Marvel Studios started off 2022 by officially releasing Eternals on Disney+ after its theatrical release in November 2021. Featuring an all-star cast with the likes of Richard Madden as Ikaris and Salma Hayek as Ajak while also teasing big things for the franchise's cosmic future, Eternals continues making its mark with fans across the world able to stream it from the comfort of home.
The MCU's third movie of 2021 is already breaking viewership records within its first couple of weeks on Disney+ as fans take in another round of interesting storytelling and top-notch visual effects. With Eternals featuring the introduction of nearly a dozen new superheroes over the course of a 156-minute runtime, Marvel Studios had a tall task in making sure each hero and villain got their own story while expanding the overall narrative.
Part of that challenge with each hero was making sure each of their powers looked and sounded unique on the big screen, particularly in terms of making them stand out from iconic characters from other franchises.
Recently, director Chloé Zhao specifically touched on that challenge in regards to Madden's Ikaris, who drew in-universe comparisons to another super-powered flying man in blue.
Differentiating Ikaris From DC's Superman
In the Eternals Audio Commentary, director Chloé Zhao explained how the team made sure that Richard Madden's Ikaris looked and used his superpowers differently from DC's Superman.
Zhao spoke about wanting the two to be "separated...as much as possible" with Superman's eyes using heat vision and Ikaris being able to shoot "more of an energy blast" from his eyes. To do this, sound designer Addison Teague looked to emphasize the sound of Ikaris' powers to portray the impact more than how it looked visually:
"We wanted to make sure that we separated Ikaris from Superman as much as possible. Superman has heat vision while [Ikaris] has more of an energy blast. So, in creating the sound for [Ikaris]' eye beams, [sound designer] Addison [Teague] put more [emphasis] on the power, the sound of power, impact, and pressure so that it has a very unique sound."
Moving to the group's powers as a whole, Zhao wanted each hero's abilities to feel "elemental," specifically referencing the sphere that's housed in Ajak's chest and Sprite's illusions being somewhat water-based.
Zhao and the team used audible elements "from different types of sacred worship" to make the Eternals' powers sound unique in the final cut of the movie:
"It feels almost elemental. We wanted all of their powers, even from the opening scene when you see the little sphere coming out of Ajak's chest and going into Ajak's chest, there's like a humming sound. And with Sprite's illusions, there's a water element to it. We always use sound from different types of sacred worship, like a Tibetan singing bowl or, you know, Druig's mind controlling is more like a whisper, a chant. And so Addison took all these different types of sounds of worships to create the Eternals' powers sound. Pretty awesome."
Elements to Zhao's Work on Eternals' Powers
Bringing superpowers to a major Hollywood blockbuster is no easy feat, especially with such a vast quantity of movies and TV shows from multiple companies playing at the same time. This is particularly challenging with heroes from different franchises that have similar powers, as is the case with Marvel's Ikaris and DC's Superman.
These similarities were even referenced in the movie itself as Phastos' son Jack compared Ikaris to Superman in their first meeting. With the two boasting many of the same powers, like flight and the aforementioned eye beams, Marvel decided to make this connection canon by referencing the Last Son of Krypton as a character in-universe.
As for the visuals, Ikaris' optical powers utilized a yellow color scheme along with intense sound effects to make as much of an impact audibly as they did visually. This came as something quite different than Superman's red-colored heat vision, which can melt through almost any item in its path, as opposed to Ikaris' simply blasting enemies away from him.
The elemental aspect to each of the Eternals' powers helped in this endeavor far beyond Ikaris, as the team's abilities stood apart and separated themselves from anything seen in past Marvel or DC movies. Whether it was with sound or visuals, Eternals helped to distance itself from DC's powerful hero by making sure Ikaris' powers were all his own.
Eternals is now streaming worldwide on Disney+.