clock menu more-arrow no yes
Gilgmaesh and Thena staring down Deviants at the beach in Eternals Image: Marvel Studios

Filed under:

Our biggest questions after Eternals, and a few key answers

What’s the real reason the Eternals didn’t fight Thanos? Can Eternals reincarnate? Why isn’t Starfox huge and purple?

With so many new characters and new concepts introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Eternals, it’s no surprise that we ended up with a lot of questions — especially in cases where the movie takes a light touch with story elements the comics covered in much more detail and depth.

Some of the big questions Eternals left us with do get answered in the comics, but it isn’t clear whether the answers are the same in the MCU. Other questions may not have answers. Some are big, important issues, while others might just seem silly. We even pitched a few questions to the Eternals screenwriters, for the insider gut check.

Whatever the case, here’s what we walked away from the theater wondering, along with what we were able to find out as we tried to answer our own questions.

[Ed. note: Major spoilers ahead for Eternals.]

Why isn’t Starfox a huge purple guy?

Eternals’ mid-credits scene pops a couple of new characters into the MCU, including Thanos’ brother Starfox (aka Eros), who is played by Harry Styles, notably not covered in CGI, prosthetics, or purple makeup. If Thanos and Starfox are brothers, and Thanos is an Eternal like all the other completely human-looking people in Eternals, why is Thanos a giant purple dude who looks like he comes from a completely different species?

Turns out this one has a canon explanation coming out of Eternals lore — Thanos has a recessive gene from the shape-changing monsters called Deviants, which gives him “Deviant Syndrome,” a birth condition that makes him look different from most Eternals. Also, he and Eros are Eternals by birth — both their parents were Eternals, but they weren’t personally created by a Celestial and assigned to a planet to shepherd a baby Celestial into being, like the main characters in Eternals. There’s even an MCU hook into his comics canon background — in Avengers: Infinity War, Red Skull greets Thanos as “son of Alars,” acknowledging his Eternal dad. And it’s worth remembering that Thanos is known as “the Mad Titan” because he was born on Saturn’s moon Titan, not because he’s a big fella, or because Titans are some class of being, like Eternals.

What’s the real reason the Eternals didn’t fight Thanos?

Thanos prepares his infinity gauntlet in Infinity War Image: Marvel Studios

Like so many other franchise films that have to be worked into existing continuities, Marvel Studios’ Eternals has some logistical problems to navigate. The 10 immortal warriors known as the Eternals have been on Earth for millennia to fight Deviants, but after they supposedly wiped out all their adversaries, they stood down, split up, and then… apparently mostly didn’t do much up through the present day. Which is odd, since their mandate from their big red robot creator Arishem is to protect humanity and the planet, and you’d think the ways humanity and the planet keep getting threatened by aliens, supervillains, and alien supervillains might activate some of that “protect and serve” programming.

The real problem here is Thanos coming to Earth seeking the Infinity Stones in Avengers: Infinity War and eventually wiping out half of the universe. And then, once the Avengers bring everyone back in Avengers: Endgame, Thanos tries to do it again. In Eternals, perfectly ordinary Earth boyfriend (and future superhero, if the MCU has its way) Dane Whitman asks his Eternals girlfriend Sersi why the Eternals didn’t fight Thanos, and she tosses off a casual, “Oh we’re not supposed to intervene in human affairs.” But this makes no damn sense whatsoever, since Thanos’ plot didn’t end at “human affairs,” it affected the whole universe. And the Eternals’ secret agenda is to help humanity be fruitful and multiply so their massed numbers can fuel the birth of a baby Celestial. Half of humanity spontaneously dying is an immense setback to their project.

Besides which, they violate that rule frequently in Eternals, for far pettier reasons than preserving half of humanity — reasons like “But technology is cool” and “But rules are dumb.” The obvious answer, unfortunately, is “The Eternals weren’t part of the story yet when Infinity War and Endgame were made,” but that just gives the screenwriters more responsibility to come up with a more plausible excuse for their absence during a gigantic war for the literal fate of their protectorate — and their universe.

What happened to the Eternals during the Blip?

Statistically, given Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet-fueled scheme, five of the 10 Eternals would have turned to dust during the Blip, which should have made a pretty lasting impression on the other five, given how close they all are, and how profoundly unaccustomed they are to losing each other. You can gloss over this one by noting that most of them were scattered around the globe, so maybe half of them dusted and the other half didn’t know about it. But it’s surprising that a worldwide cataclysm wouldn’t have moved them to check up on each other. A five-year period where half or more of them might have been dead might have been a little important.

Why did Sersi hide her Eternals identity from Dane?

