Yesterday, the first trailer for Marvel Studios Eternals dropped online and immediately broke the internet, trending at #1 on YouTube for a full day straight, and garnering 10M views in 17 hours alone! And let’s be honest, at this point it’s incredibly expected for several factors: the unwavering popularity of the MCU; the fact that the film represents Chloe Zhao’s follow up to the Oscar-winning Nomadland; and alluring and heightened curiosity around who these characters are and what their role is within the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wait a sec! Back up! Who are these characters?
It’s true. The fact of the matter is, much like Guardians of the Galaxy was in 2014 and Shang Chi is going to be this fall, Eternals represents an incredibly new and untested property for Marvel Studios. Unlike characters like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, or Black Panther, very few folks have heard of, much less picked up a comic book starring, Jack Kirby’s The Eternals. And that’s honestly because unlike the aforementioned established household Marvel names, the books were never consistently as published or as popular as many other legends within the Marvel canon. In fact, Kirby’s original run was cancelled after two years before he could even finish his storylines (those storylines had to be resolved in a Thor book eventually). Following that, it was sporadically published between the 80s and 00s, essentially skipping the 90s entirely, during which properties like X-Men and Spider-Man reigned supreme, thanks to the greatest cartoon shows of all time! As such, as of this trailer’s debut, audiences everywhere had to admit they didn’t know what to expect and didn’t really know much about this incredible race of immortal god-like beings prior to the release of the trailer (or at least the official announcement of the film back at San Diego Comic Con 2019).
So who or what are The Eternals? In the shortest definition possible, The Eternals are a race of advance aliens created by Celestials to protect Earth from another alien race called the Deviants (also created by Celestials). They have appeared throughout humanity’s existence, providing much of civilization with technology and assistance. Still confused?
Well thankfully, in the words of Loki from Thor Ragnarok, “YOUR SAVIOR IS HERE!” We are going to do everything we can to take this journey into mystery with you and explore, with our own limited knowledge of these characters, what we just saw and what it all means! And if you trust me at all (which you really shouldn’t, since I’m the guy who was embarrassingly wrong about WandaVision in so many, many, many ways) I promise you, you’ll be in the best of hands (That’s a lie! Run away now! While you still can!)
(Warning: 99% speculation and self-indulgence ahead).
When the trailer begins to the melancholy tune of The Carpenters’ “The End of the World,” we see a literal nomad land of herders and hunters during ancient (possibly Biblical) times!
Something captures the attention of these lowly beings, and behold, we see a giant space craft!
Inside the ship we get our first glimpse of Gemma Chan’s Sersi and Richard Madden’s Ikaris. Instantly we know there’s a romantic connection between them (which will be confirmed later in the trailer). Sersi in the comics has the ability to manipulate atoms and molecules. She’s typically seen as a bit of a party-girl on modern day Earth, but it’s hard to tell if they’ll follow through with that based on what we see of her in this trailer. Ikaris, on the other hand, is a bit like Superman. He’s got flight, super strength and speed, and cosmic energy beams from his eyes. He’s also like Superman in terms of characteristics. He believes in justice and fairness, and he’s honestly a little boring. But I don’t think he will be here, played by the king of the north himself, Richard Madden.
From there, we get a new glimpse of Angelina Jolie looking powerful as all hell as Thena, along with a fantastic looking Salma Hayek as Ajak, and Brian Tyree Henry doing some really cool presentation tricks as Phastos. In the comics Ajak is male and is not the leader of the Eternals, even though the cinematic version is said to be depicted as their leader in the film. Ajak has the ability to communicate directly with Celestials, along with flight, strength, and immortality most of the Eternals have. In contrast, Phastos is essentially the Eternal’s inventor. He’s helped provide humanity with many tools and pieces of technology, but also builds weapons and devices for the Eternals themselves. And Thena, in the comics is a fierce warrior who can cast various illusions and project cosmic energy from her body. The glowing gold light manifesting itself from Thena and Phastos is said to be that cosmic energy.
Next we get a few shots of the Eternals, particularly Sersi, helping the ancient civilizations on Earth with farming and basic survival tasks, as well as regular humans treating her like a god, to the voice over from Ajak saying, “We have watched, and guided. We have helped them progress.”
We get a quick shot of someone (most likely Sersi) providing some technology to one of the ancient humans.
We then get a badass warrior scene with Thena using her quick reflexes and sharp staff to cut through a few banners. Fun fact: The Eternals and the Greek gods created a treaty with one another, at which Thena’s father, Zuras, had her name changed from Azura to Thena to seal the treaty. From there The Eternals would act as representatives for the Greek gods on earth, and Thena was the proxy for Athena.
Ajak’s voice over continues as she says The Eternals have seen humanity “accomplish wonders.” Here we get a shot of some of the ancient biblical humans we saw in the beginning now surrounded by stone buildings and columns, bowing down to the group consisting of Makkari, Thena, Ikarus, Kingo, and Gilgamesh.
We then get a great shot of Makkari speed reading among a library of treasures and artifacts. She’s wearing chucks and a modern hoodie/jacket, so we can assume this is a shot that takes place in present day. We see a ton of scrolls, and an Egyptian ankh hanging near her lamp. The ankh is typically a symbol meaning life. In the comics Makkari is a male character, who channels most of his cosmic energy into his speed, which costs him the ability to fly and weakens his other abilities too. He’s usually made more of an effort to intervene in Earth’s affairs than the other Eternals, even going so far as to pose as Thoth of Egyptian mythology. That said, in the film, Makkari is female and deaf, being played by Walking Dead star, Lauren Ridloff.
