The massive success of Denis Villeneuve’s brutally austere sci-fi epic Dune made Paul Atreides a household name and put the desert planet of Arrakis on the map, something that no previous adaptation of Frank Herbert’s esoteric 1965 novel has managed to accomplish, so it should come as no surprise that Paul and his supporting cast of vaguely-characterized yet vividly real allies and antagonists will be returning to movie theaters later this year for Dune: Part Two, the middle-chapter of a planned trilogy (augmented by television spin-offs) that ought to ultimately surpass Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings in terms of scale – although something tells me that even Villeneuve will have a hard time convincing general audiences and many critics that capping off his trilogy with an adaptation of Dune Messiah, the first of Dune‘s increasingly bizarre sequels, was a smart move.
Dune: Part Two, on the other hand, is a box-office hit just waiting to happen, and it’s not just because Zendaya will actually have screentime in this one. Assuming it stays fairly close to the source material (and my understanding is that Villeneuve doesn’t have any intention of diverging greatly from the narrative), Dune: Part Two will contain all the plot-beats expected of a finale, including a battle unlikely to be dwarfed anytime soon that most people looking no further than the book’s synopsis on Wikipedia would tell you is the culmination of the story’s driving conflict; the showdown between Paul Atreides and his father’s killer, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen of House Harkonnen. So I have no doubt that the vast majority of people leaving the theater come November 3rd will feel satisfied with what they will mistakenly perceive as the natural “ending” to the series, and that when they inevitably ask for spin-offs, what they won’t have in mind is what Frank Herbert wrote into Dune Messiah, a book that acts as a gatekeeper, denying most readers access to the rest of the series. My dim recollection is that I only made it through by page-skimming (I’m not proud of it, okay), and then I gave up less than halfway through Children Of Dune.
But Villeneuve’s Dune Messiah is still a long way away, and between then and now those of us who have read the books (or in my case, just enough of the books to say I tried, and little enough to prove I wasn’t a fan) will have plenty of time to prepare the film-only fans in our life for what’s ahead. In the short run it’s easy enough, deceptively easy, for anyone and everyone who watched Dune to predict where Dune: Part Two is headed, which is all to the film’s benefit. As you may remember, Dune ended with the remnants of House Atreides, a clique of conventionally attractive colonizers, scattered far-and-wide across the hostile deserts of Arrakis, which would be a fair and fitting ending to them all if only their successors weren’t the Harkonnens, an even worse bunch. But even in exile, Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica still think like colonizers. By choosing to hide amongst Arrakis’ indigenous people, the Fremen, Paul and Jessica are all but forcing them to choose a side in the coming war between the two Houses, though neither side is particularly concerned with what happens to the planet, much less the Fremen, as long as they come out on top.
As we see in the trailer, the Harkonnens have an obvious advantage when it comes to military might and the sheer amount of resources at their disposal. Crucially, they now control the flow of spice, a precious substance only found in the sands of Arrakis that enables space-travel and gives the planet its unparalleled value to the rest of the Known Universe, compelling the Emperor himself to kneel before its merchants. But Paul’s got something they haven’t got. Paul has worms.
Let me rephrase that. Paul has giant worms. Nope, still not working. Paul has giant sandworms. Better? Better. The giant sandworms that slither deep beneath the surface of Arrakis, producing spice, are at the center of the intricate spider-web that is Dune‘s mythology, and learning how to ride them and communicate with them as the Fremen do is a transformative event in Paul Atreides’ life. My possibly controversial opinion about the sandworms is that no adaptation of Dune, neither Villeneuve’s nor Lynch’s, has ever successfully conveyed the staggering sense of enormity, grandeur, and mystery that accompanies every appearance of the sandworms in Frank Herbert’s novel, which has always disappointed the child in me who first read Dune (back when I was far too young to truly understand the book) solely for the sandworms, and who’s waited a long time to feel all those sensations again upon seeing them erupt from the sand. I don’t know if Villeneuve’s sandworms are too small, or too crusty-looking, or if I just dislike their design, but they remain the most underwhelming aspect of an otherwise stunning film.
