Marvel’s Eternals is a big and bold blockbuster epic — one that attempts to tell the history of humanity through the eyes of a group of immortals who have protected the Earth for 7,000 years. Unfortunately, it’s also a film bound and constrained by a rulebook that hasn’t changed or evolved in any real, discernible way in 13 years: the Marvel Cinematic Universe formula.
In a year in which it is releasing four films and five TV shows, Marvel Studios is testing the strength of its corporate, assembly-line production style more than it ever has before. Interestingly, the results have not been nearly as positive as Marvel might have hoped.
Instead of resoundingly justifying its continued existence post-Avengers: Endgame, Marvel has proven that even it has its limits. Nowhere is that more clear than in Eternals’ post-credits scenes.
Major Eternals spoilers ahead.
The problem with Eternals’ post-credits scenes
The post-credits scenes in Eternals are not good. The first introduces a CGI character named Pip the Troll (Patton Oswalt) and a new Eternal in Eros, aka Starfox (Harry Styles), who just so happens to be Thanos’ brother. A largely comedic sequence, Starfox’s introduction ends with the character telling three of the film’s surviving Eternals that he’s going to help them rescue their captured compatriots from Arishem the Judge.
The film’s second post-credits scene, meanwhile, sets up Dane Whitman’s (Kit Harington) transformation into Black Knight, a Marvel Comics hero who wields a powerful but cursed sword known as the Ebony Blade. While Harington plays the character with memorable wit and charm, neither he nor his post-credits scene has any reason for being in Eternals.
To say that the scene fails to justify the character’s inclusion would be an understatement. It’s a sequence that, much like Starfox’s introduction, will only confuse 99% of audience members — most of whom will never have heard the names Eros, Pip the Troll, Dane Whitman, or Black Knight prior to seeing the film.
Worst of all, Eternals’ post-credits scenes add little to its story and serve only to set up the plot of a sequel. Much like the film’s unnecessary final twist, which sees Sersi (Gemma Chan), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), and Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) captured and taken far away by their Celestial creator, the post-credits scenes do nothing but paste loose ends on to a story that could have very well done without them.
Phase Four is off to a rough start
When Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury appeared at the end of 2008’s Iron Man and mentioned something called the “Avengers Initiative,” Marvel Studios simply and elegantly told fans what to expect from the first phase of the MCU. It was a promise that was paid off four years later when 2012’s The Avengers hit theaters.
But Marvel didn’t rest on its laurels. Instead, the studio ended The Avengers with another seismic post-credits scene: the introduction of Thanos, the villain who would go on to define the MCU’s two subsequent phases. By doing so, Marvel once again made the direction of its growing cinematic universe clear and bought its audience’s collective patience by telling them what their destination was.
As a result, even when the MCU shifted its focus away from Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet to focus on smaller stories and character arcs — audiences stayed invested because they knew all along where everything was headed. The studio’s post-credits scenes had a lot to do with that, often acting as the connective tissue that bridged its various franchises and characters together.
But Eternals’ post-credits scenes do not connect it to the rest of the MCU, nor do they seem to set up further the studio’s new Infinity Saga-level story. They simply exist to introduce characters that will, presumably, only come into play in Eternals 2, a film that, according to producer Nate Moore, Marvel doesn’t even see as a “must-have.”
The Inverse Verdict — We are now seven installments into Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By this point in the Infinity Saga, we had already gotten 2012’s The Avengers, and the studio had already foreshadowed Thanos’ eventual arrival. However, this far into Phase Four, we have next to no idea what Marvel’s new overarching story is.
There have been hints that Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) will set off some kind of multiversal battle. Still, the character’s introduction in Loki feels so disconnected from everything else going on in the MCU that it’s impossible to know whether or not that’s really what Marvel has planned right now. And yet, despite that, the studio continues to end every one of its titles with increasingly superfluous post-credits scenes.
Consequently, 26 films into its run, the tropes that once made the MCU unique are starting to wear thin. In the case of Marvel’s ongoing post-credits scenes, what used to feel like promises to comic book fans are beginning to feel like nothing more than manipulative, corporate attempts to make sure audiences keep giving Disney even more money.
What’s worse is that it forces one to wonder if that’s what they really were all along, and it just took us 13 years to realize it. Even if that is the case, at least they told us what we were coming back for.
Eternals is playing now in theaters.