HEAT VISION

Who Are Marvel's Eternals?

Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden will bring characters to life who are even less known than the Guardians of the Galaxy were before their MCU debut.
'The Eternals'   |   Courtesy of Marvel Comics
Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden will bring characters to life who are even less known than the Guardians of the Galaxy were before their MCU debut.

Marvel Studios is venturing into a bold new realm with Eternals, an adaptation of Jack Kriby’s sci-fi saga of an immortal alien race of godlike beings, their evil counterparts and the Celestials who created them on planets across the universe. The film continues to cast up, with Gemma Chan and Barry Keoghan the latest to join the cast.

Unlike Marvel Studios’ other Phase 4 announcements, filmmaker Chloe Zhao’s Eternals consists of largely unknown characters, arguably even less recognizable than the Guardians of the Galaxy were before their 2014 movie. While the pic’s lead characters are only a small part of the entirety of beings who make up the Eternals, they’re a significant part of the concepts and conflicts that make up Kirby’s narrative and the world of the film. No doubt Zhao has plenty of surprises in store for the movie, which is said to be more of an eons spanning sci-fi epic than a superhero film. But we’ll give you a quick head start by asking the question that’s been circulating after Comic-Con: Who exactly are the Eternals?

Thena (Angelina Jolie)

The Eternals’ counterpart to the Greek goddess Athena, Thena is a warrior and student of history. In the comics, the Greek gods chose many of the Eternals to represent them on Earth, leading humans to believe the aliens were in fact the gods they worshipped. I expect the film will streamline this and simply make the Eternals and the gods one and the same, similar to how Thor (2011) explained that the Asgardians are aliens who were in turn worshipped by humans as gods. And speaking of Thor, Thena has been an ally of the Avengers in the past, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the God of Thunder appears somewhere within the history of her life. Thena’s relationship with the Eternals is made complicated by her romance with Kro, the devilish leader of the Deviants who is the father of her twin children. When The Eternals was first announced, it was rumored to focus on the love story between Ikaris and Sersi, which led me to speculate Jolie was playing Sersi. But with Sersi surprisingly missing from the lineup, it’s possible that Kro may be set for a role, and that Thena’s arc will see her caught up in love and war, with the character torn between the Eternals and her Deviant lover.

Ikaris (Richard Madden)

The face of the Eternals, Ikaris is 20,000 years old and has lived a life of hope and despair as the most human member of his race. It was he who led Noah’s ark to safety and was mistaken for a dove after the Celestials flooded the world. It was he who first defeated Apocalypse, the world’s first mutant, only to lead to great mutant conflict millennia later. And it was he who provided the inspiration for the story of Daedalus and Icarus when he built his son a pair of metal wings that eventually cost the boy his life. Despite the tragedy that took his son and gave him his name, Ikaris is known for his love of mankind. He is drawn to the life of a superhero, and even took up professional wrestling for a while to be closer to humans. Ikaris’ zest for life has created a rivalry with Thena for the leadership position, which I should expect to see come into play in Zhao’s film.

Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani)

One of the less frequently appearing members of the Eternals and arguably the most due for a reinvention, Kingo operates under the persona of a Japanese samurai. Having spent centuries in Japan, he rarely uses his Eternal powers of flight, cosmic energy projection and super-strength, instead preferring the teachings of his clan and the challenge of a fair fight. As the centuries passed, Kingo transitioned from Samurai to action film star. It’s tough to say exactly how the character’s arc will play out in the pic, or if any of the samurai persona will remain. But here's to hoping Nanjiani gets to wield a sword.

Ajak (Salma Hayek)

The only Eternal who can directly communicate with his creators, the Celestials, Ajak is the archaeologist of his race. While most of the Eternals made their homes in Greece early in Earth’s history and Kingo made his in Japan, Ajak settled in South America, where he was worshipped as Tecumotzin by the Incas,and Quetzalcoatl by the Aztecs. In the 21st century, he became a member of the God Squad, consisting of Thor, Hercules, Sersi, Silver Surfer and Galactus, to battle the Skrulls’ gods in the aftermath of the Secret Invasion. The film version of the character will not only be a woman, but will also be the leader of the Eternals, a role that has traditionally gone to the elder, Zuras, in the comics.

Makkari (Lauren Ridloff)

The counterpart of the Greek god Mercury, Makkari is known for his speed, but is also one of the most intelligent members of the Eternals as the engineer responsible for creating many of their vehicles. Like Ikaris, Makkari is drawn to mankind and often finds himself caught up in their lives. A disciple of language and philosophy, Makkari taught Egyptians how to write under the alias Thoth, and studied under Plato. Despite his scholarly interests, Makkari was not above seeking out the thrill of superheroism. He took on the persona of the Hurricane in the 1940s. He also forged close bonds with Ikaris when the two remained on Earth to deal with the Deviants’ threats to humanity in the later half of the 20th century. In the film, Makkari will be a woman, and will also be the first deaf hero introduced within the MCU.

Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry)

Phastos is the only Eternal announced for the movie who was not created by Jack Kirby. Created by Peter Gillis and Sal Buscema, Phastos is the counterpart of Hephaestus and is the weapons builder and technologist for the Eternals. Though a pacifist at heart, he is not against begrudgingly joining the battle when the need arises. But his pacifism is not out of any love for humanity. In fact, Phastos believes all life is meaningless, and he remains on Earth with Ikaris and Makkari in the hopes that he will find something or someone that will convince him of a greater purpose.

Gilgamesh (Don Lee)

One of the few Eternals that has also served as an Avenger, Gilgamesh, also known as The Forgotten One, was an exile of the Eternals. Judged for meddling too closely in the affairs of humans, Gilgamesh struck out on his own, inspiring early legends of superheroes and gods. He was drawn back to aid the Eternals in their fight against the Deviants,where his valor granted him the new name, Hero. Despite his renewed acceptance by the Eternals, Gilgamesh was drawn back to human affairs and joined the Avengers in the late '80s. He is the strongest of all Eternals, and has gone toe-to-toe with Thor and Hercules.

Sprite (Lia McHugh)

The youngest member of the Eternals, Sprite is a childlike trickster, said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Puck. While more playful than malicious, Neil Gaiman made Sprite the villain of his run on the Eternals, with the character wiping the memories and powers of all the Eternals on Earth so that he could escape his responsibilities of protecting the planet and finally grow beyond his 11-year-old form and experience the pleasures of an adult. Like Makkari and Ajak, Sprite will bolster the female presence of the Eternals. While there’s still more casting to come, the lack of a villain so far suggests that Sprite could ultimately fulfill that role. And a childlike adversary would certainly bring something new to the MCU.

The history of Marvel’s Eternals is complicated and filled with retcons and multiple aliases, but I expect these characters to be just as easy to grasp and appreciate as all the Marvel C-listers that have come before and re-emerged as A-listers. With the film gearing up to start production, there will certainly be a lot more to learn about The Eternals before it hits theaters Nov. 6, 2020.

  • Richard Newby
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