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Love it or hate it, Chloé Zhao's Eternals breaks a ton of new ground for the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe. And we're not just talking about the off-the-wall concepts — whether it's the immortal race of aliens who have lived on Earth for the last 7,000 years, or the galaxy-creating deity that made them to fight evil lizard monsters.
No, we're talking about some of the smaller, more intimate character beats like the first-ever sex scene to be featured in a Marvel film. The scene takes place between Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden), who were romantically bound for several millennia before Ikaris decided to up and leave without an explanation. (No spoilers as to why!)
During a recent interview with Just Jared, Zhao — a recent Oscar-winner for Nomadland — revealed that the PG-13 sex scene had been a part of the movie from the very beginning, back when the nacent blockbuster was still in treatment form. The scene then carried over into the first round of screenplay drafts penned by cousins Kaz and Ryan Firpo (the duo's work was ultimately fleshed out by Zhao and writer Patrick Burleigh).
"I think that love is a beautiful thing," Kaz told SYFY WIRE over a Zoom call. "And that’s something that’s a big part of this movie in every single way. There’s love between family, there’s platonic love, there’s romantic love, there’s the same-sex relationship. All these things are really important for us to reflect because I think the world is filled with all these different kinds of love. Sex is natural. I think that everyone in the world is probably going to see sex in some form in their lifetime."
He went on to discuss the strange cognitive dissonance in Hollywood in which major studios have no problem presenting over-the-top violence while shying away from depictions of love and tenderness. The act of making love, Firpo argues, is much tamer when compared with the stomach-turning torture porn of Saw, Hostel, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
"What [audiences are] probably not gonna see is someone get their head chopped off with a chainsaw and yet, for some reason, [for] American movies that’s completely acceptable to see graphic violence," he explained. "To just see ... I would say innocent, beautiful [and] romantic love — especially the way that Chloe photographed it — it’s just a really beautiful scene and it’s very tender."
“You can’t tell a mature love story if you’re not gonna do some kind of…it’s lovely to see two people show physical affection for each other — a kiss, make love,” Zhao told Just Jared.
Above all, the consummation of Sersi and Ikaris's love was to imbue these near-invincible gods with relatable human attributes.
"I think that was something we wanted to reflect — that these gods, they’re like us," Kaz said. "They are fallible like us, they make mistakes like us, they love like us and so, from the beginning, that was something that we were really excited to try to push…just the boundaries a little bit and expand what people expect from a film like this."
Eternals is now playing in theaters everywhere.