‘Eternals’ Director Chloe Zhao Says Jaw-Dropping Visuals Were Snagged From the Comic Book

After a very successful year as a director, with winning the Oscar for Best Director, Chloe Zhao is back with her directorial debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Eternals. The trailer for Eternals, which was released recently, has striking visuals of open, unending landscapes as well as stunning combat sequences. Speaking to EW, Zhao revealed where the inspiration for these visuals came from.

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It came from the ‘Eternals’ creator Jack Kirby

The Eternals were characters created by Kirby for Marvel comics in the 1970s. Kirby had returned to Marvel after a stint with DC Comics and Eternals became one of his first projects back. 

His design for Arishem, a Celestial whose arrival on Earth marks the beginning of humanity’s trial and judgment, closely resembles the look of the Celestial that appears in the trailer.

Zhao, in an interview with EW, said that initial work by Kirby on the Eternals played a huge role in designing the visuals in the movie. The movie is a foray into a new world different from what the audiences have seen before. 

As the movies venture into cosmic territories that have genetically engineered races, like the Eternals, and godlike creatures, like the Celestials, the viewers can expect a different visual experience. For the appearance of these never-seen-before beings, Zhao picked up even the smallest details from Kirby’s comics.

“None of this is possible without Jack Kirby’s brilliant creation,” Zhao said. “That was a huge part of it for us. That goes for everything, from the design of the spaceship to the tiniest symbol on the costumes, to what their powers look like.”

But it’s not all Kirby

While the creator’s vision had a definite impact on how things look in the film, Zhao also looked at the bigger impact that each frame and the presence of each small detail would have on the movie. Everything, according to Zhao, had to “serve the story.”

“For me, it’s always like, what does this say about them as a group? Or their relationship with the Celestials and the Deviants and each other?” Zhao said.

There are glimpses of Zhao’s signature as well

The trailer of Eternals opens with the scene of Salma Hayek, who plays the Eternals’ leader Ajak, riding a horse across a green pasture. You take one look at that and you know that this is Zhao’s film. The use of a sublime color tone and the use of wide-open lands are clear style choices closer to Zhao’s previous works like her Oscar-winning film Nomadland.

While these are the characteristics that we have previously associated with Zhao, a few changes can be expected since this is the first time she is directing a Marvel superhero movie. A huge curiosity has developed to find out how the director adapted to Marvel’s style, like its one-liners and sense of humor — which, from the looks of it, Zhao has retained. 

More importantly, for Zhao and the actors in the movie, it is essential that the audience connects with the more real and grounding themes of the film.

“I haven’t seen the final film, but I will say that humanity and kindness is at its core. I’m hoping audiences feel that,” Angelina Jolie, who plays Thena in the movie told EW.

While the anticipation and speculations are just going to increase leading up to the release of the movie, it will certainly be interesting to watch what actually happens onscreen on Nov. 5.

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