Eternals manga

Director Chloe Zhao got Marvel’s attention with her 2017 indie film The Rider, and scored the job as director of the epoch-spanning Eternals because of her “fascinating” pitch that won over Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. In a new interview, Zhao talks a little about her vision for Eternals, including her approach to casting, her shooting style, and the manga influence she infused into the upcoming movie. Read her quotes below.

The Hollywood Reporter published a great profile of Zhao that I encourage you all to read in full, because it has some great stories about the creation of her next movie, the Frances McDormand-starring Fox Searchlight film Nomadland. But in the event that you’re only interested in the Marvel component of the conversation, here are the highlights.

“I have such deep, strong, manga roots,” Zhao said. “I brought some of that into Eternals. And I look forward to pushing more of that marriage of East and West…how much further and bigger can we go after [Avengers:Endgame? Because I’m not just making the film as a director. I’m making the film as a fan.”

The film tells the story of a war between alien races, following a group of Eternals, super-powered beings who have secretly been living on Earth for thousands of years, as they clash with the Deviants, their long-time rivals.

Zhao, who was working with a budget that is exponentially larger than anything she’d done before, did not flinch under the pressure. And it sounds like she didn’t have to alter her filmmaking style to fit into the Marvel machine, either. “I shot exactly the way I wanted to shoot,” she said. “On location. A lot of magic hour. Three-hundred-sixty degrees on the same camera as I did on Nomadland. Same rigs. It’s a bit surreal. I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop. It hasn’t. I think I got lucky in that Marvel wants to take risks and do something different.”

This idea of a manga-infused Marvel movie that takes risks and does something different is an exciting prospect for those of us who are wondering how the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be able to move forward in the wake of the powerhouse that was Avengers: Endgame. (It’s also especially exciting for me, as someone who has been slightly let down by the blandness of the Black Widow footage that’s been released thus far.) That excitement is reflected in the movie’s wildly diverse cast, which includes Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Lauren Ridloff, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Lia McHugh, and Barry Keoghan. And that diversity was at the core of what Zhao wanted to do with this story.

“I wanted it to reflect the world we live in,” she said. “But also I wanted to put a cast together that feels like a group of misfits. I didn’t want the jocks. I want you to walk away at the end of the movie not thinking, ‘This person is this ethnicity, that person is that nationality.’ No. I want you to walk away thinking, ‘That’s a family.’ You don’t think about what they represent. You see them as individuals.”

Eternals arrives in theaters on February 12, 2021.

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