Marvel Explores New Horizons in Movie “Eternals”

The new director, Chloé Zhao, brings her indie film making talents to the MCU.

The new director, Chloé Zhao, brings her indie film making talents to the MCU.

After much fanfare and advertising, Marvel’s new movie “Eternals” finally hit theaters. Bye-bye, annoying trailer ads! But with the rise of a new spin off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) comes a lot of expectations. 

After Marvel’s release of its alternate-reality shows “Loki” and “WandaVision,” fans might have thought that “Eternals” would have more to do with backstories for the Avengers we all know and (mostly) love. Said fans, however, got something entirely different.

“Eternals” centers around the story of ten immortal beings and their mission to protect humanity from their monstrous foes, the Deviants. The Eternals were sent to Earth and lived there for centuries once the Deviants were all dead, but after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” the Deviants they thought to be extinct return to wreak havoc across the world. All ten of the Eternals must join back together to defeat the Deviants, and find out more about their own forgotten pasts.

As someone who has experience with MCU movies, I can promise you that “Eternals” is almost nothing like its predecessors. None of the Avengers are involved (although Thanos gets mentioned once or twice), and the typical storyline of an Avengers movie isn’t used for the plot of “Eternals.” While an Avengers movie is usually about a team on a mission to protect humanity from forces of evil, “Eternals” is about a team on a mission to protect humanity from forces of evil that they themselves don’t understand. 

Because of the many interweaving plot lines of MCU movies, the audience knows the team and their motives; but in “Eternals,” it’s like we’re in a completely different world than we’re used to, making seasoned Marvel fans a little more confused once they leave the theater. So in short, both metaphorically and in the movies, “Avengers” is the exploration of planet Earth, and “Eternals” is the exploration of the universe outside.

Maybe the reason for “Eternals” feeling so different is due in part to the new director, Chloé Zhao, and her contribution to the Marvel universe. Her work in independent films such as “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and “The Rider” brought her to the attention of Marvel Studios and gave her a new opportunity to direct a movie. Zhao’s more “indie” style of filmmaking also gives “Eternals” a slightly different feel while keeping the movie up to the standard excellence of Marvel movies.

The cast, music, and setting of “Eternals” also contributes something new and different coming to the MCU. The cast plays their roles as immortal but lonely characters in a way that makes you feel for their struggles at the same time as you cheer for them. Beaches of black sand, hidden villages in the forest, and shots of north London’s city life develop the setting in detail. As for the score, Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack ebbs and flows with the developing storyline, the melody often dropping into a deep, resounding symphony to give us a glimpse of how vast the new universe is. 

As for the plot, I personally didn’t find it as fascinating as other MCU films, but there were several interesting points and Easter eggs throughout the movie that kept me invested. A dedicated fan of the original Marvel comics would be interested to know that the eldest Eternal, Ajak, was gender-swapped to be a female character. There was multi-racial, LGBT+ and handicapped representation as well, making for a diverse cast and more “modern” story. 

Many of the names or characteristics of the Eternals also point towards their representation in mythology. Examples of this are shown in the characters of Ikaris, who is gifted with flight (based on Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun), Thena, who is adept at battle (based on Athena, the Greek goddess of war), and Makkari, who is superhumanly fast (based on Mercury, fleet-footed messenger of the Roman gods).

The most easily noticed theme in “Eternals” is the idea of a found family, where several individuals bond and form a family despite not being related by blood. As a fan of this kind of story, the Eternals and their family dynamics was a great plot thread for me to watch. Seeing first hand the way Eternals settled their conflicts (or didn’t), how they had separate ideas but still tried to work as a closely-knit team, and each showed off their own personality without being overshadowed by the others, gives the film heart and emotion instead of making it just another action flick. 

“Eternals” isn’t your typical Marvel movie. It holds an attraction all its own: the feeling of rising past Earth’s mountains and sky, into the stars to explore places we thought we would never reach. With the rise of the Eternals, a new MCU saga could be just beginning. All we have to do is watch and wait.