As 2019’s Avengers: Endgame marked the conclusion of a decade-long series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to grow with new spin-off sagas. Marvel’s Eternals is rallying up the next superhero team to combat evil, only this time we are seeing women take the lead. A star-studded cast featuring icons like Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, and Richard Madden, there are a lot of new faces making their MCU debut.
Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians) is set to be the first Asian woman to headline a Marvel film. Following the release of this year’s highly-anticipated Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Chan's character Sersi, is poised to push boundaries for the studio in expanding their league of heroes. The Eternals are a team of immortal aliens who have been secretly living on Earth for 7,000 years and are pushed out of the shadows to combat their evil counterparts, Deviants, following the events of Avengers: Endgame.
Sersi is an Eternal who empathizes with humans and works alongside Ikaris (Richard Madden) to get the team back together and save humanity. According to director Chlóe Zhao, Chan’s role will make you “rethink what it means to be heroic,” as Sersi is “not your typical superhero.” In comparison to previous Marvel films, Sersi’s strengths don’t lie in her powers or her fighting skills, but in her connection to Earth.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Chlóe Zhao is also changing the game as the first woman of color to direct an MCU production. Inspired by the world-building of films like Blade Runner 2049 or Arrival, Zhao entered this project fighting for more practical locations to fit her vision.
When asked about Chan’s portrayal of Sersi, Zhao shared, “It has always been a passion for me to create a nuanced female superhero that is rarely seen in this genre. She[Chan] brought a beautiful sense of gentleness, compassion, and vulnerability to Sersi that I believe will invite viewers to rethink what it means to be heroic.”
Eternals has one of the most diverse casts in Marvel history, featuring its first deaf superhero played by Afro-Mexican actor Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead.) Taking on the role of Makkari, known for her superhuman speed, her deafness has been reconfigured as an asset rather than a disadvantage. According to Ridloff, “Let’s just say Makkari would not be as fast as she is if it wasn’t for her Deafness.”
In contrast to the Marvel movies over the last decade, and the superhero genre as a whole, the MCU has started to diversify its cast and crew to feature more women and people of color. Salma Hayek, playing the role of Ajak, told Variety, “It’s not diverse for the sake of being diverse. It's the way [Zhao] chose every single one of us that really creates a family for the purpose of the Eternals.”
Marvel’s Eternals releases theatrically on November 5th; no Disney+ release date as of now.
Top Photo: Screenshot / YouTube
Elizabeth Safaryn is a fourth-year student at New York University, studying Media & Communications. She lives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and enjoys learning/writing about feminist representation in cinema and social media. You can follow her at @lizsafaryn