Movies

The Casual Marvel Fan’s Guide to Eternals

Whose voice was that in the post-credits scene? And was that [redacted] cameo just a joke?

A large question mark on top of a still from Eternals featuring five characters standing beside one another on the shore.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Marvel.

This article contains spoilers for Eternals.

Let’s start at the end, please. Harry Styles?!

Harry Styles! As heralded by his hobbit-looking attendant, Pip the Troll (voiced by Patton Oswalt), the One Direction singer and occasional actor (you may or may not remember him as one of the many similar-looking men of Dunkirk) is playing Eros, aka Starfox, aka Thanos’ brother. He is a fellow Eternal, or so he claims, stopping by Earth to help rescue his recently captured brethren.

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It may seem hard to believe that Thanos’ brother could be a good guy, or could look as hot as Styles does. But according to the Marvel comics, that’s exactly who Eros is: He was born as an Eternal on the planet Titan, following the path of good where his brother went in the other direction. While his birth name is Eros, after the god of love, he sometimes goes by Starfox when he’s acting more ostentatiously as a superhero, so now you know that for better or worse this isn’t an unexpected bit of synergy with the Nintendo Cinematic Universe.

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Wait, wait, wait—Eros is an Eternal, too? But also Thanos is his brother? Does that mean he wasn’t created by that Celestial guy with the skyscraper-sized face, like the other Eternals?

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So, this is one of the (many) confusing sticking points of this movie. Unless Patton Oswalt is lying to us, we know that Eros is Thanos’ brother—that’s how he’s introduced to us in the movie, and that’s part of comic book lore. But in the comics, Eros also has two parents that are decidedly not Arishem, the creator of the other Eternals seen here in the movie. He is also actually from a planet, Titan, unlike the nonexistent planet of Olympia. Does this mean that there are other kinds of Eternals entirely, ones that are unrelated but technically of the same “species”? Or is Eros throwing a whole wrench into everything that Arishem said about being the sole creator of each of the Eternals we see here? Marvel better clarify this for us next time, because we sure are lost.

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Can I ask about the other post-credits scene? What is Jon Snow’s family history? Is he yet another superhero? And what did those words mean on the box with his sword? And finally, do we know who that voice was?

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As comics readers already know, Dane Whitman (Kit Harington) is the Marvel superhero known as the Black Knight, the possessor of the mystical Ebony Blade, which has been passed down through his family since the time of King Arthur. The words carved into the chest are Mors Mihi Lucrum, Latin for “Death is my reward.” As for whose voice we hear at the end of the post-credits, we’re not sure yet! Could it be Mahershala Ali making his first appearance as Blade? We asked Disney, but thus far they’ve declined to confirm.

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Update, Nov. 5, 9:40 AM: In an interview with Fandom published on Friday morning, writer-director Chloé Zhao confirmed that the voice is in fact Ali’s, saying, “That was the voice of one of my favorite superheroes, Mr. Blade himself. Blade, Blade, Blade, yeah!”

Is this the first Marvel movie to make reference to DC superheroes like Batman and Superman?

Good spot! Marvel movies have occasionally alluded to DC movies and characters before, but Eternals is the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to reference DC’s most famous characters by name. Zhao talked about why she wanted to include these nods—and especially the Superman one, which is a joke about the Kryptonian-like Ikaris (Richard Madden)—in a recent interview with Cinema Blend.

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I take responsibility for that, because comic books and superhero films, we’re exploring mythology that has existed in human history from all cultures. And you have a character like Superman, for example, and the comics and also the brilliant filmmakers that have brought Superman to life in different movies, they are basically doing a modern interpretation of mythology. And Ikaris, in a way, is our interpretation of that mythology, but it doesn’t mean we can’t pay tribute and have a good time with some of these iconic creations that we all love so much.

So there you have it: Chloé Zhao doesn’t play the DC vs. Marvel game that so many others pledge allegiance to. In the Zhao-iverse, we can all be friends!

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[Read: Eternals Is a Disaster of Intergalactic Proportions]

Speaking of mythology, what’s the deal with the Eternals all having names drawn from myth?

The basic idea is that the figures in myth are based on the Eternals, even if the mythmakers got most of the details wrong. (Hey, a lot can get garbled when you play telephone for a few millennia.) So the Greek warrior Ajax was actually Salma Hayek’s Ajak, who’s a healer, not a fighter. Gemma Chan’s Sersi, like the sorceress in The Odyssey, can transform matter, but only if it’s not sentient: so dust into water, but not men into pigs. Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari (Mercury) is fast, Angelina Jolie’s Thena (Athena) is a badass fighter, Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos (Hephaestus) is a master weapon-maker and inventor akin to the Greek god of fire, and Don Lee’s Gilgamesh packs a punch that has echoed all the way from ancient Mesopotamia. Still, the mythological parallels for Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) seem less clear. Druig sounds like druid, as in the ancient Celtic people, and it’s probably not a coincidence that he’s played by an Irish actor, but it’s not like Druig is known for building henges. As for Ikaris, a quasi-Superman who can fly and shoot beams from his eyes, Sprite apparently thought it would be a good gag to spread stories about his wings melting after he flew too close to the sun, and the story stuck.

