The director of Eternals, Chloe Zhao, explains why the film was shot in real locations. The 26th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe features a spectacular cast that includes Game of Thrones alumni Richard Madden and Kit Harington, along with Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Barry Keoghan and Lia McHugh. After numerous delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the superhero film is finally set to debut in theatres this week. It currently holds a mediocre rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 53% but is still expected to gross over $ 75 million in the opening weekend.
Eternals revolves around the immortal alien beings of the same name created by the Celestials after they are forced to emerge from hiding to protect the Earth from their deadly counterparts, the Deviants. As shown in the trailers, the film follows the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame following the defeat of Thanos by The Avengers led by Iron Man and Captain America. The reversal of the Mad Titan’s snap by Bruce Banner/Hulk ignites an event known as the “Emergence” to occur which triggers the return of the Deviants.
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Zhao was recently interviewed by THR while promoting her upcoming MCU tentpole and she revealed why Eternals was filmed in real locations as opposed to many other Marvel films and how the natural conditions helped form a set of shots that create an “immersive” experience. She spoke in length about how it was important to add a “level of realism” to the events unfolding in the film. She also mentioned that this could help in showing the characters’ “relationship with the planet” that they walked on “for several thousand years.” Check out what she had to say below:
“When I pitched the film, we spent half the time talking about what and the other half talking about how. That’s very important to me. Sometimes, we get excited about the what but we don’t talk about how. We knew that this film had to be immersive, and we knew that there had to be a level of realism to everything, from action to the Eternals in historic periods. So we, as the audience, have to actually believe that these immortal aliens have walked the planet for several thousand years. I want the audience to discover these characters and their relationship with this planet.”
According to Zhao, the natural lighting also played a part in “adding to the realism” she was looking for. She also elaborated on how this assisted the actors when it came to “interacting with the environment” as she wanted the stars to look “believable in their outfits” and look like they “actually existed in Ancient Babylon,” describing it as “a more anthropological way of capturing things.” This isn’t the first time that the Chinese-born filmmaker has employed the use of a natural setting for one of her films. Her last feature film, the Oscar-winning Nomadland, was also filmed in a similar manner to create a grounded sense of narrative but at the same time, provide some breathtaking imagery.
Marvel Studios is well-known for providing indie filmmakers with an opportunity to take the next big step in their career and give them a gateway into big-budget blockbuster territory, which in the process, has helped them retain a fresh take on storytelling. It looks like that streak is set to continue with Chloe Zhao as she looks to add her stamp to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and utilize the techniques she’s comfortable with on a larger scale. While the critical reception for her debut in the MCU may be mixed, audiences are guaranteed an eye-popping visual extravaganza when they witness Eternals on the big screen.