Everything else on his Arrakis, everything man-made at least, is massive and majestic, from the sand-encrusted ziggurats that scrape against the heavens to the donut-shaped starships that transcend them. We see plenty more of that aesthetically distinct, Oscar-winning production design on display in the trailer for Dune: Part Two, and with so many new worlds and new areas of Arrakis to visit in the sequel it’s very likely that the team headed up by Patrice Vermette will find themselves nominated once more, alongside costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan, who have compiled a bleakly elegant wardrobe of prickly metallic gowns and headdresses for Florence Pugh’s Princess Irulan, a minor character in the first book, excerpts of whose writing are quoted by the author as if they were historical sources. Austin Butler, inexplicably wearing a bald-cap and painted blindingly-white for the role of Feyd-Rautha, is a slightly tougher sell, but that’s just another example of Villeneuve’s style and my mental image not perfectly aligning.
But all quibbles aside, I’m excited to return to Arrakis, and now I want to hear your takes on the trailer, the new characters introduced, and the future of the franchise after Dune: Part Two. How far into the series can Villeneuve make it before mainstream audiences give up? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: REBELS AND JEDI: FALLEN ORDER AHEAD!
An intergalactic manhunt is afoot in the first teaser trailer for Lucasfilm’s long-awaited Kenobi series, coming to Disney+ this May on the 45th anniversary of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s very first appearance in Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (at the time just Star Wars). Kenobi himself is one of the two primary targets of this manhunt, but the series looks to be so broad in scope from the trailer alone that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if several other Jedi show up – hiding in various far-flung corners of the galaxy, but leaving in their wake a “trail of compassion” that corrupted Jedi named Inquisitors know how to follow to its source.
This teaser trailer, with its heavy focus on the characters around Kenobi and their actions, gives me the distinct feeling that Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t the driving force behind most of the main events in this series, which doesn’t surprise me all that much. I mean, his name is in the title, so I have to assume he’s at least somewhat integral to the story Lucasfilm has chosen to tell through his unique viewpoint, but (a) they also marketed The Book Of Boba Fett as a Boba Fett show, and…that was a lie, and (b) it’s not like Kenobi is a character who can freely move around the galaxy the same way Din Djarin can in The Mandalorian.
I mean that literally (for Kenobi to leave Tatooine even briefly gives the Inquisitors so many opportunities to track him that it’s a risk he can surely only afford to take once or twice), but I also mean it in the sense that Kenobi’s place in the Star Wars canon is fixed, whereas Din Djarin’s is fluid. No matter what actions Kenobi takes, he will still need to end up back on Tatooine in hiding because…that’s where we meet him in A New Hope. Wherever his journey takes him, he’s tethered to Tatooine – as is the Star Wars franchise as a whole, but that’s a different conversation.
When the source material doesn’t provide a solution to this problem (and in this case there’s very little source material, and even less of it is still canon), the answer is always to create original characters who can move freely, and who aren’t quite as limited in what they can say or do. Kenobi gives us the Inquisitor Reva, seemingly an antagonist but one with her own point-of-view and a large role that transcends the action on Tatooine and at the Citadel Inquisitorius. That also puts her in a position where she could bridge the gap between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his nemesis Darth Vader without the two ever needing to interact onscreen.
I fear that the temptation to just go full fan-service will prove too strong for Star Wars to resist, and that Kenobi and Vader will actually clash in a lightsaber battle that might be epic to witness, but will be robbed of any stakes by the knowledge that both these characters walk away unscathed, physically and emotionally – because by the time of A New Hope, when Vader tells Kenobi that “when I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master”, he’s explicitly referring to their duel in Revenge Of The Sith, and Kenobi doesn’t rebut that statement (well, he does, but only to tell Vader that he’s become a “master of evil”, not to remind him that they actually had some other duel the Sith lord has forgotten about).