Kit Harington and Gemma Chan in a shot from Eternals Image: Marvel Studios

By the time these two hook up, the world is packed with people with superpowers, so it’s not like hers would come as a surprise. Also, the Eternals were extremely open with humanity about their powers in previous ages, so the “Don’t want to interfere with human development” excuse starts to get weird at a certain point. When did they abruptly decide that humanity was done with the mythic age of being inspired by cosmic people with powers, and it was time for secrecy? Or, given that Druig clearly isn’t bothering with secrecy, is this just something Sersi does with her hookups to avoid awkward questions?

How does Sersi actually feel about Ikaris?

One of Eternals’ odder aspects is setting up a standard love triangle around Sersi, without ever spending much time on how she feels about either of the men yearning for her. When the movie begins, she’s been estranged from her Eternals lover Ikaris for a long time, and she’s been dating Dane long enough that he wants to move in together. But in the brief scene where he’s kissing her and trying to broach the topic, she dodges both the kiss and the discussion as if they’re inconveniences. The movie barely suggests she has any feelings for him at all.

When Ikaris returns, Sersi seems shocked he’s even alive. But while he at least shows some minor hope that she’ll break up with Dane, he never meaningfully discusses their relationship with her, and she never shows any anger over him unilaterally deciding to leave her, or any meaningful joy that he’s back. There’s no sense of chemistry or passion between them, even repressed passion. And when she and Dane are together again at the end of the movie, there’s similarly zero sense of feeling. Why is all this set up and then left to lie limply on the sidewalk, like a worm after a rainstorm?

Did Ikaris actually die?

It’s hard to believe any superhero is dead unless you see a body, and it’s hard to see a body when someone vaporizes themselves in the sun. But given that the only Eternals who definitely die in the film only die after having their cosmic powers drained out of them, and given the Eternals’ capacity for easily shrugging off attacks that would turn mortals into a thin layer of pink jam, it isn’t all that clear whether Ikaris did manage to immolate himself.

In a recent conversation with Eternals screenwriters (and cousins) Kaz and Ryan Firpo, Polygon asked what it would actually take to kill Ikaris.

Polygon: What is the melting point of an Eternal?

Kaz: The core of the sun.

Ryan: Maybe he found it, or maybe he didn’t.

Kaz: Yeah, in the sequel, we’ll cut back to him and he’s just going to be stuck there going, “Dammit!”

If Ikaris did die, does it matter? Will he be back?

Ikaris (Richard Madden) in Eternals Image: Marvel Studios

The Eternals in the comics aren’t just eternal because they don’t age, they’re eternal because there’s literally a machine, the World Forge, that remakes any fallen Eternals whenever they’re needed again. There’s no evidence in the Eternals movie that this is true for the MCU version of the characters, but there’s no evidence against it, either. Given that the comics version Ikaris gets vaporized in issue #2 of Neil Gaiman’s 2007 Eternals arc, and is popping back out of the Forge, no worse for wear, by the end of issue #3, it’s worth wondering whether all this movie’s dead characters could be back in action in a theoretical Eternals 2.

Here are the screenwriters again, from the same conversation:

Kaz: On a hard logistical level, I think there’s probably a clone of Gilgamesh sitting in the World Forge.

Ryan: All of his memories are there, too.

Kaz: So is [actor] Don Lee coming back? I don’t know, we don’t make those rules! It could be Gilgamesh with a different personality. I think Arishem is as all-knowing and all-powerful as you could imagine. Which raises the question [for whatever film continues these characters’ story] “How do you fight an all-knowing, all-powerful inter-dimensional space-god capable of literally crushing a planet in its bare hands?” Well, you’ll have to watch the second one to get the answer to that.

How the heck does “madweary” work?

The disease afflicting Thena’s mind doesn’t get much explanation in Eternals — it’s mostly there for extra drama, as she loses control and attacks her compatriots as the worst possible times. The vague summary, in both the comics and the film, is that it’s a psychological syndrome caused by centuries of life, which a human-like mind wasn’t designed to absorb. The buildup of too many memories and too much knowledge over time damages Eternals’ psyches, so they lose track of what era they’re in and what identity they’re currently holding.

But the more obvious symptoms of a disease of that description would be for someone with the disease (actually spelled “mahd w’rwy”) to suddenly start speaking Mesopotamian, or attacking busses because they look like looming monsters. Instead, whenever Thena is “claimed by the w’rwy,” as Ikaris says in the original Marvel comics, her eyes fill with cosmic energy, she mutters variations on “We’re all going to die,” and she tries to kill the other Eternals, exclusively. In this version of the story, mahd w’rwy winds up looking more like a cosmic anxiety attack about the impending destruction of the Eternals’ latest planetary home — as if Thena has been alive long enough that she’s getting memory leakage from previous versions of herself, understands that the Eternals are helping kill everyone on Earth, and wants to stop them.

