The Original Eternals Ending Was Far Bleaker

"Eternals" is flying your way on Disney+ in just two short weeks, which means you'll soon be able to revisit the ending of Chloé Zhao's Marvel movie. That ending is slightly abrupt; if you understood it and everything else in "Eternals" without needing to read anything or talk to anyone afterward, then I applaud you. But I will gladly confess that, even as a guy who grew up reading Marvel Comics, the movie sent me googling after I left the theater. I felt like I needed an ending explainer, and usually, I'm supposed to write those.

It seems that this ending is not the original one Zhao had planned, however. In a new interview with Empire, she explains:

"I have never made a film where the ending is what I wrote! You find it in the edit. Editing is a third of the filmmaking process, and when you show it to people, that's when you find the ending. I don't think I've made a single film where the opening and ending stay the same as the script, just because the scenes are fluid as we shoot. And we actually had another ending that is really bleak. Bleak. I didn't hate it, because I'm used to films that are more melancholy. But I don't think it went down well with audiences."

As Screencrush notes, "Eternals" received the lowest Cinemascore of any film in the MCU, so with opening-night audiences, at least, the ending that Zhao and editors Craig Wood and Dylan Tichenor arrived at may not have gone down all that well, either. Yet it could have been bleaker.

Spoilers for the ending of "Eternals" follow below.

'You Want to be Excited for What's Next'

In my spoiler review of "Eternals," I wrote that the film ends with the six-eyed Celestial, Arishem, showing up in the sky over Earth. "He drags the Eternals up into space with him and talks about reading their minds and returning for judgment."

He then portals away with them via a wormhole or Boom Tube or something. The mid-credits scene helps clarify that the Eternals he grabbed have "disappeared," before the wobbly CG face of Pip the Troll, voiced by Patton Oswalt, arrives to herald "the royal prince of Titan, brother of Thanos," Eros, aka Starfox, played by Harry Styles.

Rather than provide closure, these final moments lean into the MCU's nature as a continuing cycle of stories. What Zhao originally envisioned was something that would have leaned more into the Eternals' own cyclical nature as synthetic beings who have had their memories erased each time they move to a new planet. She elaborated:

"It used to end with everybody back on the ship, minds erased and just going on to another planet, like 'The Twilight Zone.' I remember when it goes to black, everyone was like, 'I don't know what to do.' And also, it's the MCU, and you want to be excited for what's next."

"Eternals" begins streaming on Disney+ on January 12, 2022.