This year’s Eternals doesn’t enjoy the happiest of endings. But if the ending we got bummed you out, buckle up. Director Chloe Zhao recently revealed the bleak ending she was originally offering fans, and it sounds like the ending of a Hallmark Channel Christmas rom-com in comparison.
If you’ve seen Eternals (and if you haven’t, stop reading now unless you’re cool with spoilers), then you know by the end of the film the Eternals discover they’ve been lied to by the Celestials. They’re artificial beings, their home planet doesn’t exist, and the reason they’ve been sent to Earth is to prepare for the Emergence — the creation of a new Celestial, whose birth will destroy the Earth. Two of the Eternals — Ikkaris and Sprite — betray their allies. The film ends with three of the Eternals dead — including Ikkaris, who commits suicide by flying into the Sun — and three more have been taken against their will to parts unknown by the Celestial Arishem. According to an interview with director Chloé Zhao that Empire posted this week, things were almost a lot worse.
In her chat with Empire, Zhao compared her first ending for Eternals to episodes of The Twilight Zone. She said in the original ending, all of the surviving Eternals would have had their memories erased and the screen would have cut to black with the heroes on their way to another planet, presumably to obliviously prepare for another Emergence. She didn’t say who would have erased their memories, though Arishem seems a likely candidate.
Zhao said the ending was altered because, understandably, test audiences didn’t react well. Speaking of the test Eternals screenings, Zhao said, “I remember when it goes to black, everyone was like, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ And also, it’s the MCU, and you want to be excited for what’s next.”
The Oscar-winning director says she wasn’t at all surprised that what she ended up scrapping her original vision for the Eternals ending. “I have never made a film where the ending is what I wrote,” Zhao told Empire. “You find it in the edit. Editing is a third of the filmmaking process, and when you show it to people, that’s when you find the ending. I don’t think I’ve made a single film where the opening and ending stay the same as the script, just because the scenes are fluid as we shoot.”
The director also said that in the case of her Marvel movie, the concept for the post-credits came from the less-than-happy ending — as in the actual ending, not the one she scrapped. When Empire asked her about casting Harry Styles as Eros — better known as Starfox in the source material — Zhao responded, “Long story short, with that depressing ending, at some point [Eros] was going to be one of the Eternals on that ship.” By “that ship,” Zhao is referring to the Eternals’ Domo. At the end of the film Druig, Makkari, and Thena leave Earth in the Domo to try to find other Eternals, and in a mid-credits scene they’re visited by Harry Styles as Eros and Patton Oswalt as his inebriated companion Pip the Troll. Presumably, Zhao wanted to use Marvel’s traditional mid and post credits fun to add some much needed levity.