Part 1: How Marvel Studios ‘ETERNALS’ Sets the Table for the Future of the MCU
This article originally appeared at That Hashtag Show
When news broke that Marvel Studios was developing film around Eternals, most people were left wondering just who they were. Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige know they are playing with house money at this point, so their apparent willingness to gamble on yet another underappreciated property really isn’t a huge surprise because to this point, those gambles have paid off. Audiences trust the Marvel Studios brand and, for the time being, will continue to line up to see whatever they put on screen. However, as people look to find out more about the cast of characters we will be seeing when Eternals hits theaters on February 12, 2021, they may be surprised to find out that the film, which will likely have its root in the past, has the potential to be the epicenter for the future of the MCU.
When Jack Kirby came back to Marvel Comics in 1976, he created The Eternals and used their story to explore the idea that ancient aliens influenced the evolution of modern man. This is a theme he had played with before during his work on The Inhumans, but really doubled down on in The Eternals following the pop culture craze inspired by the books Chariots of the Gods? and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The theme has been repeated time and time again (Ridley Scott’s fascination with similar ideas certainly showed through in his Alien films and were followed through on in Prometheus), but now may be just the time for it to be fully explored in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While there’s no telling just what Kevin Feige and his team have planned, their love for Kirby’s work has been noticed more and more often over the past several films and it seems possible that they’ll be using one of his most compelling works to put gears into motion that could pay off for another decade. Marvel Studios doesn’t always closely follow the narrative spun by the comics, so anything written here is just my ideas about how Marvel Studios could apply Kirby’s ideas to the MCU.
In The Eternals, Kirby’s space gods were the giant beings known as The Celestials. We’ve already seen Celestials in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and so far, they don’t seem like they’re all that kind. Eson the Searcher wiped out a planet while Ego was set to take over the entire universe and happy to do so while killing all of his children.
Eternals, however, gives the Celestials a chance to redeem themselves a bit and is likely to stick pretty close to the story that Kirby laid over the first 19 issues of the comics and that was expanded upon over the past 40+ years. Created by the universe itself, the Celestials grew to become the great explorers and scientists of the Cosmos, visiting world after world and planting the seeds of evolution. On such a visit to Earth over 1,000,000 years ago, the Celestials encountered early man and as part of the First Host (the first of a series of 4 tests Celestials administer on all the planets where they meddle with evolution), and performed the experiments that would ultimately produce 3 offshoots of humanity: the Eternals, the Deviants and the Latents.
The Celestial known as Ziran the Tester created the Deviants of Earth (Homo descendus) by mutating their DNA, creating an unstable genome which caused each creature to undergo a unique mutation.The Deviants were sometimes hideous, often powerful and became villified throughout history as the monsters and demons of legend. The Celestial named Nezzar the Calculator created the Earthly Eternals (Homo immortus), beings of great beauty who would go on to become the heroes of legend and do battle with the Deviants for centuries. Finally, the Celestial known as Oneg the Prober experimented by adding a latent gene with the potential for mutation which would later manifest itself as the X-gene in Homo superior. Their work complete, the Celestials left Earth leaving the 3 offshoots of early man to fend for themselves. It would be somewhat surprising if we didn’t see the First Host at some point in Eternals or another film.
We know that we’ll be seeing the Terran Eternals in the 2020 film and though they were absent from the list of characters we mentioned, it would hardly be surprising to see their archenemies the Deviants in the film as well. The hatred and warring between them is reason enough to tell their story, a story which can lay the groundwork for many others. Of course Disney’s pending acquisition of the Fox-owned Marvel characters leaves open the titillating notion that Eternals could also provide the origin story for mutants in the MCU. Assuming that their deal is closed by the time the film begins production (tentatively scheduled to begin in London on September 4, 2019) it would take just a minor tweak to any existing script to tease their existence and thrill fans. While that’s far from certain, it’s also hardly the only interesting connection that can be made and so for now, we’ll put aside the enormous potential of mutants in the MCU and speculate as to how the rocky relationship among the Eternals and between the Eternals and Deviants can set up future films and also provide an explanation for some things we’ve already seen.
As the Eternals developed, they built a city called Titanos in Northern Asia. For a time Titanos was ruled by two of the earliest Eternals, the brothers Kronos and Uranos. Kronos was a man of science and philosophy whereas Uranos hungered for war and conquest. The two eventually went to war over Uranos’ wish to rule the planet. Kronos defeated his brother in single combat to end the war and exiled Uranos and his followers into the cosmos.
