Depicting large expanses of time in a movie has always been a risky cinematic pursuit, even though it’s been done with aplomb by the greatest directors. When applying this to the MCU and the upcoming The Eternals that has plans to do so, one could easily think such a time frame would falter in a usually fast-moving genre.
Add Kevin Feige to the mix, though, and there’s a good chance it’ll work since his risks almost always pay off. Not that Feige and Marvel haven’t stuck with a workable formula in the MCU. Then again, Avengers: Endgame attempted something similar with a time skip, and that paid off both critically and financially.
Just how much time will be explored in next year’s The Eternals? It’s going to explore a longer period of time than any movie has perhaps ever achieved next to the eon time jump in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
‘The Eternals’ will span thousands of years
According to Screen Rant, it’s been confirmed the film will take place over 7,000 years of Marvel history. Turning an MCU film into a sweeping historical epic is bold territory to explore, to say the least. Yet, with Kevin Feige at the helm, there shouldn’t be too many concerns since his mastery in complex storytelling has already been proven. The same goes with the screenwriting team, though this one will be written by the Firpo brothers (Matthew and Ryan).
The only film recently comparable in covering a large expanse of history would probably be 2012’s Cloud Atlas. This film covered a broad spectrum of time, starting in 1849 and going into the future to the year 2361. Its intent was to show how history often repeats itself while connecting family and strangers through a vast web of time.
As most film fans know, Cloud Atlas was a massive experiment few understood. Making only $130 million with a $145 million budget, it was an example of why Hollywood hasn’t made many things like it as of late.
Can 7,000 years be covered effectively in under three hours?
Most likely, The Eternals will do what Cloud Atlas did: jump to different intervals of time with a little bit of context or irony at each narrative stop. Since the Marvel timeline has a lot of history behind it (or perhaps speculative history), there’s likely going to be a lot of connective strings to things happening in later films.
Seeing ancient Earth with Marvel characters will probably be a major trip for most fans. Considering this could be deemed a metaphorical biblical epic, there may be allusions to how life started on our planet alongside the division of the Eternals as superhuman beings created by the Celestials.
Certainly, the split among the Eternals and the Deviants makes for a fallen angels parallel, bringing potential story ideas both fascinating and vast. Regardless, it still needs to focus on character development since these characters haven’t been seen on the big screen before.
One could argue this is the real risk over covering long stretches of time.
Another innovative touch to this film is that the Eternals will have knowledge of the future Avengers, making the former characters almost like guardian angels in many ways.
This connecting string alone is a smart plot device to make it gel with audiences who might feel nervous about watching vast Marvel history unfold. At least audiences will know it’s not going to be dull history based on the surefire spectacular effects. Part of this may involve the most realistic depiction of ancient Earth ever attempted on the big-screen.
Also, knowing that the Eternals are familiar with the Avengers makes for a more expansive universe, making all prior Avengers films look and feel a little different, understanding that the modern superheroes are essentially being watched over.