When it comes to making a success out of teams of obscure comic book superheroes, Marvel has past form. Remember, when Guardians of the Galaxy blasted into cinemas in 2014, few could have picked Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot out of Nova Corps line-up. These days the quintet are household names, so don’t bet against the same happening with The Eternals, the MCU Phase 4 movie releasing after this year's Black Widow.
The creation of the legendary Jack Kirby (the artist behind many of Marvel’s most famous heroes and villains), The Eternals are a group of ancient, cosmic superpowered beings living here on Earth. Effectively gods, they have the ability to combine their distinct powers, which comes in handy when they’re battling their mortal enemies, the Deviants.
While the MCU has had numerous space adventures before, this ensemble movie feels like new territory for Marvel as it gets deeper into its post-Iron Man, post-Captain America Phase 4. With ambitious source material, an impressive cast and an exciting young director at the helm in The Rider’s Chloe Zhao, there’s plenty to get excited about. Here’s what you need to know about The Eternals, including its cast, release date and more.
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The Eternals release date: in theaters from February 12, 2021
Having originally been slated for November 2020, The Eternals’ theatrical debut was pushed back to February 12, 2021, after coronavirus forced Marvel Studios/Disney to rejig its entire release schedule.
The Eternals cast: who's in the movie?
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has confirmed The Eternals will be an ensemble movie in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy, and that means a big cast.
The biggest name is Angelina Jolie, who’ll play warrior Eternal Thena. Alongside her, Bodyguard’s Richard Madden is Superman substitute Ikaris; The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani is Kingo, a master swordsman whose alter-ego is a Bollywood film star; Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry is super-intelligent inventor Phastos; Train to Busan’s Don Lee is super-strong Gilgamesh; and Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan is loner/spy Druig.
Having played Minn-Evra in Captain Marvel, Gemma Chan gets her second MCU role as matter-manipulating Sersi, while three more of the characters from the Eternals comics have been swapped from male to female, helping make this arguably the most diverse of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe casts. Salma Hayek is wise, powerful leader Ajak; The Walking Dead’s Lauren Ridloff is super-fast Makkari (the first deaf superhero in the MCU); and newcomer Lia McHugh plays Sprite, an ancient Eternal who looks like a child.
Away from the Eternals themselves, Kit Harington – Madden’s half-brother in Game of Thrones – will play Dane Whitman, Black Knight. Given the character’s medieval warrior stylings, that shouldn’t be much of a stretch.
There’s no word yet on who’s playing the Deviant baddies.
And continuing Marvel’s long-running trend of hiring new-ish filmmakers with indie pedigree (think Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck on Captain Marvel, Jon Watts on Spider-Man: Homecoming), The Eternals is directed by Chloe Zhao, best known for Sundance hit The Rider.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The latest addition to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Eternals is the story of a group of ancient immortal beings who’ve been living in secret on Earth for millennia.
- Where can I see it? The Eternals will be released in cinemas around the world.
- When can I watch it? The Eternals is scheduled for release internationally on February 12, 2021.
The Eternals trailer: when will we see it?
No sign of a trailer as yet but as we get into the second half of 2020, Marvel Studios and Disney will surely want to debut something soon to build some pre-release momentum. Marvel usually showcases new content at San Diego Comic-Con, and while that particular event has been cancelled for the first time in its history thanks to the current health crisis, perhaps the first teaser for The Eternals will debut at the virtual Comic-Con@Home. It might be worth circling the weekend of July 22-26 in your diary.
Smart money would also be on a second trailer being attached to Black Widow when it hits cinemas on November 6.
Who are The Eternals?
The Eternals emerged from the mind of Jack Kirby, the legendary comic book artist/writer who co-created Marvel royalty like Captain America, Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men. Having made the New Gods for DC, Kirby was clearly taken with the idea of immortal, god-like superbeings, so mined a similar premise when he returned to Marvel in the mid-’70s.
The Eternals made their comic book debut in July 1976, though the series was not a commercial success and was cancelled before Kirby’s storylines were resolved. The characters have appeared at various times over the subsequent decades – including a notable crossover with Thor – and had arguably their most successful run when Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr gave the Eternals a seven-issue reboot in 2006.
So who are they? Although they look human, the Eternals are actually near-as-dammit-immortal super-beings from outer space who’ve lived on Earth for thousands (maybe millions) of years. Like the X-Men they all have their own unique abilities but – in a Power Rangers/Voltron-like twist – they can combine to form a powerful entity known as a Uni-Mind. Don’t be surprised if that particular party trick gets wheeled out for the first time in a climactic action sequence.
The Eternals generally use their powers for good, unlike the Deviants, a rival race who have been at war with the Eternals for millennia and are set to be the antagonists of the movie.
Both were created by the Celestials, even more ancient beings who are effectively the gods of the Marvel universe. While it seems likely the Celestials will appear in the film in some form, this wouldn’t be the first time they’ve cropped up in the MCU. The alien skull that forms the foundations of Knowhere in Guardians of the Galaxy belonged to a deceased Celestial, while Ego, Star-Lord’s dad in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, is a member of the species. In the first GoTG movie, the Collector also shows a vision of a Celestial called Eson the Searcher brandishing the Power Stone.
When does The Eternals fit into the chronology of the MCU?
While November 2020’s Black Widow is set a few years before the events of Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, the movie’s official synopsis reveals that The Eternals will pick up after Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ famous skirmish with Thanos. It says:
“Marvel Studios’ The 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.”
This all raises a couple of big questions: If the Eternals have been on Earth for millennia, why did they not get involved when Iron Man, Captain America and the rest were fighting Thanos and his armies? And what “unexpected tragedy” could be bigger than half the life in the universe being instantly wiped out by a malign finger snap?
Maybe your priorities are rather different when you’re a god-like super-being. Or perhaps, as in Gaiman and Romita's 2006 run, the Eternals will be suffering from collective amnesia – it could explain a lot.
The Eternals is a welcome new chapter for Marvel
Marvel can afford to take a few risks in the wake of Endgame, and you can expect The Eternals to have a similar balance of comedy and drama as any other MCU picture. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, you might need to see it in action to truly understand why these characters are appealing, but history shows that Feige and company have form at introducing new sides to the MCU.
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