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Marvel Studios greenlights rumored Eternals movie for post-Avengers 4 phase

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Chloe Zhao will direct a film about the mythic superheroes

The cover of Avengers #248, Marvel Comics (1984). Allen Milgrom, Joe Sinnott/Marvel Comics

Chloe Zhao will direct The Eternals for Marvel Studios, according to the Hollywood Reporter, in one of the first definite hints at the future the production company has planned for Marvel Cinematic Universe, following Avengers 4 and the end of its “Phase Three.” Kevin Feige confirmed the movie was in early development in April, 2018.

The Eternals will feature “the super-powered and near-immortal beings known as Eternals,” according to THR, “and a more monstrous off-shoot known as the Deviants that were created by cosmic beings known as Celestials.” The story will also, at least in part, involve a love story between the Eternals Ikaris and Sersi, the latter of whom loves spending time with mortal humans.

The Eternals are a relatively obscure group of Marvel Comics characters. Jack Kirby, one of the major architects of the Marvel universe, really, really liked shaggy God stories, and the Eternals was the second time he’d created a group of mythologically inspired heroes for Marvel, after the Inhumans.

The Eternals and their foes, the Deviants, are two distinct races genetically crafted from proto-humans 5 million years ago by beings known as the Celestials (in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve already met a Celestial: Ego, the living planet, villain of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Like the Inhumans, they have special powers beyond those of mortal men, and live for a lot longer. And like the Inhumans, many of them have names similar to mythological gods and heroes — implying that they were the original inspiration for those myths in ancient times.

Kirby created the Eternals much later in Marvel’s history than the Inhumans, during his return to the company after spending several years at publishing rival DC Comics. During that stint at DC he’d famously created DC’s Fourth World setting and the characters of the New Gods — whose movie is in development with Ava DuVernay at Warner Bros. studios — a project he had tried to get off the ground at Marvel without success.

But the Eternals have one major tie to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe: Thanos. Jim Starlin, who created Thanos, admits that he was heavily inspired by Jack Kirby’s work on the New Gods. Thanos was written into Marvel Comics as a member of the Titan race while Kirby was working for DC. After he returned and created the Eternals, Starlin’s Titans were retconned to be a splinter group of Eternals who left Earth to live on the Titan — making Thanos an Eternal.

One wonders what the Eternals will make of the destruction one of their kind wrecked across the universe in Avengers: Infinity War.