So any fight scene inserted between the two films must ultimately make so little impact on the characters involved that they fail to even remember it a mere fifteen years later, which makes it unnecessary filler – worse than a retcon, as it literally adds nothing to their dynamic and would instead strip away a layer of what was already there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for a lightsaber battle, but if Kenobi has to fight anyone, I’d prefer it to be Reva or another Inquisitor – perhaps even the Grand Inquisitor.
Set to make his live-action debut in Kenobi after first appearing in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, the Grand Inquisitor was a Pau’an Jedi Knight who turned to the Dark Side and assisted Darth Vader in hunting Jedi during the twenty years between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope. He ultimately killed himself after failing to capture the Jedi Kanan Jarrus, deeming that Vader’s wrath would be worse than death, but Kenobi catches up with him at the height of his reign of terror.
As Rebels fans have been quick to point out, he looks a bit…different. Not worse, necessarily, just…different. His head is more round than it is elongated, which has led to a lot of (probably unfair) comparisons to the live-action Pau’ans who appeared in Revenge Of The Sith with elongated heads and looked more like the Grand Inquisitor than Kenobi‘s version of the character. But what’s important to remember is that those Pau’ans were side characters who never did any fighting. I’m not a stunt choreographer, but I have a sneaking suspicion that top-heavy Pau’an heads, much like Togruta tendrils, aren’t exactly conducive to jumping and twirling and stunts in general.
Ultimately, as long as the Grand Inquisitor is appropriately terrifying in live-action, that’s all that really matters. On the flip-side, Kenobi has an opportunity to flesh out the Grand Inquisitor’s character – and all the Inquisitors, for that matter – in a way that Rebels never did. The Jedi: Fallen Order video game franchise has done slightly more in that regard, even featuring a morally conflicted Inquisitor named Trilla Suduri, but we still know surprisingly little about these former Jedi who chose to devote themselves to the task of hunting and killing people who used to be their friends, mentors, and apprentices.
The Grand Inquisitor, for instance, was a Jedi Temple Guard who fell to the dark side after witnessing the Jedi Order’s harsh treatment of Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars. His real name, the name of his Jedi master, and all details regarding his training are a mystery. Rebels‘ Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother, the latter of whom will reappear in Kenobi, are even more enigmatic. But the fact that Reva even has a name attached to her character, a name that represents a tangible attachment to her past life (one she’s perhaps unwilling to sever?), gives me hope that, like Trilla Suduri, she’ll be a three-dimensional character in stark contrast to her uniform Brothers and Sisters.
Pulling the strings behind all the Inquisitors is the shadowy figure of Darth Vader, whose true identity is still a mystery at this point in the timeline – one to which audiences already know the answer, mind you, but watching characters in-universe come to the same realization on their own never fails to make me emotional. And if Ahsoka’s reaction when she found out was devastating, then the mixture of guilt, anger, and heartbreak that Obi-Wan Kenobi is sure to feel when he first hears of the reappearance of Darth Vader and starts connecting dots is going to be…a lot.
Interestingly, the question of when and how Kenobi discovered that Anakin Skywalker was still alive following the events of Revenge Of The Sith has never properly been answered – not by the current Star Wars canon, at least. That offers the Kenobi series at least one key plot-point around which to construct an early episode, leaving several more in which the character can grapple with the ramifications of his discovery and ultimately make up his mind to seek out Darth Vader, who at this point in the timeline is still the stuff of rumors; the full extent of his power having not yet been revealed to the galaxy.
I know everyone is gearing up for the rematch of the century between Kenobi and Vader, and I also know that the discourse around this show will be unbearable because the two characters will either never meet, leading a certain demographic of fans to complain that their demands aren’t being met and that Star Wars (but like, especially Kathleen Kennedy) hates the fans, or they will meet, and it will create a whole bunch of weird plot-holes, or they’ll fight in some kind of vision and fans will be split down the middle on whether they’re satisfied by it. It’s gonna be a mess regardless.
