No matter what excuses the Eternals give in Marvel’s upcoming feature from director Chloé Zhao, the ancient heroes will never be able to live down the fact that they apparently felt comfortable sitting out multiple world-ending calamities. Calamities in which their powers undoubtedly would’ve saved a significant number of people, and helped stop many lower-case “D” deviants from wreaking havoc.
Like their comics counterparts, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Eternals were tasked with protecting the Earth from harm, but only if said harm originated from the judgmentally named Deviants, a group of enhanced beings created by the Celestials (yet another group of mythic beings who’ve been seen in a number of Marvel projects). Various Celestials popping up in movies like Thor: The Dark World and the Guardians of the Galaxy have teased the promise of the MCU leaning more into the wildness of Jack Kirby’s — the Celestials’ creator — imagination in live-action features, and Eternals is poised to dig into their mythos a bit more thoroughly given the Eternals’ canonical connections to them.
In Marvel’s comics, the Celestials are explained as some of the first beings to have ever come into existence; as such, they played a role in the creation of at least one universe. According to both Zhao and Kevin Feige, Eternals is going to tap into that idea. In a recent interview with Fandango, the director spoke about a new featurette in which Feige explained that Eternals “explores the very creation of the Marvel universe itself.” Zhao echoed Feige’s sentiment and detailed how the film is meant to fundamentally recontextualize audiences’ understandings of the Earth’s position in the grander scheme of things. “I think a big part of it is that audiences will be discovering the origin of the MCU through the mythology of the Celestials,” Zhao said. “I think by the end of the film, we will have a new understanding of planet Earth’s relationship with the cosmos, and also with her own inhabitants. But in that sense, it would have a huge effect on the future of the MCU.”
The Celestials’ comics lore is deep and sprawling, but there are a handful of elements that may lend themselves to what Zhao and Feige have both been talking about with Eternals. In the comics, the Celestials are known to have begun as one of the first two races of sentient beings created by the First Firmament, a sentient and singular universe completely devoid of any other intelligent life. Unlike the Aspirants — who modelled their controlled, orderly behaviour after the First Firmament’s — the Celestials were considered by their creator to be unruly and chaotic because of their obsession with enacting change on the universe by encouraging organic evolution.
While the war between the Aspirants and the Celestials is what led to the creation of Marvel’s comics multiverse, the chunk of their lore that Eternals may hone in on is their role as the architects of evolution on Earth — a process that would eventually give rise to the Deviants and the Eternals. Zhao sees the Eternals as “Earth’s original superheroes” who were meant to step aside in order for the Earth to eventually give birth to people like Tony Stark, one of the heroes the Eternals will be taking the torch from once they finally arrive (a small glimpse of which can be seen in another brief new trailer for the film down below). Even with all of that backstory guiding their decisions, it’s not as if the Eternals have been completely MIA this whole time, which is what makes it a little hard to see exactly how they’re going to explain themselves once they start interacting with characters from previous Marvel phases after Eternals hits theatres November 5.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.