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Eternals: first trailer for Chloé Zhao’s Marvel movie released

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Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan and Kit Harington among stars seen in promo for Oscar-winning director’s superhero movie

The first trailer for Eternals, the next film in the MCU, set for release in November.

Last modified on Mon 24 May 2021 11.38 EDT

The first trailer for Eternals, a new Marvel movie directed by Oscar-winning film-maker Chloé Zhao, has been released.

Zhao shot the film back-to-back with Nomadland, her elegiac drama about van-dwellers in America, using the same camera and operating rig. Such continuity has led many superhero-sceptic cinephiles to entertain unusually high hopes for an MCU movie.

The first promotional clip for the film, which is due to be released in November, will provide early cheer for both those hoping for a thoughtful change of tone for the studio, and the Marvel purists eager for a project with due deference to the whizzy biffing that has come before.

Jolie in Eternals.
Jolie in Eternals. Photograph: Marvel Studios

The film is set in the immediate aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, which left many of the series’ key players dead or otherwise unavailable for world-saving. It revolves around members of an immortal alien race who have secretly lived fairly quiet lives (including as a Bollywood dancer and museum curator) on Earth, but who must now club together and use their assorted superpowers for the sake of humanity.

Angelina Jolie plays Thena, a warrior who can create any weapon out of cosmic energy, while Richard Madden is Ikaris, the Eternals’ leader who can fly, shoot beams of cosmic energy from his eyes and has super strength. The emotional engine of the film appears to be Ikaris’s centuries of sexual tension with Sersi (Gemma Chan), who works in Oxford’s Museum of Natural History and has the ability to manipulate matter.

The Eternals
The Eternals Photograph: Marvel Studios

Other gang members include Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, the first deaf superhero in the MCU, and Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, the first openly gay superhero, whom we see with his husband and child. Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Barry Keoghan and Kit Harington also feature.

Earlier this month, Marvel boss Kevin Feige came in for ridicule after expressing surprise at Zhao being able to shoot landscape scenes without relying on visual effects. He said he had been amazed Zhao spent time “really fighting for practical locations” and that, while showing Disney executives samples of the footage, he “had to keep saying, ‘This is right out of a camera; there’s no VFX work to this at all!’

“Because it was a beautiful sunset, with perfect waves and mist coming up from the shore on this giant cliffside – really impressive stuff.”

Although he had been among those executives instrumental in hiring Zhao for the film, Feige said it was only after watching Nomadland he quite realised what Zhao had been doing.

Madden and Chan in Eternals.
Madden and Chan in Eternals. Photograph: Marvel Studios

“Oh! That is not just what she wanted to bring to Marvel; this is a signature style,” Feige said he thought at the time.

The first face seen in the Eternals trailer is that of an unknown middle-aged woman, weathered on a dusty plain – an image that will feel familiar to those acquainted with her previous work.

Artful use of music such as Skeeter Davis’s The End of the World furthers suggestions that Eternals will indeed mark a change of direction for the series, while the jocular payoff to the trailer nods back to the larky self-reverence of canonical Avengers movies.

Zhao became the second woman ever to win the Oscar for best director last month. Nomadland also took the best picture and best actress awards.