Features and Columns · Movies

Shot by Shot with the Final ‘Eternals’ Trailer

After a couple dozen films, Marvel is finally ready to get real weird: Jack Kirby weird.
Eternals Jack Kirby
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on August 19th, 2021

Welcome to Shot by Shot, our ongoing series of movie and TV trailer breakdowns. We’re constantly scouring for perfect shots, and in this column, we share our favorites and discuss them. In this entry, we wander into the cosmic cool that is the final Eternals trailer for a shot-by-shot breakdown.

If Thor was Marvel’s first dip into the cosmic weird of their comics, and Guardians of the Galaxy was their first swim into the deep end, Eternals is their cannonball splash. Marvel audiences have proven that they’re not timid about bizarre characters, kooky worlds, and even kookier ideas. Absurdity embraced by authenticity and warmth is where the franchise thrives.

Eternals is equally significant because it represents Jack Kirby in his purest, most marvelous form. The artist who helped build the comics company in the 1960s returned in the mid-1970s after running wild and hitting a brick wall at DC Comics (read everything you can regarding New Gods and their Fourth World). Eternals was his baby, and despite a solid following, it did not capture the culture’s imagination in any consequential way. Since then, many other writers, including Neil Gaiman, have tried to inject relevance into the concept, but few readers stuck around.

Maybe the movie will convince the world of its brilliance and spark global interest in a concept that has struggled to procure mass appeal. With The Rider and Nomadland, director Chloé Zhao delivered two deeply meditative and internal examinations. Eternals is a bombastic visual feast on the page, but at its heart is a deep love for humanity, flaws and all. Judging by the final Eternals trailer, this adoration for a faulty creation is what connects this work to the filmmaker’s previous efforts.

There is a lot of weird here, and the trailer doesn’t hold your hand. Marvel’s reached a point where they don’t need to spell out the story. Sure, it leaves you scratching your head, but you’re showing up no matter what, and maybe we can help you out a little bit. If you’re curious but unsure, join me as I go shot by shot for a breakdown of the Eternals trailer and pull out a few interesting frames that should get any Marvel maniac excited.

Eternals Trailer

Ajak (Salma Hayek) visits Ikaris (Richard Madden) to discuss all that Gauntlet snappin’ that went down during Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. She explains, “The sudden return of Earth’s population provided the necessary energy for the Emergence to begin.” The what-now?

The Emergence could refer to a couple of things. Most likely, Ajak is discussing the Deviants. These creatures were created by the Celestials, those giant Space Gods we’ll talk about in a second. Some say they were bred for food; others believe they were created to counter-balance the more attractively super-powered Eternals. These monstrous Homosapien splinters believe they hold dominion over Earth. Ajak’s Eternals were created to prevent their apocalyptic spread.

The Emergence could also refer to the Celestials’ return…

Celestials Round Table

Before humanity walked the Earth, the Celestials visited. They are responsible for our creation. But before we came along, they bred the Eternals and the Deviants. Through their genetic tinkering, they planted the seeds that would eventually develop into all manner of super-powered individuals. Every hero in the Marvel universe results from their tampering, and Earth was not the only planet they visited. Both the Skrulls and Kree came from Celestial interference.


If you reach back into history and myth, Deviants are often confused or re-imagined into fantastical characters like Odysseus’ cyclops or  Perseus’ Medusa. Their designs in the final Eternals trailer recall harpies and hell-hounds. They’re big scary beasties, but don’t dismiss their multiple eyes, limbs, and fangs as belonging to mindless monsters. They have wants and desires. There is validity to their claim on Earth.

Eternals Trailer Black Knight

For seven thousand years, the Eternals have guarded Earth against the Deviants. Whenever these opponents marched on humanity, Ikaris and his pals stomped them out. They’re not allowed to interfere in human affairs unless Deviants are involved. It’s a convenient way of explaining why they didn’t join the Avengers during the Thanos war.

Hearing such blather, Kit Harington‘s Dane Whitman scoffs. He doesn’t care what their excuses were, but he is curious. Who are these Celestials that command the Eternals?

Eternals Trailer Celestials Boss
Marvel Studios

We’ve briefly seen the Celestials during The Collector’s Infinity Stone slideshow back in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. These are some of the oldest beings in existence, but they are not the first beings. When creation occurred, there was only one sentient lifeform, called The First Firmament. Alone in an endless space, this entity became despondent and created other lifeforms to stave off boredom. But once The First Firmament started creating life, it had to create more life to sustain life. Eventually, the Celestials came along, and they started playing god as well. Their children were the Eternals and the Deviants…and us.

Eternals Team Shot

Our protectors, the Eternals, in a great team shot in the trailer. From left to right: Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Sprite (Lia McHugh), and Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry).

They’ve hidden in plain sight within human society, and they’ve mostly stayed away from each other. During their time with humans, they’ve witnessed our glory and our failings. Through these observations, they’ve developed a profound paternal love. They’ve followed orders and stayed out of our business, but with Deviants about, they can finally express their adoration for us through combat. That’s the Marvel way.

The Black Knight Impressed

Harington is the outsider. However, his Dane Whitman is another Marvel hero, The Black Knight. A descendent of the Knights of the Round Table, Whitman is the keeper of The Ebony Blade. The enchanted weapon grants its user invulnerability, and that euphoric feeling also curses the hero with a terrible addiction. The Black Knight has been a member of both The Avengers and the Masters of Evil. He’s the kind of guy who may shame the Eternals into early action, breaking Celestial orders.

Eternals Trailer Kro

Here’s an exhilarating shot from the trailer for Eternals readers. The tall fellow lifting Jolie’s Thena from the floor is Kro. He’s a Deviant leader and a brilliant military strategist. He’s played the villain’s part, going so far as to masquerade as the Devil, but he’s not a two-dimensional psycho hellbent on global domination. He wants what all want: happiness and security for his people.

Kro Thena Love

In the comics, Kro and Thena have an intense on-again/off-again relationship. They are Marvel’s Romeo and Juliet, the forbidden romance. Great acts of affection from Kro often woo Thena, but his violent, often extreme stance against humans drives a wedge between them.

Eternals Trailer Kro

Here Kro denies Thena her love for humanity. It’s a sweet gesture, but “you can’t protect any of them.” He believes his will to be stronger than hers. It’s a bet none of us should take. As the leader of the Eternals, Thena is a titan of strength. We see some of those skills displayed in the final Eternals trailer, but wait until she unleashes her telekinesis, telepathy, and mind control. She’ll make a puppet out of Kro, not the other way around. And she’ll hate every second of it.

End On A Laugh The Mcu Way

Ikaris proves to Phastos why you should never buy from Ikea. The world is on the brink of collapse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t end on a laugh. This is also the Marvel way.

Eternals arrives in theaters on November 5th.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)