That’d be a pretty cool spin on the story, if mahd w’rwy wasn’t a lessening of sanity, but a sign of an Eternal waking up to the horrors they’ve been visiting on world after world. But there’s no sign that the writers thought of it that way. It just feels weird and inconsistent — and like an excuse for some extra fight scenes.

Why is Thena so protective of her terrible memories?

The cure for mahd w’rwy in the comics is to destroy the current Eternal and create a clean copy from backup data, which does sound like something most thinking beings would resist. The film has a gentler version, suggesting that the Eternals’ spaceship has equipment that could reset Thena from scratch, solving the memory-buildup problem and curing her. It’s to the other Eternals’ credit that they don’t try to force Thena into the machine to reboot her, even though their best warrior repeatedly trying to murder them during battles is an immense threat. But it’s pretty unclear why she resists rebooting so hard herself.

Eternals doesn’t give us much information about Thena except that she’s suffering from mahd w’rwy, and suffering even more from the strain of holding it back, and the fear of hurting her companions. She builds her entire life around trying to stave off attacks of the disease, retreating to the desert and living a life of meditation, with Gilgamesh devoting his life to guarding her and talking her down. But the movie never actually addresses what in her past is so good that she’s holding onto it and afraid of losing it. Instead, she seems to be resisting memory reset solely in order to hold on to her memories of constantly disrupting battles and having to be bashed down or talked down for everyone’s benefit. It’s sad, but also kind of baffling, and a major hole in her character.

What are the Deviants for in this version of the story?

Jack Kirby’s Eternals vs Deviants vs humans breakdown Image: Marvel Comics

The cosmology around the Deviants in Jack Kirby’s original Eternals comics is fairly straightforward: Created by the same Celestials that created the Eternals, the Deviants are humanoid, intelligent, tech-focused immortal beings who rebelled against their creators and were punished. Developed from early hominid stock and injected with an unstable gene to let them mutate in a wide range of ways (see above, regarding Thanos being big and purple), the Deviants were expected to increase human potential by injecting more variety and thus survivability into humanity’s genetic lines.

Neil Gaiman’s 2006 Eternals arc suggests a much darker purpose for the Deviants — in that story, one Deviant character, who refers to his shape-shifting brethren as “the Changing People,” explains how the Celestials put the Deviants on Earth to rapidly breed and multiply as a kind of harvest that the Celestials later returned to and feasted on. “The souls of the Changing People are a delicacy for the Celestials,” he snarls.

In the movie, the Deviants apparently have a completely different purpose, but if you blink at the beginning of the film, you’ll miss it — they were meant to be a predator capable of wiping out all the apex predators on Earth in order to give humanity more room to develop and grow, without being devoured by megalodons or saber-tooth tigers or whatever else had a hunger for them. It’s unclear why the Celestials thought unleashing a race of giant, incredibly tough shape-changing immortals onto the planet would help humanity not get eaten. And it’s no wonder that the movie’s secondary villain, the Deviant Kro (voiced by Bill Skarsgård) resents the Celestials setting up his species to get slaughtered en masse. In this version of the story, at least, introducing Eternals to Earth seems to have been an environmental quick-fix, like dumping mongooses on Hawaii to control the rat population. (That didn’t work out well.)

​​Did Ikaris fly Ajak all the way to Alaska, or did they take a plane?

OK, maybe this one is silly, but it’s definitely hard to ignore how Ikaris comes to visit Ajak in South Dakota to show her something, then shows up in Alaska, around 3,000 miles away, cradling her in his arms. Did he just carry her through the air all that way?

Polygon posed this one to the Firpos as well, and got a legit response. “We literally had this conversation with the most impressive story minds in Hollywood, Academy Award-winner Chloe Zhao, and then us. We would sit around in a room eating takeout, being like, ‘Can Ikaris just pick them up and fly them there? Is it faster?’ The answer was, ‘If it’s just one person, he holds them very cute under one arm.’”

So we’re guessing that yes, Ikaris just flew her up there. No point in having a paper trail about their travels on the day she mysteriously died, right?

Will there be an Eternals 2?

In spite of the Firpos’ jokes about Eternals 2, it’s unclear whether the Eternals will return in their own stand-alone movie, or they’re being set up to cross over with one or more of the other Marvel arcs Eternals sets in motion for Phase Four. The movie does end with a cliffhanger for many of the characters, and Marvel Studios’ dedication to revolving those kinds of dangling plot threads suggests there’s more to come. But given the hints from the credits scenes, that resolution might come in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (currently scheduled for 2023), the Black Knight movie (currently not even announced), the Blade movie (announced but not scheduled), or something else entirely.