Plot details have been scant to date for Eternals, Marvel’s forthcoming film based on the comic book series of the same name, created by Jack Kirby in 1976. We now have the final trailer, and it’s a doozy: nearly three full minutes of mostly new footage, heavy on exposition and the striking CGI-heavy visuals Marvel is known for. The trailer also answers one obvious burning question: Just where were these incredibly powerful eternal beings when all the action with Thanos wiping out half of humanity was going down? I mean, humanity really could have used their help.
As I’ve written about previously, the comic book storyline is about alien Celestials who visited Earth a million years ago, creating two divergent races—the Eternals and the Deviants—by way of genetic experiments. Those experiments were also responsible for the rare emergence of super-power-granting mutations in certain humans. The Eternals protect the human race from the Deviants, and the two races engage in recurrent violent clashes. The Eternals’ immortality and powers come from cosmic energy and their ability to channel it. A new Eternals comic series, written by Kieron Gillen with art by Esad Ribić, was launched in January of this year.
We know the film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and that an unexpected tragedy will force the Eternals out of hiding to join forces with humans to fight their ancient enemy, the Deviants. An extended teaser dropped in May, set to a mournful cover of “The End of the World.” The teaser didn’t convey much information in terms of plot, but it did give us glimpses of our primary characters over the course of centuries.
The cast features Angelina Jolie as Thena, a fierce warrior who can fashion weapons out of cosmic energy; Don Lee as Gilgamesh, one of the oldest and strongest Eternals; Salma Hayek as Ajak, who has healing powers; Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, an inventor who is also the first gay superhero in the MCU; and Richard Madden as Ikaris, who has super-strength and can fly and shoot cosmic energy beams from his eyes. Ikaris has a love affair spanning centuries with Gemma Chan’s Sersi, who nonetheless is dating Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington), a human warrior with a mystical sword. (Cue all the “You know nothing, Dane Whitman” jokes.)
There is also Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, who can shoot energy projectiles from his hands; Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, the first deaf superhero in the MCU; Liz McHugh as Sprite, who can project illusions and appears as a 12-year-old girl; and Barry Keoghan as Druig, who can control minds. The supporting cast includes Haaz Sleiman, an architect married to Phastos (they also have a child), and Ozer Ercan as a smuggler.
The trailer opens with Hayek’s Ajak on horseback, riding to meet Ikaris on the porch of a rural farmhouse. It’s her job to provide the initial narrative exposition. “Five years ago, Thanos erased over half of the population of the universe,” she tells Ikaris. “A lot of people on this planet brought everyone back with a snap of a finger. The sudden return of the population provided the necessary energy for the Emergence to begin.” We see a powerful burst of celestial energy and something drop down to Earth with the force of a meteorite impact, as Ikaris asks how long they have. Answer: seven days.
Next it’s Chan’s turn as Sersi to provide the expository voice-over for Dane’s (and our) benefit. “We’re Eternals,” she explains. “We came here 7,000 years ago to protect humans from the Deviants.” Dane asks the question we’ve all been wondering: Where were the Eternals when the Avengers and their allies were battling Thanos—not to mention “all the other terrible things throughout history?” She replies that their instructions were to not interfere in human conflicts “unless Deviants were involved.” That’s a rather unsatisfactory answer that raises another obvious question: Who gave those instructions? Cut to a shot of an imposing red-hued humanoid figure—perhaps the head Celestial?
With the Emergence coming, it’s time for the Eternals to make like the Avengers and assemble, even though some of them haven’t met for centuries. They find Gilgamesh and Thena engaged in a bit of combat training, with some great shots of Thena wielding a gorgeous shape-shifting weapon of cosmic energy. There’s a volcanic eruption, a battle against a monster that emerges from the sea, and the occasional spot of humor. (“You know what’s never saved the planet? Your sarcasm,” an irritated Phastos says to an unrepentant Druig at one point.)
It’s not long before Thena finds herself confronting a Deviant general named Kro. “We’ve loved these people since the day we arrived,” Thena tells him. “When you love something, you protect it.” Kro replies, “You can’t protect any of them.” And, of course, we get one last humorous scene to lighten the apocalyptic mood, as Ikaris accidentally breaks a table from Ikea’s fall collection after assuming it must be made of vibranium or something.
Eternals hits theaters on November 5, 2021. Given the continued rapid spread of the delta variant, we recommend only going to see movies in theaters if you have been fully vaccinated and wear a mask for the duration of the film.
Listing image by YouTube/Marvel Studios