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Eternals explained: Everything to know about Marvel's alien superteam movie

The 26th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is due out next month.

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The Eternals are gathering this November.

Marvel Studios

The latter half of 2021 sees Marvel Cinematic Universe movies making their comeback with Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings already out, followed by Spider-Man: No Way Home and -- drumroll, please -- Eternals. The debut of this alien superteam movie was pushed back a year due to the pandemic, but the final Eternals trailer landed in August.

The movie is directed by Chloé Zhao, who won a pair of Oscars for her film Nomadland, and is written by cousins Matthew and Ryan Firpo. Eternals is scheduled for a Nov. 5 release in theaters, but spoilers started rolling out online immediately after its Oct. 18 premiere in Hollywood -- don't worry, we won't be looking at them in this article. 

Who exactly are Marvel's Eternals?

They're the next superpowered group to join the MCU. Marvel Studios has assembled an incredible cast -- including Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington and super-buff Wolverine cosplayer Kumail Nanjiani -- to fill out the team.

The official synopsis describes the Eternals as "ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years."

"Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind's most ancient enemy, The Deviants," it reads.

Will Eternals be released on Disney Plus at the same time as theaters?

No. After Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' success at the box office proved fans were willing to go back to theaters, Disney said Eternals will be among the movies it'll release exclusively in theaters for 45 days before they launch on digital platforms.

Who's playing these all-new Marvel heroes?

Eternals poster 2

The team stares into the distance in the movie's second poster.

Marvel Studios

The character descriptions are from Marvel's official synopsis -- poor Dane Whitman is apparently too boring for any hype. However, he becomes sword-wielding hero Black Knight in the comics, so maybe the company is just keeping that quiet.

The movie will reunite Harington and Madden, who played Jon Snow and Robb Stark in Game of Thrones

Salma Hayek in Marvel's Eternals.

Salma Hayek plays Ajak in Marvel's Eternals.

Marvel Studios

"It never crossed my mind to be in a Marvel movie. I guess that I thought that boat had sailed, and it was an absolute shock," Salma Hayek said in a May interview with Variety. She also told the publication that she was one of the first ones cast for the movie.

Gemma Chan was previously seen in the MCU as Captain Marvel's Minn-Erva, but Sersi is a different character. 

"Sersi is not your typical superhero: She's not necessarily the best fighter, she doesn't have the most obviously impressive powers. The main thing is she's an empath," Chan told Vogue in August. "She has a connection with humans, and with the world and the earth. That is her strength, so I leant into that."

Separately, she said working on Eternals was a very different experience than on Captain Marvel, which employed more studio work and blue screen. Eternals was filmed in the Canary Islands and England, so it uses real environments and mostly natural lighting, as previously reported by IMDbrief.

In December 2019, Nanjiani revealed the fruits of his training -- and the intense regime required to maintain it -- to play swordsman Kingo in some super-buff Instagram shots. He famously used that new physique to pose as Wolverine (replacing Hugh Jackman) and other iconic movie characters for a Men's Health March 2020 photoshoot.

"I would not have been able to do this if I didn't have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world," he wrote in his original Instagram caption. "I'm glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time."

His character was also showcased in Parking Spot, a Lexus promo set in the MCU and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (who helmed Avengers: Endgame).

Eternals will offer two major firsts for the MCU: Brian Tyree Henry, from Godzilla vs. Kong, plays Phastos  -- the first openly gay superhero in the MCU. And Lauren Ridloff, whom you might know as Connie in The Walking Dead, will be the MCU's first deaf superhero. Her character, Makkari, is male in the comics.

Like Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy, this movie focuses on Marvel's cosmic comic characters. 

What's the Eternals' history in the comics?

Marvel Eternals 2021 issue 1

Marvel's 2021 Eternals series is written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Esad Ribić.

Marvel Comics

Eternals have a comic history that stretches back to 1976. They were dreamed up by Jack Kirby, co-creator of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, after he created the very similar New Gods for DC six years earlier. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige told the Hollywood Reporter that the movie pays tribute to the late artist, who died in 1994.

"The whole movie is a love letter to what one man was able to do with a pencil, sitting at a little desk on the East Coast," Feige said at the Eternals premiere on Oct. 18.

In the comics, they're an evolutionary offshoot of humanity living on Earth who possess greater powers and have longer lifespans. The Celestials, a group of space gods, created them to defend Earth. The current series, from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Esad Ribić, kicked off in January 2021.

We've already seen a few Celestials in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies -- most notably the space station Knowhere (actually a Celestial's severed head) and Peter Quill's dad, Ego, (who took a human form) in the second Guardians flick.