After months of anxious waiting, with only a thirteen second clip to assuage our hunger for new Eternals content, a full-length trailer for Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao’s upcoming Marvel blockbuster has finally been released, offering audiences a proper look into the sprawling, colorful, world that Zhao has designed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The confines of that universe are nearly limitless, but the Eternals are outsiders regardless – a group of immortal beings appointed by the Celestials to watch over Earth for thousands of years, and determine impartially whether the human race and their planet is worth saving. The twist, of course, is that many of the Eternals end up falling in love with Earth, and start subtly manipulating the flow of human history to guide humans towards a more desirable outcome for everyone…something which will presumably result in chaos, although there’s no official indication yet of the film’s main villain. Unofficially, thanks to toy leaks, we know that the unearthly Deviants, led by a Lovecraftian entity named Kro, will be battling the Eternals.
But thematically, the primary antagonists in this conflict are humanity’s darkest impulses and urges – constantly thwarting the Eternals’ well-intentioned efforts at every turn, and leading the planet into further turmoil. The trailer starts out with a recreation of idyllic rural life in prehistoric times and at the dawn of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, gradually building to the construction of the first walled settlements and cities, including ancient Babylon. There’s plenty here for history buffs to mull over, including the implication that it was the Eternal sorceress named Sersi who gifted an early human one of the famous ceremonial golden daggers found in the tomb of Meskalamdug in the Mesopotamian city of Ur.
But it’s not long before we see humans turning on each other, the gifted dagger being only a prelude for greater and more terrible weapons to come. One scene in the trailer appears to depict the fall of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan to Spanish colonizers, with the supernaturally fast Eternal Makkari helping Aztec civilians to escape while Salma Hayek’s Ajak prepares for battle with the conquistadors. We catch a glimpse of the youngest Eternal, the mischievous Sprite, wandering through the wreckage left in the wake of a volcanic eruption. The trauma and dawning realization in her eyes that this fate awaits the entire world if the Eternals don’t act is clearly a turning point in her character arc.
But in the meantime, while Skeeter Davis’ “The End Of The World” plays hauntingly in the background, many of the other Eternals simply abandon their mission and enjoy themselves while they still can. The film teases several sequences of extraordinary beauty, including an Indian wedding ceremony for Sersi and the Eternal Ikaris, concluding literal millennia of flirting and courtship; a sprawling Bollywood dance number for Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo (who has become a popular celebrity, and is constantly followed around by a camera crew documenting his interactions with the other Eternals); and karaoke night with Sprite. I’d have loved to have seen even a single shot of Phastos joined by his mortal husband (with whom he apparently shares the MCU’s first gay kiss), but alas, nothing just yet.
Crucially, there’s one other thing that we don’t get to see in this trailer – and that’s the Celestials, at least one of whom will presumably arrive in the film’s climax to judge the fate of the world. And I’m talking about the real Celestials, not whatever the heck Ego the Living Planet was supposed to be in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. A Celestial is clearly inbound for Earth based on a shot of the skies darkening with storm-clouds and alien lightning while Sersi and her mortal boyfriend, Dane Whitman, stand hand-in-hand to face the apocalyptic sight. It’s a classic “time-to-get-the-team-back-together” scenario.
But getting the team back together, in this case, has a very literal meaning. The Eternals all have the ability to sync their minds and bodies through something known as the Uni-Mind, which Chloé Zhao depicts through luminous ribbons of golden energy connecting the characters as they levitate above a cliffside in the Canary Islands. Zhao’s use of light – particularly natural light – has become one of the hallmarks of her style, and Eternals provides her with a chance to turn that up to an eleven with the CGI budget now at her disposal.
Of course, this is still a Marvel trailer, so it still has to end with a humorous stinger to remind general audiences why they should go see it (since apparently Chloé Zhao’s name alone and the potential for Marvel’s second serious Best Picture contender isn’t enough for some). But the humor between the Eternals feels natural and easygoing – Ikaris jokes that he should take over the Avengers in the absence of Iron Man and Captain America (whom the Eternals refer to as Captain Rogers, further evidence of their attempted impartiality), and his fellow space gods laugh at him. It’s a cute little moment, made even more endearing by the fact that Angelina Jolie is sitting at one end of the table, cheerfully swigging from a beer mug.
Trailer Rating: 8.5/10