Marvel’s most surprising film, The Eternals, could well be a prequel for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Phase 4 of the MCU appears to be taking shape, and latest reports are that the 2020 releases will be Black Widow and The Eternals. Both films are believed be set in the past, revealing the never-before-seen history of the MCU. But of the two, The Eternals is by far the boldest.
A first rumored synopsis for The Eternals suggests that the movie will be set “millions of years ago,” when a cosmic race known as the Celestials first began to experiment upon human beings. They will create two powerful evolutionary offshoots of humanity, the Eternals and the Deviants, races who will become locked in war. It’s a fascinating concept, lifted straight from Jack Kirby’s original 1976 design rather than (as had previously been expected) Neil Gaiman’s 2006 relaunch of the franchise.
Why is Marvel choosing to take this surprising and unexpected approach? The answer may well lie in the fact that, in the comics, the Celestials and the Eternals are key to the history of the world. If the same is true in the MCU, then The Eternals could essentially be a prequel film for the entire shared cinematic universe. Here are the ideas that it could explore.
The Celestials are already an established part of MCU lore, introduced in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy films. This powerful race was born long before any other civilizations formed in the universe, and they traveled the cosmos, experimenting with some races and judging others. One flashback scene showed a Celestial wielding the Power Stone, using it to destroy all life on an inhabited world.
But something happened to the Celestials. They mysteriously disappeared from the cosmos, believed to be rendered extinct. Only traces of them remain, like the mining colony of Knowhere, which is built in the severed head of a Celestial. According to the Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary, there’s also evidence of them on the planet Sakaar, which is littered with dismembered parts of their bodies. What could drive a race like the Celestials to extinction? A common theory is that the Celestials lost control of the Infinity Stones and they were turned on their former owners, wiping them from the face of the universe.
Only one Celestial survived. As revealed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ego was the last of the Celestials, and he gave a sense of just how powerful they truly were. Ego could manipulate his “living light” to manipulate matter on an atomic level, forming everything from host bodies for his consciousness to entire worlds. A lone Celestial possessed the power to be a threat to the entire galaxy; fortunately, the Guardians were able to destroy his living light and thus cut Ego off from the source of his power.
If the Eternals synopsis is correct, the movie will be set millions of years ago, when the Celestials were at the height of their power. In the comics, the Eternals honor and revere the Celestials; but it’s entirely possible that the MCU will switch things up, and that the film will see the Celestials overthrown by their own creations.
The Ancient History of the Infinity Stones
The MCU’s Infinity Stones are very different to the Infinity Gems of comic book lore. In Thor: The Dark World, Odin stressed that they are “relics” of the universe before our own. The Collector went further in Guardians of the Galaxy, though, summarizing their history in a fascinating speech. “Before creation itself, there were six singularities,” the Collector explained to the Guardians – and, through them, to viewers. “Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots… Infinity Stones.” One line in that piece of dialogue has always caught the attention of fans; “forged.” It suggests that the Infinity Stones were created, that sometime in the past aliens locked these mysterious “singularities” in “concentrated ingots” of power. Given the Celestials are the first known race to be associated with the Infinity Stones, and their power levels are so off the charts, most viewers have assumed that the Celestials themselves were the ones who created the Infinity Stones.
Earth has always seemed strangely important to the story of the Infinity Stones. So many of them seem to have found their way to this one small blue sphere; the Time Stone, the Reality Stone, and the Space Stone have all been strongly associated with Earth. The Avengers: Infinity War Prelude revealed that the Masters of the Mystic Arts even knew that the Power Stone had been secreted on Morag. Why is Earth so significant? The answer may lie in The Eternals. If this film really is the swan song of the Celestial race, then it will presumably fall to the Eternals of Earth to hide the Infinity Stones. The secret history of these cosmic artifacts may finally be revealed.
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