With 'The Eternals', Marvel Continues to Give Unlikely Heroes a Chance to Shine

Chloe Zhao will direct the upcoming adventure.

Marvel Eternals

Phase Three is coming to an end. Soon, characters we’ve grown accustomed to over the past decade will say their final goodbyes. Some of them will return for further cinematic adventures, but this is still a swansong at the end of the day. Fret not, though, friends: exciting times are coming. New heroes and villains will be introduced to the long-running franchise, some of whom will likely take us by surprise. The end of an era is always sad, but Marvel’s storied history and a rich roster of diverse characters spell a future of galactic possibilities.

For their latest announcement, Kevin Feige and co. have dug deep into the Marvel vaults to bring a new band of heroes to multiplexes in the near future. That’s right — after months of teasing, The Eternals is a go. Rejoice.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news, confirming that The Rider‘s Chloe Zhao has signed on to direct to the adventure. She’ll be working from a script by Matthew and Ryan Firpo, whose screenplay for the Nazi-hunting saga Ruin topped the 2017 Black List. Little is known about the story at the time of writing, but sources told THR that it will feature a love story between the main characters, Ikaris and Sersi.

This is another positive move by Marvel, who are finally using their platform to give talented female filmmakers deserved opportunities. Millennium Films should consider doing the same. Zhao is the third woman to direct an MCU movie. She follows in the footsteps of Anna Boden and Cate Shortland, who are helming Captain Marvel and Black Widow’s first solo outing, respectively. Furthermore, this continues their trend of plucking talent from the world of independent cinema and giving them a key to their blockbuster superhero kingdom.

But that’s not the only reason why Zhao’s appointment rules. The Eternals is a movie in the right direction because it marks the first MCU movie to be helmed by a woman that isn’t predominantly centered around a female protagonist. Lexi Alexander directed the awesome Punisher: War Zone under the short-lived Marvel Knights banner, but that wasn’t part of the current ongoing tentpole franchise. Women telling stories about women is great. Women telling stories of all types is even better.

For this reason alone, The Eternals is an important film. But what about the movie itself? Why should we be excited about an adaptation of comics no one ever talks about? Well, the fact that Marvel is about to launch a band of forgotten misfits into the mainstream consciousness is the exciting part. Once again, the studio has shown that it’s more than willing to give obscure characters a chance to shine alongside their famous stalwarts. Who doesn’t love an underdog story?

The original comic series was created by Jack Kirby. After returning to Marvel in the 70’s following a stint with DC, he was obsessed with cosmic concepts and Greek mythology. The Eternals — a race of genetically-superior beings who were created by powerful entities known as The Celestials — were a by-product of his fascinations. Unfortunately, cool concepts don’t always sell comics.

When Kirby created the characters, he envisioned them as stand-alone entities with no clear connection to the rest of the Marvel universe. In later years, other creators came along and integrated the Eternals into the bigger picture. I don’t know how Kirby would feel about their inclusion in the MCU, but I suspect the studio will want them to pair up with Spidey, et al eventually.

We’ve known that the Eternals has been planned for months, but this confirmation is heart-warming. Iron-Man, Spider-Man, Cap and other key players have been pivotal to the MCU’s success, sure — when the MCU became a thing we always knew they’d be a big part of proceedings. But none of us ever expected the Guardians, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man to receive their own big screen yarns, let alone succeed.

The Marvel brand is powerful enough to sell itself these days. They can afford to take these chances, and long may they continue resurrecting obscure delights. Now, whose shoes do we have to shine to get that NFL Superpro movie the world doesn’t know it needs yet?

"Kieran is like a steady flame that refuses to waver in the breeze, eternally burning and guiding us to a better world." - Ian West