Monday, December 6, 2021

How ‘Eternals’ director Chloe Zhao is shaping the future of the MCU

The Eternals from Marvel is an action-packed superhero epic that tells the story of cosmic creatures that have repeatedly saved humanity from evil mutating monsters over the millennia.

It is also a subtle tapestry of love, friendship, grief and betrayal, woven from quiet and passionate moments of interpersonal communication, including, for example, the very first sex scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe among its crowded characters.

“We knew that in order to make this film in such a way that you believe that these immortals have walked the Earth for 7000 years, it must be a very exciting sight,” director Chloe Zhao told the Los Angeles Times at the last premiere. film in Hollywood. month.

“I had the idea that we can capture the grandest, epic, cosmic moments – but also the tiniest, intimate moments on Earth. And this juxtaposition allows viewers to explore our relationship with space and our planet. “

The Eternals actors and creators thank Zhao and her indie filmmaking background for creating a cinematic experience that is both out of this world and surprisingly down to earth – at least for a Marvel movie.

“This is a big blockbuster … and [Marvel has] a formula that works, ”said Lauren Ridloff, who plays Maccari, the MCU’s first deaf superhero in The Eternals.

“But Chloe somehow unifies this formula [with] her own touch and influence. And … she actually treats all actors as equals. I worked with veterans in the industry and I still felt that we all have something of value to contribute to the film. “

Gemma Chan (left) and director Chloe Zhao on the set of Marvel’s The Eternals.

(Sophie Mutvelian / Marvel Studios)

The latest MCU star is the highly anticipated sequel to Zhao’s Nomad Land, which won this year’s Best Picture Oscar and is in many ways the antithesis of The Eternals.

In addition to acting lead actress Frances McDormand, the harsh wanderlust drama includes a largely non-actor ensemble playing fictional versions of themselves against the often harsh American hinterland, devoid of any semblance of Disney magic or computer imagery.

By contrast, The Eternals is a sleek, world-spanning century of fantasy, replete with top-notch actors (from Salma Hayek to Angelina Jolie) digitally portraying unearthly superheroes using heavy Marvel-sized CGIs.

However, one key element they share – aside from raw glimpses of humanity – is Zhao’s visual print: sweeping, scenic landscapes that cannot be displayed on a green screen. (Nomad Land was filmed in Nevada, California, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and The Eternals was filmed everywhere from London to the Canary Islands.)

“Visually, to be immersive, filming on location and capturing those small – and big moments – is what I hope I brought on the journey,” Zhao told The Times.

“Chloe’s cinematic language is so finely tuned to her own unique vision that everything she touches will feel like a Chloe Zhao movie,” added Eternal script co-writer Ryan Firpo.

A woman in a blue jacket and sunglasses (right) talks to a man in a blue superhero costume.

Richard Madden (left) and director Chloe Zhao on the set of the Marvel movie “The Eternals.”

(Sophie Mutvelian / Marvel Studios)

With The Eternals, the Chinese author joins a growing club of respected indie filmmakers, whom Marvel directs big-budget projects that bring critical acclaim and box office blockbusters.

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New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, for example, was known for his favorite indie films like Hunting Wild Men and What We Do in the Shadows before heading up Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok. And Ryan Coogler of Oakland made his directing debut in Fruitvale Station, faking the 2009 police assassination of Oscar Grant before leading the founding role of Marvel’s Black Panther.

“I think Chloe – like Ryan, like Taika – [finds] “A personal interest in these films, which some directors might not have, because they view the size of the film as an attraction, not a movie history,” said The Eternals co-producer Nate Moore, a veteran of Marvel Studios. who also worked on “Black Panther” and “Captain America”.

“Chloe is a director, first of all a character, and I think this is important because it is very easy to get lost in the bloat of visuals and fights. But she is largely based on the experiences of her characters – as she did in the films Nomad Land, The Horseman and Songs That My Brothers Taught Me – and it’s the same thing. “

For the writing duo Ryan and Kaz Firpo, who also began their indie cinematic careers, the connection with Zhao was instant. In fact, one of their first conversations with the co-scriptwriter and director was about “looking for a perspective” that transcends the visual appeal of the “loudest” and “hardest explosions.”

“Chloe is a unique perspective, because she was born abroad, raised in London, came to America to study,” said Kaz Firpo.

“She is an international citizen, just like we are citizens of the world — my father’s French, my mother’s Japanese — and so you bring all these different cultures together, and I think Marvel is really looking for the truth. They are looking for authenticity. You can only blow up so many cars until you get tired of it. “

As Eternals co-writer Patrick Burleigh points out, forward-thinking MCU adaptations begin with the filmmakers’ appropriate interpretation of comic book source material. Zhao’s MCU debut brings at least 10 new heroes from page to screen, as well as a few bonus Easter eggs geared towards superfans that stay behind the end credits.

“Directors like Chloe have the opportunity to look at this intellectual property that has been around for 40, 50 years and reinvent it with a fresh eye and … turn it into something really fresh, amazing, but still true to its roots. comics, ”Burleigh said.

“There are so many of these films made, but it is very important to keep them original and not let them push the boundaries. And … Chloe’s work, in particular on this film, does it. “

In addition to being the first woman of color to win an Academy Award for directing, Zhao also became the first woman of color to direct a film in the MCU.

Showering Zhao with praise at the world premiere of The Eternals last month, the actors and producers fondly recalled the moment they watched their colleague accept her historic Oscar for her role in Nomad Land.

“It was so deserved. [‘Nomadland’ is lovely]Moore said. “It takes you to different worlds, and I think it’s hard to do if you’re not a super talented director. And Chloe is super talented.

“I was so proud of her,” Ridloff said. “I immediately wrote to her. I thought, “Yes!” Chloe is such a cool woman.

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