Though he acknowledges Disney is taking a risk with its considerable budget and ensemble cast, Kevin Feige says that he believes Marvel's Eternals is a "risk worth taking." A big-budget production set for a November 2020 release date, Eternals is helmed by award-winning indie director Chloe Zhao and stars, among other big names, Kit Harrington, Angelina Jolie, and Richard Madden (of early Game of Thrones fame). With the eponymous heroes all but unknown in the mainstream (much like several previous MCU protagonists), some fans worry that Marvel's adaptational winning streak could be at risk.
The Eternals are a near-immortal team of superheroes that have yet to be introduced in the MCU. In the comics, the Eternals are extremely powerful human beings gifted with extraordinary powers by a race of cosmic beings known as the Celestials. To bring the Eternals to life on the big screen, Marvel is counting on an impressive ensemble cast. In addition to Jolie, Harrington, and Madden, Eternals also stars Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, and Salma Hayek. Marvel has brought star power to superhero debuts before, and the cast will likely be the film's biggest asset ahead of its 2020 release.
What's more, according to Feige, the film will attempt to push the limits of what Marvel is known for in terms of genre. "It is a very big movie," he said in THR's Awards Chatter Podcast. "It is a very expensive movie. And we are making it because we believe in [Zhao’s] vision and we believe in what those characters can do and we believe we need to continue to grow and evolve and change and push our genre forward, that’s a risk if I’ve ever heard one.” Feige's concerns aren't without merit; no film, after all, is a guarantee, a lesson the cast of Eternals learned after a Nazi-era bomb scare earlier this month.
Feige is the master architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he clearly believes that Eternals is a risk well worth taking for Disney and Marvel. The movie might seem like a strange choice, but the Eternals are actually reminiscent of another Marvel success story: the Guardians of the Galaxy. Before that movie's announcement, almost no one had ever heard of the superhero team, which featured both a talking raccoon and a sentient tree. Despite this, the hugely successful film helped cement Chris Pratt as a leading man and action star. On top of that, the movie quickly became many fans' favorite movie in the MCU. There's reason to hope that Eternals could go the same way given their similar starting points and Feige's considerable track record. Alluring tidbits, like the film's possible setting in the MCU's ancient past, have helped to stir up early buzz. But some important differences shouldn't be ignored; for one thing, whereas Guardians won fans over primarily through its humor, Eternals is described as having a "very different tone" under Zhao's direction.
There's undoubtedly a lot of potential behind the upcoming film, beyond its budget and casting. Eternals has a lot of room to play in the MCU's expanding interstellar lore thanks to films like Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Captain Marvel, and Thor: Ragnarok. In the end, the success or failure of the movie will depend on how well its cast of characters grab audiences around the world next year. If Jolie, Madden, Harrington, and their co-stars aren't given strong material, then Eternals may prove to be a bad bet for Feige and Disney after all.