Marvel Studios is moving forward with their The Eternals movie, and they’ve hired an incredibly exciting filmmaker to take the helm. Per THR, Chloe Zhao will be directing the comics adaptation, which could be the studio’s next big franchise. Zhao is a Chinese filmmaker with six films in total under her belt, but her 2017 indie The Rider brought her immense critical acclaim and the trophy for the inaugural Indie Spirit Awards’ Bonnie Award, which recognizes a mid-career female filmmaker.
The Eternals is based on a comic series created by Jack Kirby and revolves around the titular superpowered and very nearly immortal beings. THR says one aspect of the current script involves the love story between Ikaris, a man fueled by cosmic energy, and Sersi, “who relishes moving amongst humans.”
Zhao has been on Marvel’s radar as the filmmaker made the studio’s shortlist to direct the Black Widow movie, but Cate Shortland ended up coming away with that gig. For The Eternals, Zhao beat out other contenders that included Travis Knight (Bumblebee), Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra (Birds of Passage), and Nicole Kassell, who recently directed HBO’s Watchmen pilot.
Clearly Marvel is getting more ambitious with its filmmaker choices, and no doubt the strength of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther—which is unabashedly a personal, thematically heavy Ryan Coogler film—has made other filmmakers more amenable to working with Marvel without fear of having their voice tampered down. Especially now that the Marvel Creative Committee is gone.
It’s unclear when Marvel Studios plans to make The Eternals. The project has a script by Ruin scribes Matthew and Ryan Firpo, but earlier this year Zhao signed on to direct a Bass Reeves biopic for Amazon Studios. That project may come first, or it may have to wait if Marvel wants to get The Eternals going ASAP. The studio is being tight-lipped about any post-Avengers 4 plans, but we’ll know a lot more next summer.
A curious and neat footnote: Zhao was passionately presented with the Bonnie Award at the Independent Spirit Awards by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who is directing a Jack Kirby adaptation of her own at DC, New Gods.