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Marvel's Eternals will have 'huge repercussions' for the MCU's future, says director Chloe Zhao

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Oct 1, 2021, 2:56 PM EDT

A world-protecting team of ancient aliens are about to put their hands on the steering wheel and guide the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe onto a bold new stretch of road. We are, of course, referring to the Eternals, who will be introduced to millions of audience members next month when their own movie — helmed and co-written by Chloé Zhao — hits the big screen. 

"Let me try and say this without getting into trouble," Zhao told Empire for the magazine's November 2021 issue. "This film has huge repercussions for the future of the MCU. Huge!"

That's a rather bold statement to make, but the recent Oscar-winner has the narrative scope and ensemble cast to prove it. Set over a period of 7,000 years, the upcoming film follows a race of god-like beings who have guided humanity along since the dawn of time, all while protecting them from apocalyptic monsters known as Deviants.

Such a massive tale needed massive sets to go with it. Zhao shot on practical sets and locations wherever she could, but this approach sometimes proved difficult for the actors. Richard Madden (who plays the all-powerful Ikaris), for instance, got lost several times in on the set used for the interior of the Eternals' spaceship. "In my defense, it was ten times the size of my flat," he remarked.

Credit: Marvel Studios

As we've reported on before, Zhao used stills from Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 while pitching Eternals to Disney and Marvel Studios. Empire takes that a step further by revealing that the filmmaker was inspired by "the vastness of The Revenant, the world-building of Blade Runner, and the philosophising of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life."

"Even I was shocked by what we were setting out to do and how different it felt. Every day on set, I thought to myself: 'Wait, are we really doing this?'" Zhao added. "When I signed on, it was right on the eve of Endgame. I think everyone felt like, 'Wow, this incredible journey is coming to an end. What's next?' I had such a desire to bat the very frontier of finding the answer to that question. It's not just me coming in with a different type of filmmaking. Marvel are also trying to tell a different type of story. We're all putting our necks on the line here."

Credit: Marvel Studios

Eternals isn't just ambitious in its storytelling, it also swings for the fences with a cast chock full of of A-listers you don't usually find outside of an Avengers film. Angelina Jolie, who leads the titular group as a fierce warrior by the name of Thena, once revealed to Empire that she once turned down a coveted superhero role, though she didn't go into specifics (was it perhaps Wonder Woman?). "It's not usually what I'm looking to do," Jolie said of the superhero genre as a whole. "[But] it felt like something else was happening in this film, though. It was very character-driven."

Gemma Chan (human-loving Sersi), Kumail Nanjiani (cosmic-powered Kingo, who also happens to be a famous movie star in the MCU), Lia McHugh (eternal young/old Sprite), Brian Tyree Henry (intelligent inventor Phastos), Laren Ridloff (super-fast Makkari), Barry Keoghan (aloof Druig), and Don Lee (powerful Gilgamesh) make up the rest of the Eternals. Kit Harington co-stars as Dane Whitman, a human who, in the comics, is known for his alter ego, Black Knight.

Eternals opens in theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 5.