Ajak’s voice over continues saying that “Throughout the years, we have never interfered.” The trailer shows shots of Sersi through the ages, probably exploring her memories given she’s in the same outfit in both shots. Many folks are angry about the idea that the Eternals didn’t “interfere” or help with Thanos. But it’s very possible they were forbidden from it by the Celestials. We’ll need to see why they sat out the Infinity Saga.
Next, we get more shots of historical events (though it seems unclear what) and some brutality going on, before we get to a really great shot of Lia McHugh’s Sprite. Sprite in the comics was said to be Shakespeare’s inspiration for Puck from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and JM Barrie’s inspiration for Peter Pan. Another character that was male in the comics, Sprite is a mischievous trickster that has the ability to channel cosmic energy to cast illusions.
From there we get an assorted series of shots including what looks like Ajak and Phastos comforting one another, and our first really great look at Barry Keoghan as Druig.
Druig in the comics has the same abilities as most of the Eternals (flight, strength, speed, cosmic blasts), but can also control minds. He seems to be living in some commune somewhere in this shot. He’s the most aloof of the characters, and a bit more sadistic, most of the time disagreeing with the Eternals interacting with humanity.
Ajak then says “…Until Now” referring to some reason the Eternals are now finally coming in to assist mankind. We get a glimpse of Gilgamesh locking fingers with someone, as well as Makkari in ancient times rushing in to save a child from a collapsing column (like I said she intervenes more than most). And a shot of Ajak using some cosmic energy.
This next shot is very interesting. We see Druig, Sersi, and Makkari connecting to one another using cosmic energy. This to me indicates they’re employing a technique from the comics called the Uni-Mind. In the comics, The Eternals are one of a very few species that could perform a move called the Uni-Mind, in which they use cosmic energy to bind themselves to one another into a single being of light, mind, and energy through will and intelligence. They can use the Uni-Mind ritual in defense, for knowledge, or to send messages.
We then see a montage of badass scenes including Thena preparing for battle using cosmic energy flowing through her sword.
And also a series of shots showing the immortal romance between Sersi and Ikaris. I don’t recall if this is something that happens in the comics, to be honest. I know Sersi has been romantically connected to Black Knight (who we’ll get to in this trailer) but her being with Ikaris is a bit new for me.
We next see a few Bollywood shots of Kingo. In the film, Kingo (played by Kumail Nanjiani) uses his powers to become a famous Bollywood actor. In the comics, Kingo also becomes an actor and producer, but he’s also secretly a badass swordsman, armed with a blade made by Phastos. He’s usually depicted in more of a stereotypical samurai style. For obvious reasons I’m glad they changed this.
We then get an eerie shot of a battle with a bunch of humans with glowing red eyes lifting up rifles in unison. The clothes and woodsy area of this scene remind me of the location where the trailer first shows Druig. Knowing he uses his abilities to control minds, it’s potentially safe to assume he’s created some sort of cult with followers that he’s mind controlled. It’s admittedly insanely creepy.
We next get a shot of a volcano exploding — perhaps Vesuvius during Pompeii? — we should ask Kit Harrington he was in that movie and this one, but fair warning; he might know nothing).
We get a brief shot of Sprite rocking a karaoke mic on what looks like someone’s private jet (presumably Kingo’s).
And next we get our first and only peak at Kit Harrington playing Dane Whitman, aka Black Knight, with Sersi! Perhaps this is an allusion to their romance from the comic.
In the comics, Black Knight is an Avenger, a descendent of the fabled Black Knight from Arthurian legend, and the most skilled swordsman in the Marvel universe. The most famous blade he wielded was called the Ebony Blade, which was indestructible, could cut through anything (including adamantium, the metal Wolverine’s claws are made of), immune to magic, and could do all sorts of other stuff. It was actually cursed so he had to get rid of it. No idea if the film will touch on this weapon or not. But it’s very possible it’ll touch on Sersi and his relationship.
Then we get the money shot of the entire team gathered together on a cliff. From left to right: Kingo, Makkari, Gilgamesh, Thena, Ikaris, Ajak, Sersi, Sprite, Phastos, and Druig.
And naturally the MCU connecting stinger, where everyone laughs at Ikaris’s ambition of leading the Avengers. The scene appears to take place in Gilgamesh’s humble home.
In the film, Gilgamesh is played by Don Lee, and seems to be kindly from this trailer. In the comics, Gilgamesh becomes exiled as an outcast by Zuras, father of Thena, for helping people of Earth too much, and becomes known as The Forgotten One. Sprite eventually convinces him to come back and help them fight the Deviants.
Phew! I know that was a lot to go through. Hopefully this helps with the history lesson a little bit. But between you and me, we all know the best way to learn more about who these incredibly powerful immortals are, and why they may not have been present during the Infinity Saga, would be the pick up some of the old trade-paperback comics featuring the MCU’s next major heroes!
There’s the original Jack Kirby run from the ‘70s, a run from 2006 by Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. that’s quite good, and a new one that just started in March of this year from Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic. Pick them up from your local comic book store.
Then join me at the movies when Marvel Studios’ Eternals hits theaters on November 5!