The Marvel Studios boss has said the upcoming superhero film will highlight one female character in particular. Here's why that sounds so cool.

By Christian Holub
May 01, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT
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Thankfully, Carol Danvers is not one of a kind. Though it took more than a decade for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to release a film named after and starring a powerful female superhero, Captain Marvel now seems like it was just the beginning.

With the COVID-19 pandemic apparently waning in the United States, last year's delayed blockbusters Black Widow and The Eternals look ready to finally hit the big screen in 2021. Though Black Widow stars a character who is now dead in MCU continuity, The Eternals represents a new beginning. The upcoming film directed by newly-minted Oscar winner Chloé Zhao will be the first adaptation of these god-like superbeings created by Jack Kirby, and almost certainly many viewers' first introduction to them. 

Given the Eternals' relative lack of pop culture visibility up to this point, it can be easy to read the names of the massive, star-studded cast and find your head swimming. In a new interview with Variety celebrating Zhao's cultural ascendancy, MCU mastermind Kevin Feige gave fans a heads-up about which name on The Eternals cast list they should really be paying attention to. 

"There were some characters that we change from male to female, there were some characters that we knew how we were altering them from the books," Feige told Variety. "But then also it came down to casting. So for Sersi, for instance — and if there was a lead in this ensemble, it is Sersi, it is Gemma Chan — we looked at and read all sorts of women for that part. And ended up really believing that Gemma was best for it. And thankfully, she's proven that to be the case in the final movie. So, of course, Chloé was a big part of that decision, and of every casting decision."

Gemma Chan, Eternals
Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Marvel

The Eternals is still very much an ensemble movie — its characters are meant to invoke a divine pantheon — but it's still welcome news to hear Sersi will be taking such a spotlight. She's one of the very first Eternals to appear in Kirby's original 1976 comic series, but is unfortunately relegated to a damsel-in-distress role at first. Ikaris, the more traditional leading-man hero figure (who will be played by Game of Thrones star Richard Madden in Zhao's film), seeks Sersi (not to be confused with GOT's Cersei) out for the sole purpose of protecting his human friend Margo from the monstrous Deviants, sworn enemies of the Eternals. But despite this warning, Sersi soon finds herself ambushed by the Deviants, who immediately take her captive and force more Eternals to leave their sanctuary and enter the fray. 

The damsel-in-distress role has haunted Sersi through her many mythical incarnations. What's that? You don't get it yet? Try saying her name out loud. Like many of the Eternals, Sersi is supposed to be the real version of a god-like figure that has been refracted through human mythology — in this case, Circe, the witch from The Odyssey who turns rapists into pigs.

Despite her impressive powers (which The Eternals' version shares, able to transform other beings), Circe was stuck in a side character role in Homer's poem until relatively recently. In 2018, author Madeline Miller published Circe. It is, if not one of the best books ever written, certainly the best modern reframing of mythology, a novel that totally reorients your understanding of ancient myths by putting a maligned female character front and center. 

Given Feige's quote and Zhao's spot in the director's chair, it sure seems possible that The Eternals could give Sersi her own much-deserved spot in the sun. It's even better that she's played by Chan, the rare actor who is now getting her second shot at the MCU, having previously played the too-small role of Doctor Minerva in, well, Captain Marvel. That movie really was only the beginning.

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