The first teaser for Chloé Zhao’s entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals, arrived this morning, offering all the natural splendor that could make a set-in-his-ways studio honcho like Kevin Feige reconsider ever working with a green screen again. You know, stuff like location shoots and sunsets and sweeping natural vistas that wouldn’t look out of place in Zhao’s Best Picture- and Best Director-winning Nomadland. As we glimpse the millennia-spanning, humanity-shaping activities of the immortal aliens first introduced to Marvel Comics by Jack Kirby in 1976, the Eternals teaser even forgoes the now-customary trailercore lullaby needle drop, opting instead for the original article: Skeeter Davis’ recording of the melodramatic slow dance “The End Of The World.” “Gaze,” Salma Hayek’s voiceover might as well be saying, “upon a different kind of Marvel movie.”
But formulas being formulas, the grandeur and observe-and-guide-but-don’t-interfere actions of Hayek and her co-stars—including Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry, and Richard Madden—can’t last forever. Like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians Of The Galaxy before it, Eternals teases some fresh angles for the Marvel Cinematic Universe until the ominous storm clouds start rolling in, promising the threat of a climactic showdown with The Eternals’ similarly long-lasting nemeses, The Deviants. But at least before those portents and echoes of past superhero battles with shafts of light from the sky, there’s Nanjiani in the middle of some choreographed razzle dazzle (his character, Kingo, takes on an alter ego as a Bollywood star) and Lea McHugh’s Sprite doing karaoke on a jet. Plus, there’s that stinger around the well-stocked banquet table, in which the godlike extraterrestrials shoot the shit about fallen Avengers—the sort of hangout moment that made for one of the few shining spots in the most lackluster of cinematic outings for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
There should be more material like that in Marvel movies. Maybe there can be thanks to Zhao, Eternals, and one of several bizarro cosmologies Kirby wove during his illustrious comics career. Those clouds seem to indicate otherwise, though.