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Why do they all have different accents if they’re all robots from the same creator?

Look, the great thing about this plot device is you can simply say: because Arishem made them that way. The same way he made them of different ages, abilities, genders, and races.

What was Angelina Jolie’s accent?

What was Harry Styles’ accent? What is anything even? To be fair, if you’d lived for 7,000 years, you’d probably pick up a lot of weird vocal tics.

Why did some Eternals have to learn different languages, but others were already fluent in them?

Ah yes, the language conundrum. It doesn’t seem that there was much thought placed into the way language functions in the film. Of course, to begin with, it doesn’t make much sense that their main language is English, considering the Eternals predate its development, but the same could be said for the Asgardians or Wakandans. What makes things more confusing here is that we are told that there are other languages the Eternals must learn—languages that predate the language they are currently speaking. If the film had simply not mentioned this, we might have just assumed that the Eternals are all-knowing, or not wondered about this at all, but alas, here we are.

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How do they get away with living among humans while not aging?

For the most part, they just move around a lot (every five years seems to be the standard). That naturally makes it tough to hold down a job or keep a relationship going, although Phastos at least seems to have filled his husband in on what the Eternals’ whole deal is. The only person who’s truly hacked the system is Kingo, who has carved out a centurylong career in Bollywood movies by pretending to be his own great-grandfather, grandfather, and father.

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Why didn’t the Eternals fight Thanos or stop any major wars?

Because they were told not to by Arishem. The reason they’re told is because they’re not meant to interfere in human conflicts, but we eventually find out there’s a darker motive. As Phastos explains, wars produce technological advances, and technological advances allow the population to grow, all the way up to the point where there’s enough energy to fuel Tiamut’s emergence.

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What is this “mad weary” thing they keep talking about? Is it literally just that saving the world over and over for thousands of years makes them … really tired? And this supercharged form of burnout makes you flip out and start killing people? Especially when you’re repressing the traumatic memories of the destruction of entire civilizations?

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Pretty much! Except it’s technically spelled “Mahd Wy’ry,” for some reason.

If they all come from the same creator, aren’t they technically siblings? They keep referring to themselves as family, yet Ikaris and Sersi were married/had sex? And Sprite is in love with Ikaris? And Makkari and Druig are in love? What is going on with that?

I imagine this less as a family family and more as an “I’m stuck with these people in a zombie apocalypse” family. “The apocalypse made us close, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get even closer.” Similarly, while monotheistic people believe that they share one creator, and might even sometimes refer to other children of God as “brother” or “sister,” that doesn’t mean they’re literally biological brothers and sisters, or that all sex with their fellow humans is incest. Get your mind out of the gutter!

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How long were the Deviants in the polar ice caps? And how did Ikaris know where they were?

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No telling exactly, but at least a few hundred years. Ikaris mentions an oil-drilling crew who were mysteriously slaughtered after a melting glacier freed the rogue Deviants, and apparently he had his Google alerts set for just such an eventuality.

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Why does the lead Deviant have the ability to absorb the Eternals’ powers, something Sersi says she’s never heard of before? Did staying frozen all that time give it extra juice or what?

There’s no real explanation to this, but a few things should be considered. First, it is noted that the Deviants do evolve. This ends up being one of the main reasons Arishem creates the Eternals: a new apex predator to take care of the Deviants after they had evolved beyond what Arishem intended. Second, has a Deviant ever killed an Eternal before? I think the answer is: no. So, it wouldn’t have been until the Deviants killed Ajak that they would have been able to absorb an Eternal’s power.

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Why didn’t the Avengers—or literally anyone else—help fight the Deviants?

The Eternals had successfully fought off the Deviants for millennia before the Avengers were ever assembled, so why blow their own cover and ask for help now? Also, you can really start to tie your brain into knots when you start to ask these “But where was X?” sorts of questions about just about any stand-alone Marvel movie.

How did they know where everyone was living/hiding out?

We’re … not sure. The movie seems to be suggesting that every Eternal that is found knows where the next one we meet has been over the years. In actuality, this is one of those moments in the film where you just nod and say yes. We’re always happy to help explain things when we can, but when it comes to movies about flying demigods who shoot lasers from their eyes, sometimes it’s better to just roll with it.

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