Eternals Alex Ross artwork

Chloe Zhao was among the big winners at the 93rd Academy Awards this past weekend, with her latest movie, Nomadland, taking home the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress Oscars. Next up, we’ll see Zhao’s directorial efforts on display in Eternals, the 26th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following Zhao’s Academy Awards glory, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has delved into how Zhao wanted to shoot Eternals differently than we’re accustomed to from Marvel movies.

Like your standard MCU fare, Eternals is packed with visual effects and green screen work. However, as Kevin Feige recalled in his conversation with Variety, Chloe Zhao “was really fighting for practical locations” so it would match her vision. Eventually there came a point where they cut together an Eternals sample reel to show Disney executives. Feige continued:

And I had to keep saying, ‘This is right out of a camera; there’s no VFX work to this at all!’ Because it was a beautiful sunset, with perfect waves and mist coming up from the shore on this giant cliffside — really impressive stuff.

These days, it’s easier than ever for blockbuster productions to rely on digital resources to create various locations, but Chloe Zhao made it clear she wanted shoot on location as much as possible. CGI may be incredibly advanced, but there’s nothing that beats having actors perform in actual places rather than mainly within the confines of a green screen environment. It just goes to show how passionate Zhao is about Eternals, as she originally turned down the opportunity to direct Black Widow, but later worked with Marvel executive Nate Moore on an Eternals pitch that Feige described as “spectacular.”

Kevin Feige later noted that when he watched Nomadland, he saw shots similar to what Chloe Zhao delivered on Eternals. This led him to realize the following:

Oh! That is not just what she wanted to bring to Marvel. This is a signature style.

Interestingly enough, originally the plan was for Eternals to come out before Nomadland, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eternals was delayed and Chloe Zhao finished Nomadland earlier than expected. So now the filmmaker is surrounded by Oscars acclaim as we move closer to her MCU offering being released. This is Zhao’s fourth movie, as before Nomadland, she directed, wrote and produced 2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017’s The Rider.

Based on the same-named characters created by Jack Kirby, Eternals follows an immortal alien race that’s been secretly living on Earth for over 7,000 years. However, following the events of Avengers: Endgame, they must emerge from hiding to protect humanity from the monstrous Deviants. The main cast includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Gemma Chan, Barry Keoghan and Kit Harington.

Assuming it’s not pushed back again, Eternals will arrive in theaters on November 5, just two months after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Keep track of what else the MCU is sending to the big screen with our upcoming Marvel movies guide.

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