But hey, I love a good mess. And frankly, without Jon Favreau attached in any capacity, I actually have higher hopes for Kenobi than for most of Lucasfilm’s other Disney+ series’, which have recently begun to suffer from their monotonous stylistic consistency and obsession with Tatooine, as evidenced by The Book Of Boba Fett‘s failure to hold audiences’ interest (including mine). Kenobi, ironically, is the one series that arguably ought to stick to a Tatooine setting but is instead choosing to take its famously cloistered protagonist on one last spin around the galaxy – and we’ll just have to wait and see whether this approach pays off.
Night before last, I was honored to attend a virtual screening for the first two episodes of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, a live-action reimagining of the beloved 1998 anime that debuted its full first season yesterday. The two episodes I saw were pretty good – a little slow, perhaps, and guilty of retreading ground the anime already covered, but good enough to leave me wanting more when the credits rolled. Sadly, it turns out that Cowboy Bebop is one of those shows that gets progressively worse as it plods along through a ten-episode season that feels like an eternity.
Now, we all love a show that’s so bad it’s good in a roundabout way, and I even think Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop has its fair share of unironically compelling elements, including a couple of scenes toward the end that enrich the world of the anime so significantly that, if (and that’s a big if), if expanded upon in a second season, we could theoretically just forget about all the bad stuff and move merrily along. But this first season’s greatest crime is that it makes Bebop boring – and that’s really hard to do, so this took concentrated effort.
Ironically, it’s Cowboy Bebop‘s inability to free itself from the imagined constraints of a straight-up remake that keeps this series about the dangers of never moving on from the past entangled in a web of its own creation. The glimpses of originality that shine through are much appreciated (though often built on other generic tropes), but every time it looks like the show might finally do something bold and unique it inflicts upon us another halfhearted re-enactment of storylines that were intended to be stand-alone in the anime and are here awkwardly fused with the series’ mostly new overarching narrative to create some lopsided chimera of a first season.
If it was ever implied that there was some reason behind the inclusion of these storylines, apart from the desire to lure in fans of the anime with scenes and characters they already know, that would be one thing, but none ever emerges; and in any case such clarity of purpose would be jarring in a series that ricochets tonally between snarky profanity-laced comedy (which is where, tellingly, it seems most comfortable) and a transparent facsimile of the anime’s melancholy atmosphere.
Uneven writing is largely to blame, but the whole series is gonna carry that weight. And if that pun was obvious, it’s still more subtle than Cowboy Bebop‘s bull-in-a-china-shop approach to adapting a story famous for its multiple delicate layers of meaning. Where the anime slowly peeled back those layers to reveal more depth than one might at first expect from a sci-fi western, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop has nothing to uncover and nothing to say that the anime didn’t already communicate more efficiently and poetically. It’s shallow and thematically muddled.
Cowboy Bebop‘s best attempts to disguise this involve repeatedly hitting you over the head with dialogue that spells out the series’ message in capital letters (incorrectly, but that’s beside the point), but such clumsy writing only draws more attentions to the areas in which Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop not only fails to honor the visionary anime, but very purposefully throws out the source material. I’m hardly a purist, but in this case it’s clear that CowboyBebop‘s writers aren’t motivated by some spark of their own genius but by the desire to build another franchise for Netflix.
Specifically, I’d point to what I feel is the most significant change, and that’s the reimagined team dynamic between our three main characters; former hit-man Spike Spiegel (John Cho); ex-cop Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir); and amnesiac bounty hunter Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda). Both the anime and live-action series revolve around the traumatic events in their backstories that defined them and still affect them to this day, but the anime allowed this conflict to impede on their ability to form new relationships or start over with their lives. You felt all of their pain because it was evident in how they remained closed-off from each other, how they kept their secrets sealed behind closed doors.
Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop can’t ever go to those lengths, because that would require editing out at least fifteen minutes of friendly banter from each episode. Leave aside the fact that the characters’ backstories are already rendered weightless by being unloaded early in the season before we form an emotional attachment to any of them, the live-action versions of Spike, Jet, and Faye are simply too emotionally available, too familiar with each other, too well-adjusted, for the core conflict to work. They bicker, but they’re already basically a family unit by the end of the season when they face the first real challenge to that dynamic.
Of the three main characters, I do want to point out that Mustafa Shakir is not only an excellent Jet Black, but a vast improvement on the anime’s version of the same character. Jet was my least-favorite of the main trio, partially because his backstory was simply less interesting to me and partially because his character often stayed behind on the Bebop while Spike and Faye would go after a bounty together or individually. Shakir’s Jet is always in on the action, effortlessly taking the lead. He’s also a father in this retelling, which leads to some plot-beats that would have been predictable if not for Shakir’s performance.
I wish I could say the same of Cho or Pineda. Cho is a very good actor, but his Spike is written to be so talkative and funny that it’s only in those rare moments where he’s allowed to speak volumes through silence that he really feels like the character – for instance, when he gets off an elevator wearing headphones and strolls casually into the middle of a casino-heist, or when he’s hanging upside-down from a billboard and lights a cigarette while he waits to be pulled to safety. These are both new scenes, but they express the character’s motto of “Whatever happens, happens” perfectly.
Pineda, sadly, is dealt the worst hand, as her character is only Faye Valentine insofar as that’s her name and she shares roughly the same backstory. The nostalgia for a life she doesn’t remember that kept Faye frantically bouncing from place to place in search of belonging, the vividly realized claustrophobia of being in your own body and still not recognizing whose it is, and the vulnerability that comes with that, leaving Faye susceptible to manipulation – almost none of that is brought over into live-action. Pineda’s Faye is only a step above a comedic-relief character.
Even with an entire episode centered on a gender-bent version of the con-artist Whitney Matsumoto (Christine Dunford), who here poses as Faye’s doting mother, the series squanders its opportunity to explore Faye’s internal conflict. Cowboy Bebop could have played up the psychological horror of waking up with no grip on reality or sense of stability, and then being fed lies by a total stranger who claims to be the only person who remembers you…but instead Faye and the others get roped into a whole bunch of humorous hijinks involving Matsumoto’s husband that culminates in an utterly random plot twist for shock value.
And while we’re on the subject of characters undercut by cheap humor, I can’t not talk about Vicious (Alex Hassell). I’ll be honest, I never liked him in the anime to begin with; he was a despicable, one-dimensional villain. But I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed on his behalf while watching the live-action Cowboy Bebop drag Vicious’ name and reputation through the mud, reducing the menacing warlord to a sniveling parody of Lucius Malfoy, with a stringy platinum-blonde wig so atrocious that if you told me it was found discarded on the set of Jupiter’s Legacy, I’d believe you.
Vicious is constantly surrounded by a whole host of other actors hamming it up as various crime-lords of the Syndicate, which might have been enjoyable in a different show; in Cowboy Bebop, it’s just weird and unnecessary. John Noble is probably the best of the bunch, playing another authoritarian father figure in the same vein as his iconic Denethor, only a little more overtly villainous. Vicious is also accompanied by Julia (Elena Satine), who in the anime remained enigmatic and invisible until the end of the series. Here, she’s a major character, which is a nice change. The final episode sets up a very interesting future for her, which as I said could turn the whole show around in season two.
Apart from some interesting new characters, there’s also the occasional character so exquisitely redesigned – and often modernized – that at best you wish they looked like that in the anime, as I felt was particularly the case with Gren (Mason Alexander Park). Sadly, they’re all stuck in this inferior series.
