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How the Eternals could play a part in Endgame

According to science, the universe is constantly expanding. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, was recently "snapped" in half. As the most successful film franchise in history, how will the MCU continue to grow after the events of Infinity War? The first trailer for Avengers: Endgame smashed the record for views in a 24-hour period, with 289 million views across platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Interest in this ten-year story arc has never been higher, but how can the franchise possibly get any bigger? Look to the cosmos.

Marvel's storylines are going to get a whole lot more cosmic in Phase Four, the upcoming slate of films scheduled to arrive after Endgame officially closes the book on Phase Three. Part of this cosmic shift will be the introduction of the Eternals into the MCU. The Eternals are an extremely powerful race of cosmic beings who have existed for millions of years. Remember Thanos? He's an Eternal. Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, has already confirmed that an Eternals movie is in the works. Will the Eternals play a part in Endgame? There are rumors circulating that they almost certainly will. But how big of a role can we expect?

MCU Cosmic Movies

Kevin Feige, speaking with ComicBook.com at a press event for Ant-Man and The Wasp, clued us in on the direction the MCU's Phase Four will be taking. "I love [cosmic stories] and that's why we didn't wait very long to get that, I'd say," Feige said. "Thor was the beginning of that, Tesseract in Cap as well… I love it because I love space stuff and I love the kind of stories you can tell. And Avengers: Infinity War is a great example of that."

While early Phase One films hinted at out-of-this-world players, it was the Thor franchise that really began to take MCU storytelling off-planet. Guardians of the Galaxy took us even further into MCU cosmic, and with the popularity of the GotG franchise, it once seemed likely that we'd continue to see Marvel's cosmic stories through the POV of Star-Lord and friends. However, with the controversial dismissal of James Gunn as helmer of these films, Marvel has officially put Guardians of the Galaxy 3 on indefinite hold. This seems like a good enough reason to get the Eternals in the game as soon as possible. With universal implications at stake in Endgame and the cosmic-level film Captain Marvel entering the narrative in March 2019, it would appear we'll see the Eternals sooner rather than later.

Kronos

Kronos is a cosmic being who is among the most powerful Eternals, as well a founder of the planet Titan and the grandfather of Thanos. As his name might suggest, Kronos is able to control and manipulate time. Since the end of Infinity War, time travel theories have gained steam in fan communities as a possible plot driver to reverse the Snapture in Endgame. What better character to shepherd the Avengers through a time travel scenario than Thanos' Pee Paw, the master of time?

A plot involving time travel for Endgame isn't as much of a stretch as you might think. With the exploration of the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Marvel seems to be laying a proper foundation for time travel in the MCU, without it being too deus ex. Also, consider the implications of the Time Stone (the green one), first introduced in Doctor Strange before playing an integral role in the climax of Infinity War.

Moreover, rumors abound along the margins of the internet that there was a top secret filming session for Endgame that involved only Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange and an unknown CGI character. Those rumors also persist in saying that these top secret sessions ate up a ton of budget, and are extremely critical to Endgame's plot.

Doctor Strange and time travel

A Kronos appearance in Endgame is a logical MCU entry point for the larger Eternals family of characters given the history of the Time Stone in the recent narrative and the traction that time travel theories have been gaining. That CGI character in Benedict Cumberbatch's rumored top secret shoots may very well be Kronos, given Doctor Strange's connection to the Time Stone. When last we saw Strange in Infinity War, he was disintegrating to dust while also hinting at a larger plan, telling Tony Stark that giving up the Time Stone to Thanos was "the only way."

A popular theory posits that Strange cursed the Time Stone before surrendering it to Thanos, and allowed himself to be killed on purpose so as to enact even stronger magic on his powerful foe. Note the battle early in Infinity War, when Ebony Maw attempts to take the Eye of Agamotto from Doctor Strange, and his hand becomes horribly burned. "It's a simple spell but quite unbreakable," Strange says. "You'll find removing a dead man's spell troublesome." After the snap, we see the Infinity Gauntlet melt, and a physical toll has been exacted on Thanos. Is there something about the Time Stone that caused this reaction? If so, just how "troublesome" will removing a dead man's Time Stone spell become for the Mad Titan?

