At Marvel’s San Diego Comic Con appearance on Saturday, Keven Feige introduced Chloe Zhao, who is set to helm the upcoming MCU film The Eternals. While onstage, it was revealed that the film would debut in theaters on November 6, 2020, and would star Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, and Don Lee as the titular group. This is all incredible news, and to call that cast stacked would be an understatement. But I’m sure many people still have a few questions.
Why should I care about who these people are portraying? Who are the Eternals?
Like the Guardians of the Galaxy in the years before their film debut, the Eternals are not exactly a household name. The little-known collective, created by legendary artist and writer Jack Kirby in the mid-1970s, are a group of superhuman individuals that must defend the Earth. This may sound generic and basic for superheroes, but the story runs deeper than that.
The Eternals are what their name suggests: a group of immortal, never-aging beings that have existed almost as long as time, who also happen to have superhuman abilities such as laser eyes, flight, and even the power to reshape matter with their mind. In Kirby’s original run, the Eternals are one of three beings created by the gods (known as the Celestials) from a common ancestor, with the other two being the Deviants and humans. I assume everyone reading this is familiar with humans (ideally, you yourself are one), so let’s talk Deviants.
The Deviants are a species of underdeveloped beings that are given uneven and unpredictable powers, are not immortal, and were shunned to live below the Earth’s surface after challenging the gods and failing (don’t you hate when that happens). In an interesting twist, each generation of Deviants is different in appearance and ability than the previous one, creating a diverse and bitter race.
Now that we’ve established the general idea of this group, the question still remains: where do the Eternals fit into the MCU? There are a few paths they could go with this.
In 2007, Neil Gaiman began a run for The Eternals that introduced the collective as a group who had no recollection of their thousands of years in existence, merely living among the population. Through a mix of flashback and careful retconning, this might be the way to insert this team into the MCU continuity. Even though many members of the Eternals have existed for thousands of years, some even ingraining themselves in humanity’s myths and legends (team leader Ikarus is known to us as the Greek legend Icarus, while Zuras is Zeus, etc.), they have been forgotten. Perhaps Thanos’ snap awakened something in them, calling them back to action.
However, there is another (perhaps more interesting) option. Earlier, I mentioned how the Eternals were created by the Celestials, a group of gods in the Marvel Universe… a group we’ve met a member of before. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Star-Lord’s father, Ego, told us that he was a Celestial, a founder of the universe. Could there be a connection to Ego’s demise and the arrival of the Eternals? The slaying of a god would surely register for the group, and might even be a call to action.
Only time will tell how Feige, Zhao, and company choose to bring this group to the MCU. It’s clear that this is an incredibly exciting property, and luckily we don’t have to wait long to find out where they fit in the ever-expanding world of heroes that we know and love.