Even in its best episodes, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop falls far short of the anime on which it’s based. There’s good stuff scattered here and there, and with a lot of work this show could be something interesting down the line – but I don’t know if it will ever feel like a proper adaptation of Bebop. And as disappointing as that is, take comfort in the fact that the original anime is also streaming on Netflix, so you can skip this entirely and go straight to the source. You won’t be missing much.
Eternals may not be the sure-fire Best Picture nominee that Marvel Studios thought they had on their hands when they debuted it at the Rome Film Festival to a lukewarm and increasingly negative critical reception, but in the long run, fans of the film needn’t fear that the Eternals will be ret-conned out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or that their storylines will be abandoned going forward. The box-office has been strong enough to ensure that heroes like Sersi and Thena and the newly-knighted Dane Whitman will return somewhere down the line, in various other MCU projects if not in their own sequel.
If you ask me, the instantly endearing characters of Eternals are easily the film’s greatest strength. I’m sure Marvel has their secretive reasons for wanting to get us acquainted with the complex (and somewhat convoluted) lore of the Celestials and Deviants and the origins of the universe itself, all of which will be revealed in due time, but it’s these characters who make continuing this story worthwhile right now. Director Chloé Zhao infused almost all of the ten earthly Eternals with vibrant humanity, and they each have seven-thousand years of individual stories to explore in prequels and spin-offs even before we look to their collective future.
So in today’s post, we’ll be looking at where the Eternals will be headed next in the MCU, both separately and as a team unit. There’s a spoiler warning at the top of the page, but in case you missed it, I’ll be discussing the film’s shocking ending, mid-credits scene, and a number of other plot-points including character deaths. You’ve been warned.
Now, speaking of character deaths, let’s start there – because by the end of Eternals, there at least two characters whose arcs conclusively end in their deaths, and a third whose death is satisfying and oh-so-poetic, but who might be too good a character to waste this early. Salma Hayek’s Ajak and Don Lee’s Gilgamesh fall into the former category, and Richard Madden’s Ikaris is of course the latter.
Ajak is the first Eternal to die, surprisingly early in the film, and her teammates happen upon her lifeless body outside her home in South Dakota without being given a chance to properly say their goodbyes to the caring yet deeply flawed woman who led the Eternals for seven-thousand years. We’re initially led to believe that Ajak was killed by a Deviant who absorbed her regenerative powers, but it’s revealed in the third act that there was a little more to it than that. Ajak was sacrificed to the Deviants by her own right-hand man, Ikaris, after he discovered that Ajak didn’t want to complete the Eternals’ top-secret mission to destroy the earth.
As I explained in my review of the film, Ajak’s entire character arc is scattered over just a couple of out-of-order scenes, so it’s hard to initially feel much grief for a person who until the third act is largely depicted as turning a blind eye to various tragedies, including the genocide of indigenous Mesoamericans in Salma Hayek’s home country of Mexico. But when we learn how she used her last few years to evolve and find the good in humanity just before Ikaris brutally executes her, well, it doesn’t make up for any of her wrongdoings, but it perfectly illustrates how the Eternals’ centuries of inaction caused all their problems and how they nearly were too late to change. So I think Ajak’s death is fitting.
Gilgamesh’s death also comes at just the right moment in the story, although I’d be less opposed to some fantastical resurrection plot device being used to engineer his return in the future. He and Angelina Jolie’s Thena are platonic soulmates for thousands of years, and their relationship only grows deeper when Ajak diagnoses Thena with Mahd Wy’ry, which she misleadingly describes as a buildup of memories in the brain over centuries that can cause an Eternal to become mentally unstable and violent. Gilgamesh brings Thena to Australia, where they settle down in the desert and live quietly for the next few centuries, with Gilgamesh caring for his friend and giving her love and support.
