The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a flux, and The Eternals may replace Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 - by accident rather than intent. Marvel Studios likes to play the long game, and Kevin Feige has already had meetings about their 2025 slate. Unfortunately, their short-to-medium term plans have been severely disrupted over the last few months.
In July, Disney fired James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after a number of the writer-director's old tweets resurfaced on social media. Gunn was one of the architects of Marvel's future, working closely with Feige to decide the cosmic future of the MCU. Although Marvel still intends to use Gunn's script for Guardians 3, production has been put on hold indefinitely. Given the film was intended to set up the next decade of the MCU's cosmic movies, this is a dramatic change to the slate, and its repercussions will be felt for years.
Attention is now focused on The Eternals, a surprising Marvel film that could be a prequel to the entire MCU. The script has been written by Black List writers Matthew and Ryan Firpo, rising names in Hollywood following their spec script Ruin, and Chloé Zhao (best known for indie-favorite The Rider) has been brought on board as director. But is it possible The Eternals will (perhaps unintentionally) replace Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?
- This Page: Eternals Is taking Guardians' Place
- Page 2: Why This Problem Will Only Get Worse
Eternals Now Releases In Guardians of the Galaxy 3's Year
Marvel is keeping their post-Phase 3 slate under wraps as much as possible, and no official releases have been confirmed after 2019. Matters have been complicated by the fact Disney has removed a Marvel movie from its 2020 schedule. This may not be related to the firing of Gunn, of course; Disney is currently shuffling its schedule around a little ahead of its impending acquisition of 20th Century Fox. The Mouse House don't put their own films up against one another, and their commitment to releasing all completed Fox movies once the deal has been finalized poses a difficult logistical challenge.
For all the questions posed over the 2020 slate, though, it's generally believed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was intended to release that May. Gunn had completed the script, after all, and Chris Pratt had confirmed filming was scheduled to begin in January 2019. Gunn himself had strongly hinted that it was aiming to release in 2020 as well.
The latest reports suggest that, instead, Black Widow will now release on May 1 (the date that was presumably being saved for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), with The Eternals slated for November 6. That makes sense; those are the two projects known to be most advanced, with scripts finished and directors on board. This, in itself, demonstrates a careful split in terms of focus, with Black Widow continuing the terrestrial plots (and reportedly presenting Black Widow's backstory), while The Eternals explores the cosmic side of the MCU. In thematic terms, then, The Eternals appears to have taken the place of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Eternals, Not Guardians, Will Define The MCU's Cosmic Future
As a consequence, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will no longer launch the post-Phase 3's cosmic future. Instead, that role will be occupied by The Eternals, the third Marvel film to hit the box office after next year's Avengers 4. A leaked plot synopsis has suggested that The Eternals will be set millions of years in the past, revealing the ancient experiments conducted upon humans by an alien race known as the Celestials. Given the Celestials have already been tied to the Infinity Stones, and Thanos himself is an Eternal Deviant, this is essentially a giant MCU prequel.
But the focus on the Eternals potentially introduces a number of key ideas to the MCU as well. In the comics, they're tied to a number of colonies on alien worlds (most notably Titan, Thanos's homeworld). And those ancient Celestial experiments did more than create a new evolutionary offshoot of humanity; in the comics, four billion years ago, a dying Celestial's blood leached into the Earth, introducing the potential for superhumans. The Celestials are even responsible for creating the dormant X-gene into the human race; when the X-gene eventually activated, it led to the rise of the mutant race. Looking beyond the Earth, the alien shapeshifters known as the Skrulls were also created by Celestial experiments.
It's difficult to say how many of these ideas will be developed - or, perhaps, teased - in The Eternals. Still, the fact remains that this project has the potential to introduce the potential for so many new ideas into the MCU. Although The Eternals took Marvel lovers by surprise when it was first announced, it makes sense; it serves as a potential launch-pad for the MCU's future, both cosmic and Earth-bound. That's very similar to the role Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was expected to play.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019