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Marvel's Eternals explained: Movie delayed to November 2021 as Disney resets

The release of the 25th MCU movie has been pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marvel Studios Hall H Panel

The Eternals gather at San Diego Comic-Con 2019: Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Lia McHugh, Angelina Jolie, Don Lee and Lauren Ridloff.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Black Widow isn't the only Marvel Cinematic Universe movie delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Eternals has been pushed back a second time -- to Nov. 5, 2021 -- after Marvel owner Disney opted to move Black Widow's release again.

Who are the Eternals?

They're the next superpowered group to join the MCU, and Marvel Studios has assembled an impressive cast -- including Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington and super-buff Wolverine cosplayer Kumail Nanjiani -- to get everyone interested in the 25th MCU movie. It was originally meant to come out Nov. 6, 2020, but was initially delayed to February 2021 and then to November 2021.

The official synopsis noted that the Eternals are "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.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in January, Nanjiani emphasized how different Eternals is from other Marvel movies and gave us a sense of its scale.

"It's a superhero story, but in some ways, it's the most sci-fi of all the Marvel movies and it's the most epic of all the Marvel movies," the actor and comedian said. "And the story spans thousands of years."

Last December, a Brazil Comic Con Experience crowd was treated to the first footage and saw the heroes in costume. Marvel Studios concept artist Rodney Fuentebella also shared some art featuring a third group, the massive Celestials.

Who's involved with the movie?

The character descriptions are from Marvel's official synopsis -- poor Dane Whitman is apparently too boring for any hype. Or maybe he's just mysterious.

Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige introduced the cast and director Zhao at the Comic-Con Marvel Studios panel last summer. Zhao's previous film, The Rider, got a score of 92 out of 100 on CNET sister site Metacritic.

The movie will reunite Harington and Madden, who played Jon Snow and Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. Gemma Chan was previously seen in the MCU as Captain Marvel's Minn-Erva, but Sersi is a separate character.

In December, 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. In March, he used that new physique to pose as Wolverine (replacing Hugh Jackman) and other iconic movie characters for a Men's Health 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."

Lauren Ridloff, whom you might know as Connie in The Walking Dead, will also play the MCU's first deaf superhero. Her character, Makkari, is male in the comics.

But what even is an Eternal, you ask? You may have already met one: Thanos. The big, purple mass murderer took center stage in Avengers: Infinity War and took on a whole bunch of heroes in Endgame. He's an Eternal in the comics, but we don't know yet if the same is true of his MCU counterpart.

Like Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy, Eternals will shine the spotlight on Marvel's cosmic comic characters. 

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Ikarus will be played by Richard Madden. You know he's an intense character because he's shooting eye-beams into the sky on the cover of the sixth issue of Marvel's 2008 Eternals comic series.

Marvel Comics

What is the history of the Eternals?

Thanos may be the only Eternal we've seen on screen, but 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.

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. 

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.

For more on the characters from the comics, check out our sister site ComicBook.com's detailed explainer

What else is coming in Phase 4?

Feige gave us plenty of other movies to salivate over during San Diego Comic-Con 2019 MCU panel: Black Widow, Thor 4: Love and ThunderShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Blade

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He also dished out some details about the Marvel TV shows coming to the Disney Plus streaming service: WandaVision, Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, the animated What If...? and Hawkeye.