Since the powerful Eternals have been on Earth for thousands of years, why didn’t they help fight Thanos in the MCU? The film’s trailer explains.
The first full trailer for Eternals finally explains why the titular group didn’t bother lending a hand when Thanos came to town. The Eternals’ arrival is undoubtedly a watershed moment for the MCU. Created by the Celestials, the likes of Sersi, Ikaris and Thena are super-powerful, super-immortal beings who wield and manipulate energy in various creative ways. Though they hail from elsewhere, the Eternals have been secretly living on Earth for the past 7000 years, masquerading as ordinary humans, and sometimes inspiring a religion or two.
Naturally, the introduction of the Eternals prompts the question “why now?” Not getting involved against Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, or Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron is probably fair enough, and even The Avengers‘ Battle of New York remained limited in scope, but Thanos proved a different prospect entirely, targeting the entire universe, and succeeding in wiping out half of all life. The Eternals were absent during round 1 in Avengers: Infinity War, seemingly chose not to chase down Thanos during the intervening years, and then went missing once again during the fateful Avengers: Endgame rematch. Their record looks even worse considering Thanos (in the comics, at least) is an Eternal himself, of a fashion.
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The new Eternals trailer provides long awaited answers – though whether they’re sufficient is open to interpretation. The latest footage is refreshingly non-committal in terms of plot, relying instead on the star-studded cast and Chloé Zhao’s breathtaking visuals. The trailer does, however, reveal the Eternals first arriving on our humble planet in their flying Toblerone chunk, greeted by bemused early man. A voiceover from Salma Hayek’s Ajak (the Eternals’ leader) then recounts what the extra-terrestrial immigrants have been up to since. Apparently, they “watched and guided” humanity, and the accompanying imagery of crops and machinery suggests Sersi’s pals would offer mankind snippets of valuable information from the shadows – subtly hinting that chariots would move quicker if the wheels were round, or that drilling a hole into someone’s skull isn’t the best way to cure a headache, presumably.
Ajak also states “we have never interfered… until now.” This line confirms the Eternals’ policy of non-interference, like a classical monotheistic god, or the Time Lords. Ajak’s voiceover reveals a certain pride in humanity accomplishments, and the Eternals clearly want us to thrive on our own steam, guided along the right path, but never pushed. Firstly, this explains why the Eternals allowed tragedies such as World War II to take place, despite being powerful enough to stop them. The Eternals’ code also accounts for their absence during previous MCU battles, since past enemies have either originated on Earth (Ultron, Kaecilius, Red Skull), or fell within the capacity of mortals to handle (Loki, Malekith).
Whether this excuse holds water is a matter of debate. Most of the Eternals seem happy to meddle by steering humanity towards better farming techniques; where does one draw the line between lending a hand and wrongful interference? Maybe the Eternals could’ve used an Uncle Ben to remind them exactly what comes with great power. Interestingly, Ajak’s words also contradict the philosophy of Carol Danvers, who routinely leaves her home planet to protect alien worlds from harm. Crucially, Ajak’s explanation alone can’t justify the Eternals’ non-action against Thanos. There’s a big difference between letting Earth makes its own mistakes, and watching half the universe be wiped out when just one Eternal could’ve saved the day.
Ajak’s policy of non-interference might seem flimsy, but other, as-yet-unrevealed, factors might still come into play. In the Marvel comics, the Eternals are actually forbidden from interfering by the Celestials. It’s entirely possible that the same is true in the MCU, and however much Sersi, Ikaris, etc. might’ve wanted to punch Thanos in his big wrinkly chin, doing so only would’ve brought greater misery and wrath upon the universe’s mortals. Secondly, the Eternals trailer doesn’t confirm what Ajak’s “…until now” refers to, but surely connects to the Thanos incident one way or another. Do the immortals realize they should have intervened, or were they prevented from getting involved, and now want to ensure the same won’t happen again if a universal (or, indeed, multiversal) threat emerges in the future?
More: Eternals Trailer Resolves A Major Steve Rogers/Captain America Problem
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