Eternals casting hints

It's likely that two Eternals characters will make on-screen appearances prior to the Eternals movie. When casting breakdowns for the Eternals movie surfaced, it revealed some of the characters we'd get to see in the film. Since then, additional breakdowns have unearthed with an accelerated casting schedule, indicating that we would likely see these characters in a movie other than the Eternals flick. One of the characters is "Karen," but it's unclear which of the Eternals she may wind up being. The other character is named "Piper," and the speculation, based on the description of the character, is that Piper is actually an Eternal known as "Sprite."

Comic readers will recognize Sprite as an ancient trickster who is stuck forever in the form of a child. Could these Eternals characters be part of a post-credits stinger in Endgame? Captain Marvel, due just before, is another possible landing spot for these characters' introductions.

Captain Marvel & Nick Fury

In the Endgame trailer, we see Tony Stark drifting through space in a ship that's out of fuel and running out of oxygen fast. Everybody has their favorite theories about who will show up to save Stark, and one idea is that Captain Marvel will do the rescuing. Some look to the post-credits scene in Infinity War, in which Nick Fury pages Carol Danvers just before getting dusted, as evidence of the possibility that Captain Marvel will be the one to pluck Stark from certain doom. This theory would further support the role time travel (and an expanded universe that includes the ancient Eternals) could play in Endgame's plot.

The upcoming Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, and when Brie Larson's super-powered pilot Carol Danvers suits up, she'll be doing so in a world before superheroes. This allows Marvel to pull back from the current timeline and see how things were originally set in motion. One promising fan theory has outlined a very interesting way this could sequence could unfold. A savvy Redditor made waves by predicting that '90s Nick Fury "will be shown or made aware of the future," and be persuaded to arrange the events that we've witnessed on screen so far. In other words, everything that has happened in the MCU had to happen just the way it did for the good guys to have any chance at ultimately defeating Thanos.

Eternals Casting Breakdowns

The Eternals have a rich and vast history in the comics. The casting breakdowns released by the studios have given us a peek at who the film will focus on. Audiences may be largely unfamiliar with the details of the Eternals' history, but Marvel is gearing up to change all that with the introduction of a large ensemble cast. From the character descriptions, it appears the film will be focusing on the original run by Jack Kirby, creator of the Eternals, while also working in some of Neil Gaiman's themes. Neil Gaiman, famed fantasy author and comic book writer, penned a well-regarded run of Eternals in the mid-2000s.

We've mentioned the casting breakdowns of Karen and Piper, as well as the possible inclusion of the CGI Kronos. The casting call has also gone out for the role of Druig, who will serve as the main protagonist. Filling out the lineup, we'll see Eternals characters Elysisus, Forgotten One (aka Gilgamesh), Ikaris, Makkari, fan-favorite Sersi, Starfox (brother of Thanos), Thena, and Zuras (son of Kronos.)

Eternity War

The third and fourth Avengers movies were originally announced as Infinity War Parts 1 & 2. The studio later backed off of the idea of marketing a two-parter, likely in an effort to let Infinity War's cliffhanger ending have more of an impact with audiences. While many fans guessed the Infinity War sequel's eventual title of Endgame, nothing was confirmed until the trailer dropped. One idea was that the sequel would be titled Eternity War. It was speculated that this title would be an obvious way to reflect the sequel's relationship to its predecessor, with one movie's title referring to all of space (infinity) and the other referring to all of time (eternity).

Eternity is also the name of a supremely powerful character in Marvel Comics. In the comics version of Infinity War, we see many powerful cosmic entities coming together in an effort to stop Thanos, Eternity among them. Screen Rant opined that introducing a character with near-infinite power to control and manipulate time would certainly be an effective way of expanding the boundaries of the MCU, making room for the time-and-space spanning stories of the Eternals.