With Sersi’s help, Thena discovers that everything she thought she knew about Mahd Wy’ry was a lie. Long story short, her visions, panic attacks, and aggressive outbursts are actually a result of her glimpsing into the memories of other Eternals on other planets across the universe – or rather, former planets. Thena and Gilgamesh join the Eternals’ quest to stop the destruction of earth, but sadly Gilgamesh dies not long thereafter, killed by the same Deviant that took Ajak’s life. He and Thena share one last moment together, one which actually drew tears from my eyes, as he pleads with her to remember. The fact that even as he’s dying he wants her to remember her life and not specifically him is heartbreaking and hard-hitting.
Then there’s Ikaris. The second highest-ranking member of the Eternals and the only one besides Ajak who knows their true purpose on earth, Richard Madden’s Ikaris is defined both by his unwavering loyalty to the mission and by his age-long love for his teammate, Sersi. It’s unfortunate that their romance is almost entirely devoid of chemistry, because it had the potential to be truly epic. Sersi loves the earth and its inhabitants from the moment she first looks upon it, but Ikaris has only ever pretended to love humans so he can get closer to Sersi and try to relate to her. They find themselves on opposite sides in the film’s third act, with Sersi fighting to save earth and Ikaris to destroy it.
But when they confront each other face-to-face in the film’s most dramatic moment, Ikaris has a change of heart – not because he realizes for himself that humanity is worth saving or that he’s loved earth all along and didn’t want to admit it, but because he finally understands what earth and its people mean to Sersi. And in the end, his love for her outweighs his devotion to the mission and his belief in the Celestial plan for the Eternals. Ikaris stops fighting, leaves earth, and looks back at it one last time – mirroring his and Sersi’s first scene in the film, where he only had eyes for Sersi while she was the one staring down at earth – before flying into the sun.
This bleak and beautiful death is obviously intended to evoke the myth of Ikaris’ namesake in Greek mythology, Icarus; a boy with wings who flew too close to the sun in a moment of reckless pride and burned up. But the parallels to ancient mythology go deeper than that surface-level reading: mythology is uniquely full of stories of tragic couples in which one or both lovers will die by their own hand, usually after some misunderstanding and horrific moment of revelation. It’s a story structure that’s not quite as popular nowadays, and to see it used in a Marvel film is actually extraordinary. But another common theme in mythology, particularly Greek mythology, is that of the hero’s descent into the underworld to retrieve the soul of a lost loved one.
Could we see Sersi or another Eternal attempt to resurrect Ikaris? It’s not as implausible as it sounds. Halfway through Eternals, it’s explained to Sersi in one of the film’s several exposition-heavy monologues that the Eternals were forged, not born (an interesting and perhaps deliberate parallel to Agatha Harkness’ description of Wanda Maximoff), and that all of their memories from before arriving on earth were implanted into their heads by their true maker, the Celestial Arishem. He keeps these memories stored away in a chamber of the World-Forge, which is where he designs, builds, and breathes life into his Eternals.
So there is a path for Ikaris to come back, or more likely for his memories to be transplanted into the body of a new Eternal (i.e. a different actor). And Arishem himself might have already arranged for that to happen. At the end of the film, the Celestial arrives on Earth and summons Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo to join him in deep space, presumably at the World-Forge judging by Arishem’s remark that he will look through their memories to determine if they and the planet they love so much are actually worth saving. I can’t wait for Chloé Zhao to get the chance to explore that location in more depth and detail, but most importantly it will give our characters a chance to find Ikaris’ memories.
And something else Arishem doesn’t realize is that Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo aren’t the only Eternals left from the team he sent to Earth. Shortly before Arishem’s arrival, Thena departed the planet along with the speedster Makkari and telepath Druig on a mission to find other Eternals scattered across the universe and try to persuade them to save the planets which they’ve been assigned to destroy. The mid-credits scene picks up with this trio sometime later, arguing about whether they should head back to Earth to find out why their friends aren’t responding to their messages or continue their objective.
