Even in the absence of comic fans flocking to see Marvel and DC movies on the big screen, the thoughts of the film world still periodically turn to those moments where superheroes came to life at a theater nearby. No matter what house of comics you pledge fealty to, larger than life thrills, amazing costumes and battles on a scale that reality could never keep up with make those projects an utter delight to watch. While director Chloe Zhao’s Eternals promises to fit neatly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, her big Marvel moment approaches that world with a very different sensibility. It's one that the “mother of Eternals” herself, Salma Hayek, appreciates immensely.
As we spoke during the press day for Amazon Studios’ mind-bending drama Bliss, the subject of the Marvel film due out this November was alluded to early on in our conversation about Salma Hayek’s latest project. As she’s playing Ajak, a vital part of this superhero team of powerful warriors tasked to protect the universe, there was obviously going to be some stunt work involved. This made Bliss all the easier to shoot, as Hayek’s experience on the production of Eternals helped her nail a scene involving extensive roller skating, despite not knowing how to skate beforehand!
Eventually, we talked a little more about what it feels like to be in a superhero movie, which is stereotypically seen as a big-budget green screen festival. But actors who partake in such exercises still have those moments where they feel like a superhero, and as far as Salma Hayek was concerned, it was Chloe Zhao’s approach to Eternals that really helped her get into character:
Well, the first time you try on the outfit, definitely. But I think the moment that blew my mind more was that I realized we’re not only doing a superhero movie, we were doing something completely different and special. [Chloe Zhao] is amazing. There was not that much green screen, we were actually in locations. A lot of the things that you mentioned, she does them in a different way. She is very organic, the camerawork is completely different, the way that we choreographed the scenes and construct the characters with this director, I think she is incredible. She’s incredible.
Just how much Eternals is going to differ from most Marvel Studios movies, and most comic book movies on the whole, is readily apparent merely from hearing Salma Hayek gush about the “organic” nature of the film that will prove to be a crucial building block for the MCU’s Phase 4. But digging deeper into what Chloe Zhao herself has said about the filming process through other interviews, it’s all the more exciting to anticipate how Marvel’s crew of god-like beings are going to be brought to cinematic life for the first time.
In fact, just to provide a small taste of that knowledge here and now, when she spoke with THR about her experience filming Eternals, Chloe Zhao mentioned the fact that the film was shot with the same rig used on Nomadland. Encouraged and allowed to shoot the movie the way she wanted to, Zhao’s artistic vision had a blank check to cash in the name of cinematic artistry. So while you may have an idea formed in your mind of how Eternals is going to look, especially after all of that leaked art made its way onto the internet, there are some surprises that are still in store for us all.
While the unprecedented events of 2020 have delayed the release of Eternals to a year since it was initially supposed to debut, there’s more time to dream big on just what Chloe Zhao’s film is going to look like. And part of that will entail just how awesome Salma Hayek’s Ajak will look as one of the first superpowered beings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside fellow cast members Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry and Angelina Jolie, among others. Those dreams will turn to reality on November 5, provided the gods that control our reality’s fate, as well as the 2021 release schedule at Disney, don’t intervene.