Know Your Marvel Movies: The Eternals
On November 6th, 2020, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will brave into the unknown. On that date, The Eternals will join the MCU in the most daring gambit since Guardians of the Galaxy. Famed producer Kevin Feige will bank on star power and a dizzying array of gifted performers. There’s a lot to unpack with this movie. Here’s what you need to know about The Eternals.
Who Are the Eternals?
I won’t lie. Explaining the Eternals isn’t easy. Even the most passionate comic book fanatics struggle a bit with these stories. I’ll try to keep the discussion as straightforward as possible, but the history of the characters matters.
In 1976, comic book legend Jack Kirby created the Eternals. He had spent time working at Marvel’s competitor, DC, where he invented the New Gods, one of whom, Steppenwolf, became the villain in 2017’s Justice League. We’re talking about absolute powerhouses.
Sadly for Kirby and comic book readers, he didn’t get to finish the planned stories with DC. Once Kirby returned to Marvel, he created similar characters at his job. It’s fair to describe the Eternals as the New Gods of Marvel.
They’re overpowered beings capable of things that even Thanos can’t imagine. In fact, that character’s comic book origin includes birth parents who were Eternals. And he came with something more, the Deviant Gene. What’s that?
Well, the Eternals are locked in an ongoing struggle with the Deviants, who carry a unique gene that mutates them into soulless monsters. And Thanos possesses that gene, at least in the comics. Nobody is sure whether the MCU will give him the same backstory since some details have already been filled in through the previous movies.
But you get the point. The good guys in this story are so powerful that the offspring of two of them can unite the Infinity Gauntlet gems, snap his fingers, and kill half the population. These demigods possess powers unlike anything we’ve watched in the MCU thus far, save for possibly Star-Lord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The Plan for The Eternals
The history of the Eternals links with the Kree and the Skrulls. An alien race called the Celestials performed genetic alterations to all three species along with the Deviants. Each one turned out differently.
With the Eternals, they gained long life and impressive technological skills. However, these advantages came at the cost of struggle to reproduce. Many Eternals love humanity and protect people at any cost. Yet, some have attempted to conquer the universe over the years. This aspect may or may not come into play in the MCU.
The original speculation for The Eternals was that it will highlight a love story between two of its characters, Sersi and Ikaris. The former is a striped-haired brunette who can manipulate the molecular structure of any object, including humans. The latter wears a blue bodysuit and red gloves and is utterly invulnerable to injury.
The Fault in Our Stars: Marvel Edition?
However, Disney officials have since revealed that Ikaris won’t date Sersi. Instead, she’ll fall for a human archaeologist who discovers the mystical Tomb of the Space Gods. It’s a star-crossed lovers plot in an almost literal sense.
Oh, and we also know that Disney will use the Eternals and the Celestial to explain some of the things that have already happened during the first three phases of the MCU. Feige has expressed excitement over the “ancient aliens kind of sci-fi trope.”
I just skipped a lot of details on the Eternals because there’s just so much that’s difficult to explain. While the history of the Celestials comes with a detailed, almost impenetrable backstory, the movie can be quite simple in structure.
The general plan here is a superhero love story involving nearly immortal beings with vast superpowers, one of whom falls for a fragile human. She’s lived for thousands of years. He wasn’t alive when Return of the Jedi came out.
Also, the enemy here, the Deviant race, is pretty scary. They’re genetic freaks with ghastly physical appearances. However, each member also gets cool armor that should look spectacular in CGI.
Finally, The Eternals allows Marvel to introduce the oldest known characters in the entire franchise. So, it’s a fun sandbox to play in.
About the Cast: The Leads
Thena will anchor the Eternals in the film. Since she was born in Olympia, she’s as godly as you’d expect. She’s really Marvel’s version of Wonder Woman, as she is the ultimate warrior and soulful scholar, albeit a hothead. Angelina Jolie will play this role and has already anchored most of the early media for The Eternals.
The leader of the Eternals is Ajax, whom Salma Hayek portrays. Her superpowers involve extremely potent healing abilities, the kind that would make Wolverine jealous.
Obviously, the most critical roles are Sersi and her human lover. Marvel has totally nailed the casting of Sersi, the most gorgeous Eternal, with Gemma Chan of Humans and Crazy Rich Asians. Richard Madden, who just got done killing his girlfriend/aunt on Game of Thrones, plays Dane Whitman, the human archaeologist. Those are some great-looking leads and really terrific actors to boot.
About the Cast: The Supporting Players
Richard Madden, the Game of Thrones actor who met a grim fate at the Red wedding, will portray Ikaris. So, it’s a mini-Stark reunion with Robb and Jon Snow involved.
Kumail Nanjiani of Silicon Valley and The Big Sick has gained a lot of headlines for his makeover. Nanjiani got buff for The Eternals, displaying a shredded physique on social media. He’s playing Kingo, the Johnny Cage of the Eternals. He’s secretly a samurai warrior of great renown, but he passes his time in the modern era as a movie star.
Don Lee of Train to Busan (watch this movie!), Lauren Ridloff (Miss Deaf America, Brian Tyree Henry of Widows/Atlanta, and Lia McHugh of The Lodge also appear in the film. They portray Gilgamesh, Makkari, Phastos, and Sprite.
The most intriguing presence in the film is Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as Druig. Remember how I mentioned earlier that not all Eternals like humans? Yeah, that’s Druig.
I’ve studiously avoided spoilers for this movie. However, the presence of Druig suggests that at least one Eternal may work against the others and possibly even aid the Deviants. That’s pure speculation, though.
Marvel has announced a couple of significant character updates about phase four of the MCU. Upcoming movies will feature the first deaf superhero as well as the first transgender superhero in the MCU. Ridloff will obviously play the deaf character in The Eternals.
During a December speech, Feige declared that the transgender character would come soon. He also indicated that an LGBTQ superhero would appear in a Marvel movie filming right now.
The only possibilities for that statement are Black Widow and The Eternals. The third MCU movie of phase four, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, won’t start filming for another few months.
On paper, The Eternals looks like a hard sell. If any other movie studio were planning this release, the box office expectations would be similar to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. That film cost roughly $200 million to produce while grossing only $225 million, which means it lost a lot of money. Movies generally need to earn at least three times their box office budget to turn a profit.
I mention this to remind you of how amazing the MCU is. Since Kevin Feige and his team are working on this project, I’m confident that it’ll earn a lot of money. Also, odds are good that you’ll love every second of the film. That’s the MCU track record, after all.
Ignoring all of the other stuff, The Eternals tells the story of a human man falling in with a gorgeous demigod superhero. And that format worked pretty well for Wonder Woman, right? Since Marvel movies do better and are better than DC ones, you have plenty of reasons to get excited about The Eternals.