Now playing in theaters, Eternals is the most ambitious movie that Marvel has released since Avengers: Endgame. The comparison isn’t fair, however. We expect Avengers movies to feature impressive casts, as the crossover event reunites many of the heroes we saw in standalone films before that. A better comparison is with movies like Captain America: Civil War or the Guardians installments. But where Eternals differs is that it’s also an origin story for no fewer than ten different superheroes.
We have already explained how Eternals changes everything in the MCU from now on. But the movie is not perfect, and it does have a few issues, including a glaring plot hole. It turns out that Marvel could have fixed it with the post-credits scenes, but then opted to go another route. Mind you, massive spoilers will follow below if you haven’t seen Eternals.
Why the Eternals weren’t in any Avengers movies
Marvel didn’t make fans wait until the Eternals release to answer our most pressing question. If these powerful superheroes were on Earth for 7,000 years, why didn’t they help the Avengers beat Thanos? The movie’s final trailer answered that, and we saw the same explanations in the film. The Eternals were not allowed to intervene in the course of humanity’s history. Sure, they did help humans evolve, but they did it quietly, without causing a stir.
The Eternals’ only mission has always been to kill the Deviants that might prey on humans. This would ensure the human race would evolve to the point where Celestials needed them to be. That’s why Ajak (Salma Hayek) & Co. did not interfere in the various wars the Avengers fought in the past two decades. And that’s why they let Thanos (Josh Brolin) destroy half of the living beings in the universe. Interestingly, it’s the Avengers’ ability to outmaneuver the Mad Titan that convinced the Eternals to step out of the shadows and prevent the Celestial inside the planet from emerging. Tiamut’s arrival would have obliterated the planet and everyone living on it except for the Eternals.
But as the movie progresses, you realize that Marvel is running this show in a sort of bubble. The planet has to face a threat more significant than Thanos, which escalates slowly over the course of a week. “Who you gonna call” when that happens? Apparently, not the Avengers.
The Avengers are the big plot hole of Eternals
The Avengers come up regularly during the movie. The Eternals know who they are, as they’ve followed them closely. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) even has an amazing line where he says that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) isn’t returning his calls now. But when Thor was little, he used to follow Kingo around.
Marvel used these Avengers references in the trailers and TV spots to tell audiences that Eternals is part of the same MCU. And it’s great to see the references in the movie. These are the kind of Easter eggs we expect from the MCU. But none of the Avengers show up to check up on these beings that have been hiding in plain sight throughout the three weeks we spend with the Eternals.
Mind you, the action in the movie doesn’t happen over the course of a few hours. In such a case, you’d have a harder time getting involved if you’re most Avengers. Then again, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) can get anywhere on the planet in an instant. But the events in Eternals raise plenty of red flags that the Avengers would have had to investigate.
Marvel did want to include the Avengers in the post-credits, but it dropped the scene. In hindsight, that was a bad idea, and we’ll explain.
Ikaris as Superman
We’ve talked about the brilliant Superman paradox in the MCU ever since we saw a recent Eternals teaser. Early in the movie, Ikaris (Richard Madden), Sersi (Gemma Chan), and Sprite (Lia McHugh) fight a Deviant in London. Soon after that, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) kid tells his dad that Ikaris is Superman. He saw him on TV shooting laser beams out of his eyes. Well, you know who else must have seen Ikaris doing that? Everyone else on the planet, including the Avengers.
Being a regular human on Earth in the aftermath of Endgame must be terrifying. Half of the dead returned to life. And everyone must be coping with that. Accepting that powerful heroes exist on Earth and similar threats exist in outer space is also part of everyday life. Marvel already told us in Shang-Chi that the Avengers still exist, and they monitor everything.
So when you see Superman shooting laser beams against a massive threat, you have to make contact. You don’t know what the Eternals know. And that Deviant was scary, but Ikaris is pretty scary too.
But let’s say you ignore Ikaris or investigate the matter quietly, not knowing how significant the threat is. A few days later, the emergence starts, at which point the Eternals fight among themselves before stopping it. This is the sort of event that the Avengers would have to track down and attempt to intervene.
Again, the Avengers have no idea how significant the Celestial danger is. But they have the means to jump into the action. Let’s not forget that Eternals happens around the same time as Far From Home, according to Marvel. The official MCU timeline is essential here. Around that time, the planet had Stark’s planetary defense system in place and Fury’s secret space station. You had eyes and ears on everything.
The actual… Battle of the Emergence?… ends fast, so the Avengers might not have been able to assemble. But Strange and Wong can make that happen. Again, Shang-Chi proves that.
Yet the movie doesn’t give us any indication that the Avengers are aware of any of this. It gets worse.
Everyone on the planet knows about Thanos. But regular people haven’t actually seen him fight the Avengers in Infinity War and Endgame.
But when Arishem (David Kaye) appears in Earth’s orbit, everyone can see him. He parts the cloud so he can snatch Sersi, Kingo, and Phastos. He makes it clear that he knows what happened and that he’ll decide whether to let humanity live or die.
Now, this is the moment when you have to cut to some of the Avengers assembling. The cameos would do wonders for the fans, but also the movie plot. It would remind us that the Avengers exist, just like Shang-Chi. And they’re there to address the big red giant in the sky.
That’s the kind of giant that everyone will is talking about. And if you pay attention to the Ten Rings, you definitely worry about a giant bigger than your planet.
Arishem or not, two weeks have passed since the failed emergence, and people still can’t explain it, as we see on the news. That’s what the epilogue tells us. Yet we have no Avengers references in here. Some of the surviving Eternals could have said something along the lines of the new Captain America having called. Or, you know, Earth’s wizards.
Also, that big red giant looks a lot like the unexplained mountain in the Indian ocean. They both have a similar face.
The Avengers post-credit scene
As much as you’d want to have the Eternals shine on their own, you can’t pretend the Avengers don’t exist for three straight weeks. Marvel could have fixed it all with a post-credits scene that would have acknowledged that the Avengers were looking into the big red guy in the sky, if not Ikaris or the emergence, trying to understand what just happened.
Ryan Firpo and Kaz Firpo told The Wrap there were various concepts for the post-credits scenes, including the Avengers.
Marvel explored the idea of showing the Eternals joining a new lineup of Avengers. That already sounds like overkill, as it’s something that might need more than a credits scene.
They had more subtle Avengers cameo ideas too. Like having Doctor Strange rather than Blade (Mahershala Ali) talk to Dane Whitman (Kit Harington) in the post-credits scene. Or Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). That would have been the kind of subtle nod to tell the world that the Avengers got your back. They might not be able to defeat Arishem. But they’re watching.
In that official MCU timeline, the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier happen before Eternals. So Sam would have taken the Cap mantle by then.
Hopefully, future Marvel movies won’t have the same sort of plot hole. Instead, they should include Avengers hooks as Shang-Chi did. We can’t pretend the Avengers don’t exist so that they don’t overshadow the new heroes. Because what makes us want to see these new heroes in action is the larger MCU promise. These new characters aren’t playing superheroes in a bubble. They’re on Earth after Endgame, emerging among Avengers.