The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest and most popular movie franchise in the world, filled with films that consistently dominate at the box office, made with massive production budgets. The Marvel Studios movies are huge, which is a major change of pace for The Eternals director Chloe Zhao. The previous two films from Zhao, The Rider and Nomadland, are inexpensive indie explorations of the American West, both utilizing real people in place of professional actors in most roles (the exception being Acadamy Award-winner Francis McDormand in Nomadland). Her current fare couldn't seem more different from the project she's undertaking with Marvel, but for Zhao, the worlds feel very similar.
While speaking with EW about the Oscar-favorite Nomandland, which arrives in theaters in December, Zhao was asked about how the experience on Eternals compared to her previous work. While the budgets are different, Zhao explained that there is definitely common ground between the two.
"I think the thing that’s most in common between these two films is I’m telling stories that I really want to tell about characters I love and with people I love working with," she said. "I consider myself very lucky that has not changed."
For Zhao, as long as the storytelling and collaborative processes remain the same, the work will always be exciting and original, no matter how big or small the budget.
The major difference between Eternals and Zhao's other films, aside from the cost, is that it won't be taking place in the western part of the United States, instead spanning galaxies over the course of generations. Zhao didn't exactly set out to make films exclusively about the American West, but she has just felt drawn to those stories over the years.
"I always used to make that joke that when you feel a bit lost, you go west," Zhao explained. "That’s sort of a historic movement that people do. There’s that pioneer spirit of that land, and it’s also full of tension in a way. It feels both new and old because it’s now predominantly farmland. It’s ranching land, and it’s too rugged to build and to grow, so there are things that are there, lying around from a hundred years ago. There’s something about that piece of landscape in a country that’s so young, and the things we talk about are so of today. To escape into the heartland and the American West is a very rejuvenating experience for me every time I go. I just feel like I’m part of something bigger."
The Eternals hits theaters on November 5, 2021.