With Titanos destroyed and its population decimated, Kronos went about the rebuilding of the Titanos. Kronos carried on his scientific studies and fathered two sons, A’Lars and Zuras, whom he made swear an oath that they would never turn on each other the way he and his brother, Uranos, did. While experimenting with the cosmic energy that Eternals wield, Kronos accidentally caused the complete destruction of the rebuilt Titanos and vaporized himself. He later awoke, his mind having become one with the universe, and ascended to godlike levels eventually developing the ability to control and manipulate time. As those events unfolded on Earth, Uranos and his fellow exiles found their way through the cosmos, landing first on Uranus, where a small colony of Eternals remained, and then on one of Saturn’s moons, which they named Titan in honor of their former home. Titan developed for generations before the entity known as the Dragon of the Moon seeded mistrust between the colonists, mistrust that eventually grew into a war which claimed the lives of all but one of Titan’s inhabitants: Sui-San.
Back on Earth in the wake of Kronos’ death, the Eternals discovered the ability to create the Uni-Mind (they all meld together into one collective consciousness) and used it to determine which of Kronos’ sons should lead them into the future. The Uni-Mind chose Zuras as the leader and he lead his people to build 3 new Eternal cities: Olympia, in the Greek Mountains, Oceana in the Pacific Ocean and Polaira, located in northern Russia. From these 3 cities, many generations of Eternals were born. As for his brother, A’lars, kept his father’s dying wish and left Earth of his own accord. In search of a new home, A’lars eventually found the settlement on Titan and worked together with Sui-San to repopulate the colony. He and Sui-San had two children of their own: Thanos and his younger brother, Eros.
From these stories we can see a genealogy that has already influenced the MCU. A’lars, the father of Thanos, was name dropped in Avengers: Infinity War while Thanos was questing for the Soul Stone on Vormir. The early history of the Eternals which pitted brother against brother and ultimately led to the colonization of the cosmos by Terran Eternals certainly feels like something that could (maybe even SHOULD) come into play in the MCU. The character breakdowns we revealed indicated that the cities ruled over by the children of Kronos are both likely to feature in the film. Zuras and his daughter, Thena, are each set to be leads in the film as is A’lars other son, Eros, aka Starfox. In the comics Zuras and the Olympian Eternals were often mistaken for the gods of the Greek Pantheon (Zuras/Zeus, Thena/Athena, Makkari/Hermes) or as other legendary Greek figures (Sersi was the legendary witch Circe from The Odyssey). They made a deal with the Greek gods and it was all rather confusing in the comics. It would MUCH simpler, and not out of line with prior practice, for Marvel Studios to eliminate the confusion and just make the Eternals the Greek gods. If they were to do that, they could create a direct route to introducing the MCU version of Hercules, one of the most iconic Avengers yet to reach the big screen. We do know that they are looking for a male lead to portray a “Greek god” and that one of Herc’s pals, Gilgamesh, is set to appear in the film and are hopeful that means we’ll be getting to see Herc join the MCU in 2020 (and if we get Herc, can Ares be far behind?). We know that Feige has often said that one of the fun things about the Avengers is the rotating roster and if this movie introduces Hercules, Sersi and Starfox, they could join Monica Rambeau (set to be introduced as a young girl in Captain Marvel) as potential members of a future ensemble film.
As for the business on Titan, it’s safe to say that it’s a little more confusing and also a little more exciting. It’s important to remember that with a group of essentially immortal beings, this story can be told at any point, or points, in time. Starfox’s inclusion likely assures us of a trip to Titan and one that might well take place before the destruction described by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Josh Brolin has stated he’d happily return to work as Thanos again and it would not be surprising to see it happen. Should we see a pre-cataclysmic Titan, we might be fortunate enough to see Thanos’ parents, A’lars and Sui-San, develop the sentient super computer known as I.S.A.A.C.. I.S.A.A.C. controlled almost all of Titan and created several artificially engineered Titanian Eternals to aid him in his duties. One such creation, Elysius, is set to appear in the film and while her comic adventures were brief, they are noteworthy: Elysius used the DNA of the Kree hero Mar-Vell and created two children: Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell, the latter of whom became Quasar, the protector of the universe, and an integral character in the Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest story lines. Finally, there’s the business of the unknown character known as “Karen.” Described as being international with a timeless feel, “Karen” is set to be a powerful leader who is warm, intuitive and nurturing but also capable of kicking ass. Since there are no Karens involved with the Eternals, we’ve been left to speculate on just who this character might be and one of our favorite guesses is that this will be the MCU version of Moondragon. It would require some changes from the comics to be sure, but James Gunn’s decisions on characters in Guardians of the Galaxy has made those very possible. If we’re going to toss around ideas, we like the idea of adding one of Marvel’s most powerful females to the MCU.
As you can see the potential exists for several new characters and story lines to emerge from this film and that’s just part one. The Greek pantheon. The Dragon of the Moon. Phyla-Vell. The untold ancient history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sounds like the types of things that could set up another 10 years of stories.