Eternals vs. X-Men

The foundation appears to have been laid for the Eternals to play a part in Endgame. It certainly adds up, thematically, at this narrative juncture. There are, however, other reasons that make sense for Marvel and parent company Disney to introduce the Eternals ASAP. With the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy 3 on double top secret probation, Disney needs another vein of gold to mine in order to expand the MCU. Last summer, they struck it big with lots of high profile IP, when the Walt Disney Company and 20th Century Fox merged. This brings the universe of Fantastic Four and the X-Men home to Marvel Studios… eventually.

Marvel Studios cannot legally work on any of the Fox properties yet. No concept art, no casting, no pre-production whatsoever. Nothing can happen with Fox IP until after the merger finalizes sometime in 2019. In the meantime, Marvel has a constant schedule of movies to crank out, and a behemoth franchise to feed. They can't afford to wait around for X-Men. The Eternals and their universe of stories bridges that gap nicely, giving Marvel Studios and the MCU an immediate fix and room to grow for years to come.

Eternals back in Marvel Comics

According to MCUCosmic.com, the general rule with Marvel Comics in how they support the Cinematic Universe, is that they will begin a "…push of a new MCU property roughly eighteen months before [its] cinematic debut. We've seen this with Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther." Marvel Comics recently began reprinting Neil Gaiman's 2006 run on Eternals.

The Eternals are back in Marvel Comics continuity in more ways than just reprintings. Jason Aaron, who spent several years writing for the acclaimed Thor, has taken on The Avengers. His stories for Thor further established the backstory of Asgard. With his run on The Avengers, he appears to be doing the same thing for Earth by way of the Eternals. This seems likely to be the exact strategy Marvel Studios will employ in introducing the Eternals to the MCU. But while Marvel Comics usually seeks to prop up the the soon-to-be-big screen properties, Aaron has taken a decidedly different tack. In Avengers #4, Aaron seemingly kills off the ancient race of Eternals. This move made a big splash in the comics world, and the twists and turns of the story have brought Eternals back into the conversation in a major way.

Mythology in the MCU

Even with the epic call sheet for Infinity War, you could make the argument that Chris Hemsworth's Thor was the main protagonist. Much of Thor's storyline in the film was borrowed not only from the comics, but from actual Norse mythology. The most notable reference to Norse mythology was the appearance of Peter Dinklage as Eitri, the forger of Thor's mighty new weapon, Stormbringer. In the actual "great northern tales," Thor, the God of Thunder, gets his weapons from the best in the biz — underground dwarves who are master smiths, particularly skilled in creating devastating tools of combat.

Will Endgame continue on the mythological themes used in Infinity War? Yes, if you believe Kevin Feige. In an interview with Screen Rant, Feige was asked if we'd continue to see mythological references in the story, specifically relating to the Eternals. "Well, one of the cool things about that property and what Jack Kirby did with it and what's been done with it in recent years is it does tie into ]the Eternals], they've been around for a long time," Feige said. "There's this notion of all of these myths and legends that we know from ancient times, were they inspired by the Eternals? [...] It's an ancient aliens kind of sci-fi trope that we think would be fun to explore someday."

Phase Four

Any way you look at it, Marvel's Phase Four will find some way to focus on the core characters and stories of the MCU while continuing to grow the universe — a blueprint that has worked through three phases so far. The Eternals movie is definitely happening and the final movie of Phase Three is Endgame. These facts alone seem to make it obvious that the Eternals will begin to reveal themselves on-screen sooner rather than later.

The very first film of Phase Four is Spider-Man: Far From Home due out in July 2019, with the story possibly picking up just a few minutes after the conclusion of Endgame. The Black Widow solo film is also in development, but as yet has no release date. Doctor Strange 2 is also moving through early stages of its life cycle, but details are remaining under wraps, probably until after Endgame. Then, of course, The Eternals. Cheers, Marvel! Here's to Phase Four… and Phase 400!