That’s when they’re rudely interrupted by the arrival of not one but two characters new to the MCU. Patton Oswalt voices Pip the Troll, an obscure Marvel Comics antihero who’s usually paired up with Guardians Of The Galaxy characters like Adam Warlock, Gamora, and Yondu Udonta’s Ravagers. In the MCU, he serves a different role as the herald and traveling companion of a maverick Eternal, Eros. Pop-star and Dunkirk actor Harry Styles portrays Eros, a stunning casting choice that was unfortunately ruined for general audiences long before the film’s release by a professional critic.
Eros is a fascinating addition to the MCU, for several reasons. Sure, he’s the younger brother of Thanos and it’ll be interesting to explore more of the history of their home-planet Titan and the branch of Eternals that lived there before they and everyone else were wiped out by famine and war. And yeah, he’s a part-time Avenger with strong connections to Mar-Vell and the Kree that could be depicted in The Marvels. But let’s be honest, that’s hardly the most noteworthy thing about a character who, just like his Greek mythological counterpart, can manipulate the brain’s pleasure centers in a number of ways.
This bizarre power comes with greater responsibility than most, and I don’t expect Marvel to utilize it to the same degree as in the comics – not unless they’re prepared to adapt all the stories in which Eros is accused of sexual assault, and even stands trial at one point with She-Hulk acting as his lawyer. I mean, they could do that, and it would allow them to explore some important real-world topics, but I’m wary of them handling those topics well. And honestly, I think Harry Styles’ Eros would make a much better superhero intimacy coach than sexual offender. If the dispassionate sex scene in Eternals is any indicator, the MCU could use a lesson or two from the god of love.
That being said, Eros is probably as morally ambiguous as any of the Eternals, and I won’t be surprised if he uses his powers recklessly at first – perhaps playing matchmaker with Sersi and a resurrected version of Ikaris. If he runs into the Guardians of the Galaxy anytime soon, I could easily envision a scenario where Eros gets entangled in Peter Quill’s awkward relationship with the time-displaced Variant of Gamora who doesn’t love Quill the way Quill loves the deceased version of her from the main MCU timeline, using his powers with disastrous effects. Basically, just don’t romanticize the removal of consent, and things should work out.
Back on Earth, there’s one last wild-card to consider. Lia McHugh’s Sprite, an Eternal trapped in the body of a child, made the difficult choice to become a human so that she can finally grow up and live a normal life – with the chance to experience love being one of her primary motivations for giving up her illusion-casting powers. Arishem didn’t take Sprite with him to the World-Forge, but it’s hard to believe that she’ll be completely absent from the story going forward. She could help Sersi’s distraught boyfriend back on Earth, Dane Whitman, as he musters the courage to embrace his destiny as the Black Knight and take on the Celestial host.
I don’t expect we’ll see the full team reassembled for a long time, perhaps not ever seeing as Ajak and Gilgamesh are probably really dead and Ikaris might not come back in the same form. But we now know there are hundreds of thousands of Eternals scattered across the universe, including several important characters from the comics who didn’t make it into this film. I suspect we’ll even meet a few in Thor: Love And Thunder, if Gorr the God-Butcher considers Eternals godly enough to make worthwhile targets for his Necroblade. And the distinctions between Eternals and Greek gods are already blurry enough that Hercules could easily be another member of their species.
As long as Makkari, Thena, Kingo, Druig, and Phastos stay on the team, I wouldn’t object if others come and go. Sersi could make her way onto the Avengers team just as she did in the comics. Druig has a comics history of villainy and connections to the Soviet Union that haven’t really been touched upon (I’m still waiting for the reveal that he’s Natasha Romanoff’s biological father). And Kingo is delightfully off in his own world most of the time, so give him a Bollywood spin-off with lots of over-the-top musical numbers, and I’ll be more than happy.
So where do you hope to see the Eternals pop up next, and which character are you most excited to follow throughout Phase 4? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!