Marvel Studios Phase Four film offerings for 2021 coincidentally comprises 4 movies. Previously, only Black Widow and Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings have had full trailers. As of May 24, however, we can now add Eternals to the list.
Does the Eternals trailer live up to the potential that the revelation of a hidden cabal of immortal cosmic caretakers behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe promises? Let’s take a look!
Who are the Eternals?
Created by the legendary artist Jack "The King" Kirby for Marvel Comics, the Eternals are a race of genetically enhanced humans created as part of a grand experiment by the cosmic, godlike beings called Celestials. Also called the Homo Immortalis (a fictional name based on the real world scientific naming conventions for races that are connected to the human race, such as Homo Erectus), the Eternals watched over mankind in secret, while also battling another genetic offshoot created by the Celestials called the Deviants (Homo Descendus).
In the comics, the Eternals became the inspiration for legends and myths. They even encountered the Olympian pantheon of gods, with whom they made a pact to serve as representatives when possible. For instance, the Eternal Thena became the representative of the Olympian goddess Athena, while Makkari would sometimes masquerade as the god Hermes/Mercury, and so on. In some cases, they were revered as gods themselves, becoming the basis for pantheons in other parts of the world.
The Eternals would continue influencing mankind’s development either directly or indirectly, often in the guise of deities or beings of legend. However, the Third Host of Celestials forced both the gods and the Eternals to stop interfering with humanity in a direct manner. Although the Eternals no longer acted as deities, they instead walked and interacted with humans as if they were one of them, with their influences being delivered in more subtle ways.
That is, until the 20th century emergence of superhumans, particularly mutants. This prompted the Fourth Host of Celestials to return, but the Eternals and the various pantheons of Earth were able to hold them off. With their existence now made public, the Eternals became more active, but no longer as deities. In the modern era, the Eternals work alongside superheroes such as Iron Man and the Avengers with defending mankind and the planet.
Marvel Cinematic Universe Eternals
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige announced on April 24, 2018 that an Eternals film was in the works to be part of the MCU Phase 4 projects. Later on September 21 of that year, Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) signed on to direct the Eternals film. Throughout 2019, the casting and preproduction was conducted, with the film securing Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, and Kit Harington in key roles. The film finished principal photography by February 2020, but the release date was pushed back from the initial February 2021 schedule due to the global pandemic.
The Eternals in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will follow a slightly different path. Although they will still be the basis of the mythological and legendary figures in history, the MCU has not established other pantheons existing beyond that of the Asgardians. And even the Asgardians have been depicted not as true deities, but extradimensional aliens with science that is indistinguishable from magic. It is also unclear whether they will have ties with the MCU Celestials, which were glimpsed in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Another notable difference is several roles have been gender swapped and certain liberties with the cultural connections modified. For instance, the Eternals Ajak, Makkari, and Sprite are originally male in the comics, but will be portrayed as female in the film. Likewise, the role of the Eternal swordsman Kingo who had ties to Japanese culture is altered to be Indian for the film (as he will be portrayed by Kumail Nanjani).
On May 24, 2021, the first full trailer for Eternals was released, along with the official synopsis:
Marvel Studios' Eternals features an exciting new team of Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind's most ancient enemy, the Deviants.
The Eternals trailer provides brief glimpses of the super-powered immortals first interactions with the human race. However, the trailer is also very light on action sequences, with only a couple of very brief snippets where the Eternals display their abilities. The threat of the Deviants is also not clearly highlighted. But the most vague detail is how and why the Eternals were not involved in dealing with the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Bland Eternal Response
Eternals is certainly one of the most obscure properties being given the cinematic treatment from Marvel Comics. But Marvel Studios has found massive success with the similarly obscure Guardians of the Galaxy. Could it do the same for the cosmic immortal race of Eternals? For now, the response to the trailer has been generally lukewarm.
I've loved every Movie in the current MCU, but this teaser seems like the answer to the question, "What's the opposite of 'exciting'".
Unrecognizable characters with no obvious storyline.
— Displaced Jersey Boy (@Ex_Jersey_Boy) May 24, 2021
As it is still months away, there will likely be one or two more full trailers before the film’s release date. Perhaps the next Eternals trailer will prove to have a more positive response? We will have to wait and see.
Directed by Chloé Zhao, Marvel’s Eternals stars Angelina Jolie as Thena, Gemma Chan as Sersi, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kit Harington as Dane Whitman/The Black Knight, Barry Keoghan as Druig, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, and Don Lee as Gilgamesh. Marvel’s Eternals is set for a theatrical release on November 5, 2021.