Marvel Studios is undoubtedly preparing to ramp up work on new Marvel Cinematic Universe-based films for the now Disney-controlled X-Men and Fantastic Four characters ... someday ... but the goliath studio’s more immediate plans seem to be focused on a different, much less widely known Marvel Comics 'franchise' – The Eternals.
That may be a head-scratcher to some, considering even many Marvel Comics diehards aren’t particularly familiar with the Eternals. But as a report from The Hollywood Reporter points out, unless Marvel is already sitting on fully-formed plans for their newly-acquired but much-loved franchises, their own production schedule seems to indicate it’ll be at least a couple years before anything from Fox gets off the ground.
[click here for another reason why Marvel Studios may sit on the X-Men for a while ]
THR also claims The Eternals and Black Widow are the two MCU films slated to begin principal production this year, if accurate making them a lock to fill out Marvel's already-announced May 1, 2020 and November 6, 2020 release dates.
Studio President Kevin Feige even addressed Marvel's motives for using the Eternals, saying that the franchise is the doorway to a "unique and different" vision of the MCU.
"Eternals are one group, but we like the idea of introducing an ensemble, doing an ensemble movie from the start, as opposed to building up as we did with the first Avengers," Feige said. "More like Guardians, not tonally, but in terms of introducing a new group of people. You were asking about ’60s, and ’70s before. Jack Kirby did an immense, amazing epic with Eternals that spans tens of thousands of years, and that’s also something we haven’t really done, which is why that among many other things post-Endgame, we find appealing.”
Feige's comments might actually indicate a common thread linking the Eternals to plans that may have been in sight for some time now – and which may explain exactly why they’ve been chosen to bridge the gap.
Created by Jack Kirby in the 1970s upon his return to Marvel after a stint at DC, the Eternals were another attempt by the 'King of Comics' to codify a mythos around powerful, hidden, godlike beings who also function as superheroes in the modern world (you can read more about the specifics on who the Eternals are right here).
Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s a little like Kirby's own Thor and the Asgardians, a bit like the New Gods, and maybe most relevantly the Inhumans – themselves the product of genetic experimentation by the more powerful beings, living in a hidden society.
At one time, Marvel’s publicly-announced plans called for an Inhumans film – a big-screen blockbuster aimed to release in November, 2018 between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (then called Infinity War Part 2). But somewhere along the way, behind the scenes changes led to the Inhumans playing a role on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. MCU-lite TV show before spinning the Inhumans’ most popular characters into their own IMAX/TV spin-off.
ABC's Inhumans bit the dust hard, lasting only a season among poor critical and commercial reception – seemingly also scuttling any plans of an Inhumans movie.
But what to do with that piece of the MCU puzzle – a hidden society of heroes with links to the Kree, the Celestials, the Infinity Stones, the Skrulls, perhaps the Asgardians and even Captain Marvel (and potentially even mutants, and maybe the FF)? Enter the Eternals, a similar team of Kirby creations with parallels to the Inhumans in their position in Marvel lore, but with less potential baggage (and more room for a Guardians of the Galaxy-like reinvention on the big screen).
Marvel Studios' biggest brand isn't the Avengers or any one particular character anymore, it's the MCU itself. Think of the Eternals as potentially the MCU's solo origin film.
Given all those factors, it’s possible that Eternals moved into the place once occupied by Marvel’s cancelled Inhumans film, potentially also providing a perfect niche for the Eternals to fill in the MCU’s next (likely Captain Marvel-centric) phase.