By Nick Nimkoff
For The Diamondback
Following this weekend’s WandaVision finale and last weekend’s Golden Globes, Marvel fans have reason to be excited about Eternals, helmed by Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao.
The Golden Globes proved fruitful for Zhao, as she took home Best Director for Nomadland, which also won Best Drama.
Now, many are wondering why the rising star in independent filmmaking jumped to Marvel for her next film.
Eternals centers on a group of immortal beings who have been secretly living on Earth for 7,000 years while fighting a race of beings known as the Deviants. The team is led by an all-star cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek and Don Lee in addition to Game of Thrones alumni Kit Harington and Richard Madden.
Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi will also be scoring the film after a long break from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having scored Iron Man in 2008.
The cast is diverse for a big blockbuster. Aside from some very famous names, Marvel is taking representation into account with the film’s cast. Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari will be the first deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos will be the first openly gay Marvel hero alongside Haaz Sleiman, who will play Phastos’ husband.
Eternals is very much Marvel’s next Guardians of the Galaxy — a movie featuring an all-star cast but based on material almost no one has actually read. I believe the film is likely to be based on the Jack Kirby version of the characters with influence drawn from Neil Gaiman’s adaptation from the mid-2000s.
The comic book characters have an interesting history in the existing Marvel universe, having been created by the Celestials who we saw briefly in Guardians of the Galaxy.
More important is their connection to Thanos, who has previously been an outcast member of the Eternals in the comics. This has led many to wonder if we really saw the last of The Mad Titan in Avengers: Endgame or if we may see a young Thanos at some point in this 7,000-year story.
Zhao was not picked out of obscurity — in fact she went to Marvel to pitch her ideas for Eternals, which landed her the job as director. Zhao was also in the running to direct another Marvel movie, Black Widow.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said Zhao’s pitch was so good that the studio wanted to sign her on before she could sign with anyone else. He also called the LGBTQ relationship seen in the film “extremely well done” and “inherent in the story” in a Hollywood Reporter article.
After Avengers: Endgame’s lackluster LGBTQ representation, featuring a single conversation with a gay man played by straight director Joe Russo, the idea that this relationship will be essential to the story is wonderful to hear.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally seems to be reflecting representation in the real world, something Zhao made sure the film would do.
In the same Hollywood Reporter story, Zhao said, “I want you to walk away at the end of the movie not thinking, ‘This person is this ethnicity, that person is that nationality.’ No. I want you to walk away thinking, ‘That’s a family.’”
Zhao is also pulling inspiration from other movies, referencing The Revenant for some action sequences, according to Comic Book Resources.
Zhao said Marvel took a risk by allowing her to use a film setup similar to what she used while filming Nomadland, according to another Comic Book Resources article, which will create something new and exciting for audiences.
Eternals won’t hit theaters until November, but I’m wondering if Marvel may be holding off on releasing a teaser on the chance they will be able to say, “From Academy Award Winner Chloé Zhao.”
Considering how well Nomadland has been doing, and the competition being fairly light this year, there is a good chance Zhao will prevail at the Oscars in April.
So if WandaVision didn’t end quite the way you wanted it to or you just want to see where Zhao goes next, then look to the stars, as the Eternals are on their way.