Eternals is out now, delivering an essential piece of MCU mythology. The movie changes everything about Marvel’s exciting universe of interconnected stories, putting things in a different perspective. Eternals also delivers a few key surprises about certain characters we’ve come to love in the previous phases of the MCU, including a teaser that the most dangerous villain the Avengers have had to face might be coming back. That’s Thanos, of course.
Remember that you’re about to get into plenty of Eternals and MCU Phase 4 spoilers, so you should ensure you’ve watched everything in the MCU timeline so far before proceeding.
The curious case of Marvel’s villains
Marvel spent more than a decade on MCU movies to give us a fantastic villain. That’s Josh Brolin’s Thanos, whom we only saw in short post-credits scenes before he made his mark in Infinity War. Then we witnessed the Avengers killing him twice in Endgame.
But Marvel only needed a year to relegate Thanos into a lower tier of villains. And, to be fair, it did so with the Avengers too, who will have a more challenging time fighting the bigger villains from Phase 4. Eternals further proves that point.
The movie just gave us an absolute bad-ass villain, and he’s not even that villainous. Arishem (David Kaye) wanted to obliterate the entire planet Earth, to bring to life a different Celestial, Tiamut. But you can’t blame Celestials for destroying planets like that. If Arishem is to be believed, the Celestials are essential for life in the universe. As a result, Arishem is a terrifying antagonist for the Avengers.
Before that, we discovered a threat in Shang-Chi that put the Avengers on notice. It’s something none of the Sorcerer Supremes have ever encountered. Not knowing what might be coming towards Earth is also a lot scarier than Thanos.
Those who have watched What If…? before getting to Eternals also know that at least two powerful villains reside in the multiverse. One version of Ultron wipes out life everywhere he goes, and he does it more fiercely and efficiently than Thanos ever could. That Infinity Ultron cut Thanos in half, by the way.
We have even bigger villains than Thanos
Then there’s Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch), who crushed his entire reality to revive the love of his life before realizing what he has done wrong. Weirdly enough, these Ultron and Strange threats can be bigger dangers than Celestials. And they could put the Celestials in danger as well.
Speaking of scary wizards, remember that Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) went off the reservation in WandaVision. She might have steered clear from going full evil, but she discovered she’s more powerful than anyone thought. And she’s expected to be the main villain in Doctor Strange 2, a multiverse movie. Also, let’s not forget that Wanda would have ripped Thanos apart in Endgame if it weren’t for the Titan’s space artillery.
And if all of that isn’t enough, Phase 4 already gave us the biggest threat of all, the man who can rewrite the flow of time. Forget about the Celestials, Strange Supreme, Infinity Ultron, and Wanda. Kang (Jonathan Majors), or versions of him, can control timelines. Implicitly, they could ensure that the other villains never get to do bad stuff.
All these villains arrived in just a year of Phase 4 stories, making Thanos look insignificant. Also, whatever Avengers team-ups we’re going to see, they might be facing more significant threats than Thanos.
Eternals already told us how Thanos might return
Thanos already died twice in the MCU, as Marvel taught audiences how the multiverse works. The original Mad Titan died early in Endgame, and a different variant dropped in the MCU to reap the rewards. Little did he know that the Avengers would assemble. We then saw two other Thanos variants in What If…?. One of them turned into a hero of sorts, joining Star Lord T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). The other died horribly when Ultron cut him in half. So Marvel could bring Josh Brolin back as Thanos, or versions of him.
Eternals already introduced Starfox/Eros (Harry Styles), the brother of Thanos. He appeared in the post-credits, where he was introduced as Thanos’s sibling. Starfox and Thanos are both Eternals, with the latter also having Deviant genes. That’s according to the comics.
The movie also tells us that the Eternals aren’t living beings. They’re sophisticated Androids who can’t really die. Arishem can always make copies of the dead Eternals and give them different memory banks or completely new backstories.
If Thanos is an Eternal, does that mean he has a managing Celestial, unbeknownst to him? Someone who could come up with Thanos replicas? Interestingly enough, what Thanos did in Infinity War goes against the goal of Celestials, as he effectively slowed down all the emergences in the universe.
Assuming Thanos is an Eternal who deviated from his plan, then a different Celestial might want to make different versions of Thanos. Versions who aren’t necessarily villains out to kill half of all living beings in the universe. But wait, there’s more.
On the other hand, could Starfox and Thanos be actual brothers if they were synthetic Eternals?
Eternals writers think Thanos has to return
Whether Eternals gets a sequel or not, the movie does have the necessary hooks for more stories. It’s practically a given that we’ll see some of the Eternals in future MCU movies. But if Marvel makes other Eternals episodes, then Thanos has to appear in them.
That’s coming straight from one of the film’s writers. “I believe that there is no way that you can do Eternals 2 and 3 without somehow touching on Mr. Brolin,” Kaz Firpo told The Direct.
You don’t have to revive Thanos to have him back in the MCU. If we’re ever to explore Starfox, we’ll need flashbacks of him and Thanos. That’s another way of bringing a dead Marvel character back to life in the MCU, whether he’s a villain or hero.