Skip to main content

Eternals’ Chloe Zhao Explains The MCU Reference She Snuck Into Nomadland

Frances McDormand in Nomadland

CinemaBlend participates in affiliate programs with various companies. We may earn a commission when you click on or make purchases via links.

Awards Season is in full swing, and last weekend's Golden Globe Awards officially kicked things off. One of the big winners of the night was Chloe Zhao's Nomadland, taking home Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director. This is obviously a major honor for director/writer Zhao, who also recently helmed Eternals for Marvel Studios. And she recently explained why she snuck an Avengers reference into Nomadland.

Nomadland is set in 2011-2012, and follows a woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) who decides who sell her belongings and live a nomadic life in her tricked out van. Eventually Fern walks by the movies as the theater is advertising Joss Whedon's The Avengers. Chloe Zhao recently spoke to this decision, with the Eternals director revealing:

I was going to put something on that marquee that shows the time we were in, which was late 2011 early 2012, and what was the biggest film? It was The Avengers and it was the beginning of my fascination with the MCU and it also just shows how far Fern is from the life that we’re familiar with.

Well, that makes a great deal of sense. On top of creating a fun Marvel easter egg, it looks like Chloe Zhao's inclusion of The Avengers in Nomadland was purposeful. Namely by establishing a time setting and showing Fern's development as a character.

Chloe Zhao's comments to Fandango help to explain the only pop culture reference made throughout Nomadland's 108-minute runtime. Given her own role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans of the massive comic book franchise definitely noticed when The Avengers got featured in the award-winning drama. And it turns out that this was because Zhao was a fan, and also because she wanted to show that Fern wasn't living in the traditional world.

The Avengers was a massive cinematic moment when it arrived in theaters in May of 2012. The blockbuster showed that the MCU was truly capable of, and inspired other studios to create their own shared universe. But smart money says that these issues weren't at the front of Fern and other nomad's minds during the that time.

Marvel fans can re-watch The Avengers and the overall Infinity Saga on Disney+. You can use this link to sign up for the streaming service.

As for Chloe Zhao's own time in the MCU, the contents of Eternals remain a total mystery to the general public. The epic cosmic blockbuster was originally meant to arrive in theaters last fall, but it was delayed alongside Black Widow when theaters around the country closed. But if the original release date occurred, Eternals would have hit before Nomadland, possibly making the Avengers reference all the more exciting.

Eternals stars a killer cast of actors, which will make up the most diverse ensemble in Marvel history. The story will go across hundreds of years, following a group of cosmic heroes who were tasked with protecting Earth from the evil Deviants. And given the unbelievable writing and cinematography of Nomadland, I'm all the more eager to see how she'll approach the MCU.

Nomadland is currently available on Hulu, and Eternals is expected to hit theaters on November 5th. In the meantime, check out our 2021 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.