverse-leaning MCU, the franchise had to deal with controversial stars in other ways, including Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, and Letitia Wright. This mostly meant keeping them around.

Renner, who was recently hailed as a real-life hero after saving his neighbor in a snowplow accident, allegedly abused his ex-wife and threatened to kill her. putting a gun in his mouth. (Fall 2021 interview with Men’s Health, described the claim as “nonsense”.) After the claims, Renner’s character Hawkeye launched an eponymous spinoff Disney+ series. For now, Renner is rumored to return as Hawkeye in “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” alongside Majors.

Pratt has been called “Hollywood’s most hated Chris” after appearing to support homophobic religious sects that support conversion therapy. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor was called out for attending anti-LGBTQ church events, but continued his arc in the MCU. Pratt is rumored to be officially stepping down as Star-Lord following the fourth and final “Guardians” film directed by DC Studios newbie James Gunn.

Letitia Wright, who took over the role of Black Panther after the death of Chadwick Boseman, has come under fire for her anti-vaccination statements amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Marvel producer Nate Moore said during the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” press tour that Wright’s social media statements were irrelevant to the filming experience. “He was just the ultimate professional and a joy to be around.”

Their franchises Renner, Pratt and Wright stood by them. But have Disney and Marvel learned from these controversies that they can apply to the multiverse?

The genius of the multiverse narrative clause is that it works to the benefit of the entire franchise and brand, not its stars. Marvel and DC no longer have to stand by an actor whose behavior is condemned by the public. Instead, depending on the terms of the contract, studios can easily subvert a franchise with the same character, albeit played by a different actor, under the multiverse clause.

Of course, remakes are nothing new in Hollywood. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, not to mention the James Bond movies have been typical for a long time.

We’ve also seen him in supporting roles in superhero movies, such as Katie Holmes in “Batman Begins” or Terrence Howard in “Iron Man,” though those shifts have been due to everything from scheduling issues to contract disputes. Elsewhere, Johnny Depp dropped out for the Fantastic Beasts movies, and Mads Mikkelsen stepped into the fantastical role amid Depp’s domestic abuse allegations. Like the multiverse warning, this franchise is able to use “magic” to paper over the quirks of the remake.

These days, it seems like the multiverse scheme isn’t just a cool new narrative arc; it’s a way for the franchise complex to cover its spandex-coated, cape-covered ass from potential fallout. But intentionally incorporating the escape hatch of a multiverse concept into the superhero space seems to be the true next phase of comic book IPs and Hollywood as a whole. Normalize swaps and remove the brand from potentially bad press coverage.

Did #MeToo inspire the multiverse, or was it always everywhere at once?

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