How Chloé Zhao's Vision For 'The Eternals' Will Redefine What It Means To Be A Superhero

Photo: Marvel Entertainment/Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images
How Is Chloé Zhao Making Eternals More Intimate Than Other Marvel Movies?

After the announcement of the "Eternals" film in 2018, the long-awaited project released a teaser trailer this morning —  and it looks like everything we could hope for and more.

The star-studded cast includes Salma Hayerk, Kumail Nanjiani (you probably remember him from The Big Sick, his real-life love story with his wife), and Angelina Jolie. Along with a diverse set of heroes — including the first openly gay superhero and the first deaf superhero — Zhao envisions a whole new definition of what it means to be a superhero.

This movie has the potential to be the most representational Marvel film to date. 

With creative genius Chloé Zhao writing and directing, "Eternals" might also be the most emotionally intelligent movie Marvel has ever produced.

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The Eternals are a race of humanoids described as an offshoot of the evolutionary process that created sentient life on Earth. They have watched over the planet and guided humanity for over 7,000 years.

As a result, they’ve developed their own sense of humanity and show true emotional awareness and instinct.

When Zhao showed Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige her "Eternals" presentation pitch, he was thoroughly impressed, saying it was “fascinating.”

Feige went on to explain that “one of the reasons we moved forward on the movie was because of the vision that she brought to it.”

In an interview with Margaret Gardiner, she spoke about the process of writing and directing the film, as well as her vision and hopes for the message she wanted to convey. “In the writing process, that’s where I bring my sensibility in, that’s a huge part of it."

She wanted to be a huge part of the film's writing, and commended them for giving her the full reigns to do so.

“I think what Marvel has been so incredible at — Kevin [Feige] and Nate [Moore] and the whole team — they knew from the moment I pitched the film that I really wanted the scope and scale at the same time as the intimacy, they knew I wanted both.”

Zhao is no stranger to intimacy and emotion in her movies

Her most recent film, "Nomadland," won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress (Frances McDormand), making Zhao the second woman ever — and the first woman of color — to win the Oscar for Best Director.

Low budget with a successful box office, "Nomadland" was universally acclaimed and described as “poetic” and “magic.”

Her previous film, "The Rider," was nominated for several Independent Spirit Awards and won the award for Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics.

Universally acclaimed as well, critic Godfrey Cheshire from RogerEbert.com wrote that its “style, its sense of light and landscape and mood, simultaneously give it the mesmerizing force of the most confident cinematic poetry."

"Marvel’s Eternals" will be the fourth movie that Zhao has written and directed, and the first film where she isn’t part of the production team — but she has full creative control over how the movie is filmed and how it’s going to feel.

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Zhao wanted the film’s cast to be internationally diverse, and the Marvel team supported it 

She wanted to put her signature style and vision into the film, and using the foundation Jack Kirby — the creator of the Eternals comic — gave her, she was able to “cook up something that may just taste a little bit different.”

When asked about the LGBTQ+ inclusion, Kevin Feige said it “was always sort of inherent in the story and the makeup of the different types of Eternals. I think it is extremely well done, and I look forward to that level of inclusion in our future movies being less of a topic.”

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Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani praised Zhao as well for including a Bollywood dance scene with around 50 dancers.

“When I walked onto the set and saw a huge group of brown people who were going to be in a Marvel movie, I felt such gratitude towards Chloé for creating the situation,” Nanjiani said.

On her vision and her representation, Zhao said, “I wanted it to reflect the world we live in, but also I wanted to put a cast together that feels like a group of misfits."

She also said that she didn't want to cast jocks.

"I want you to walk away at the end of the movie not thinking, ‘This person is this ethnicity, that person is that nationality.’" she explains.

"I want you to walk away thinking, ‘That’s a family.’ You don’t think about what they represent. You see them as individuals.”

Zhao was always a long-time fan of Marvel and the MCU as well, so the film is personal for her, and it’s ramping up to be quite the movie — cinematically and for what it represents to its viewers.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.