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Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins next May with Black Widow, but you could argue that it doesn’t begin in earnest until November when The Eternals hits theaters. The Eternals follows around a group of completely new and unfamiliar characters that are unlike anything we have seen in the MCU before. That’s partially why Marvel Studios President and Marvel CCO Kevin Feige calls The Eternals a big and expensive risk. But it’s a risk worth taking according to Kevin Feige, who said:
It is a very big movie. It is a very expensive movie. And we are making it because we believe in [Zhao's] vision and we believe in what those characters can do and we believe we need to continue to grow and evolve and change and push our genre forward. That's a risk if I've ever heard one.
What makes The Eternals a big risk for Marvel Studios are the reasons Kevin Feige highlighted here, the scale of the production and the corresponding cost. We don’t know much about the story of the film just yet, but the characters are immortal beings that have shaped the history of the Earth over thousands of years. That’s a story that needs to be told on a massive scale. The Eternals isn’t an Ant-Man-sized film (no disrespect to Scott Lang & Co.).
That scale necessitates a big budget to make the film come to life and do the story of The Eternals justice. Anytime you are spending a lot of money on something, you are risking that money in the hopes that you will get a return on that investment. And unlike a new Avengers movie or Thor: Love and Thunder, The Eternals is not a guaranteed win at the box office.
The Eternals are new characters that are completely unproven in this universe and on the big screen. General audiences have probably never even heard of them. That’s why Kevin Feige sees The Eternals as the kind of risk that Martin Scorsese has accused superhero films of not taking.
Yet despite the inherent risks of the property and the costs of bringing it to the big screen, Kevin Feige and Marvel see it as a risk well worth taking. That’s because, as the Marvel Studios President told Scott Feinberg on THR’s Awards Chatter podcast, they believe in director Chloé Zhao’s vision for The Eternals.
Kevin Feige and the studio have faith in what the director of The Rider has in mind for the immortal characters and believes that she can deliver in a way that the risk pays off. The other big reason that the risk is worth it is because Marvel wants to continue to grow and evolve the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the superhero genre and it can’t do that by remaining stagnant or repeating the same things over and over.
Partially by necessity, with actors moving on to other things, and partially by design, Marvel’s Phase 4 will usher in a new era for the MCU-- an era where Marvel Studios will not be able to rely as heavily on established fan favorites. New characters must be introduced and connect with audiences to grow this franchise and carry it forward and The Eternals is a major part of that. Kevin Feige clearly sees the Eternals as some of the characters that can help carry the torch now that Captain America, Iron Man and soon Black Widow, have moved on.
So The Eternals isn’t just a risk in its own right because it’s a big, expensive movie. It’s a risk because it is a crucial building block for a new phase of the MCU and the continuing growth and health of the genre under Marvel Studios’ stewardship. No pressure.
Of course, you could argue that nowadays nothing released with a Marvel Studios banner is really much of a risk. Marvel is a proven brand that audiences trust and are willing to take a chance on, regardless of whether the characters are familiar or not. The last time an MCU film was considered a big risk because it featured a group of weird and largely unknown characters was Guardians of the Galaxy. Look at them now, they’re getting their own rollercoaster at Walt Disney World.
Kevin Feige has said that Marvel likes to be in an underdog role, which makes sense, but even a risky movie for Marvel Studios like The Eternals, is still a safe bet by most standards.
The Eternals hits theaters on November 6, 2020. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what other big movies arrive next year.