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Who Are the Eternals? An Introduction to Marvel's Newest Superheroes

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to look a lot different in Phase 4

Kaitlin Thomas

Now that the Avengers have reversed Thanos' (Josh Brolin) Snap and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has successfully taken down Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) to close out Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we're staring at a much different version of the MCU than the one we've come to know and love. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has already promised that Phase 4 will look much different, and that starts with The Eternals.

After months of rumors, the first wave of cast announcements for the upcoming Eternals film was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con: Richard Madden is Ikaris; Angelina Jolie plays Thena; Salma Hayek is Ajak; Kumail Nanjiani appears as Kingo; Lauren Ridloff is Makkari; Brian Tyree Henry will be Phastos; Lia McHugh plays Sprite, and Don Lee is Gilgamesh.

The second wave of casting information came at the 2019 D23 Expo, with Kevin Feige announcing that Kit Harington would play Dane Whitman, aka the Black Knight. Also announced to be joining the project were Gemma Chan, who will play Sersi, and Barry Keoghan, who will play Druig.

The film will be directed by Chloe Zhao and will hit theaters on Nov. 6, 2020.

It's exciting to know who's joining the next chapter of the MCU, but... who exactly are the Eternals? If you don't know yet, that's totally OK. The Eternals aren't as well known as, say, Captain America (Chris Evans) or Thor (Chris Hemsworth), but let's be honest: How many people actually knew who Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) or Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) was prior to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy? You see my point.


So, who are the Eternals?

Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, the Eternals debuted in Marvel Comics in 1976. Their story is deeply steeped in mythology, as they are a race of godlike beings tied to the very early beginnings of human evolution. They were created by the superior Celestials, immensely powerful and immensely old entities, through genetic experiments on the earliest forms of humanity. These experiments, which led to the possibility of super-powered mutation in humans, produced two races: the Eternals and the Deviants.

Marvel Reveals the Cast of Eternals Movie at Comic-Con

In case it isn't clear by their name, the Deviants are not all that great! They are less evolved than the Eternals, and they are violent and unstable on top of being pretty darn ugly. They are the sworn enemy of the Eternals, basically. A lot of the mythology surrounding hell and the presence of demons sprung up from humanity's interactions with the Deviants.

While the Deviants are the subject of most of the Eternals' frustrations, the Celestials sometimes return to judge their creations, and that doesn't always go so well. But the Eternals have also been their own worst enemies at times too. A long time ago, a civil war erupted and the Eternals split into two factions, one led by the good Kronos and the other by Uranos. Their aggressions continued until Kronos eventually won out, and Uranos and his followers were exiled. After a conflict with the Kree (if you watched Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain Marvel, you know who the Kree are by now), they settled on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. Meanwhile, Kronos and the rest of the good guys remained on Earth.

To make a long story a bit longer, eventually, Thanos was born to the leader of Titan. And we all know about Thanos and what a big jerk he was. It's unclear whether or not the Eternals movie will in some way make reference to Thanos, but this is the MCU: Everything is connected.

What powers do the Eternals have?

Although the Eternals look human, they have incredible superpowers. They are virtually immortal and have protected humanity from the Deviants with a lengthy list of powers that include superhuman strength, telepathy, teleportation, flight, generating illusions (not with drones, Mysterio), the transmutation of objects, and being able to generate various forms of energy from their bodies. They also have incredible mental control over every single molecule in their bodies. Additionally, they are immune to things that humans are not, like poison and disease, and they can regenerate if somehow injured by a conventional weapon. Pretty cool, huh?

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It's unclear at this stage whether or not Marvel will limit the powers of the Eternals on-screen. The MCU hand-cuffed both Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) in order to build up Thanos and make him appear more powerful. Captain Marvel was also used sparingly in Avengers: Endgame for this same reason. But given that the story at the heart of the Eternals will likely be much different, it's also entirely possible they'll retain all of their incredible powers. Hopefully we'll see a Uni-Mind -- otherwise known as a collective being created when several Eternals merge their consciousness into one.

Marvel's Eternals
Marvel Comics

Sure, but who are the Eternals?

Oh, you mean, like, specifically? OK, I guess that might be important information.

Madden is playing Ikaris, the leader of the Eternals in the comics who takes his name from his dead son, Icarus -- yes, the Icarus of Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun. After his son's tragic death, Ikaris took on his current name, and his real name remains unknown. Like the rest of the Eternals, he possesses a number of powers, including flight, superhuman strength, and the ability to regenerate.

Meanwhile, Jolie is taking on the role of Thena, not Sersi like many assumed. She is frequently confused with the Greek goddess Athena for obvious reasons, and the city of Athens was apparently built for her, not Athena. She's highly educated and skilled in hand-to-hand combat in addition to possessing many of the same powers as the rest of the Eternals.

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Elsewhere, Hayek is playing Ajak, an Eternal who fought in the Trojan War. If the name reminds you of the legendary Ajax, well, there's a reason. There is also Sprite, who will be played by McHugh. Sprite appears as a child and is a dangerous trickster. Ridloff's Makkari is an Eternal who is superhumanly fast, Henry's Phastos is known to have built most of the Eternals' devices in the comics, and Nanjiani's Kingo is a master swordsman.

OK, is there anything else I need to know?

Remember when they went to Knowhere in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War? Knowhere is the skull of a Celestial! I'm not sure you really needed to know this, but maybe it will come in handy at trivia or something.

Additional reporting by Megan Vick.