Without a doubt, one of the riskiest upcoming Marvel projects is Eternals. Marvel Studios seems to want to turn the group of cosmic god-like beings into household names much like they did with The Guardians of the Galaxy. To do that, they need big-name talent.
Enter Chloé Zhao. She's certainly not someone most would pick as the next blockbuster director, but Marvel clearly sees more than the general audience. While most of her films haven't been that big in terms of scale, it's her personal and down-to-earth character study Nomadland that is receiving Oscar attention.
Clearly Zhao's work has spoken for itself, seeing how quickly Marvel snatched her up. It seems like it may even work out, seeing as the latest rumor has Eternals shaping up to be one of the best projects that Marvel Studios has put out.
How does a director more known for her small and intimate stories deal with creating larger than life blockbusters?
THE ETERNALS APPROACH
In a piece from The Los Angeles Times about Chloé Zhao, Marvel executive Nate Moore commented on how Zhao approaches her films. Calling her "an inquisitive person," Moore revealed that she approaches the team without "a set of assumptions" about the work:
"She's an inquisitive person about the world and about movies, and that's why her movies work. She's not coming with a set of assumptions...she's trying to investigate it [the topic]."
As for how that translated to something like the Eternals, Moore continued:
"It's weird to say she wanted to investigate these cosmic gods who came to Earth in the 'Eternals,' but she did. What would that be like? She's curious. And she questions everything."
The piece also commented on how Zhao had been holed up in a Burbank Airbnb guesthouse for over a month, working seven days a week on Eternals. She could have easily stayed at a bigger or fancier place, but Zhao likes coziness. That modesty provides a great contrast against the work that she does.
The piece had a quote from Zhao commenting on this choice in living arrangements while working on the film, and how it's nice having something cozy when "everything feels so big and expensive:"
"When you're making a film and everything feels so big and expensive, it's really nice to come home to a cave at night."
SMALL SCALE APPROACH TO A GRAND SCALE FILM
Some may scoff at the initial oddness of this "investigating" approach. The Eternals as a group however are a unique bunch, so creating the film while looking through a unique lenses sounds like the perfect fit. Especially for a blockbuster that is reportedly set to span not only the globe, but the cosmos and time itself.
In a better world, without it having been ravaged by a worldwide pandemic, Eternals would have already released months ago. Sadly that isn't the case, and the film remains shelved until it's November 2021 release date. It was even potentially weeks, if not days, away from the very first trailer before the shutdown.
Now Marvel Studios has to push through the marketing of Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Tings, and the various other Disney+ shows before anything comes from the third MCU film in 2021. All that's currently out there are minor marketing leaks, which only go so far. That all said, it seems that the wait will be worth it–after all, it was reportedly the best pitch Feige has ever heard.