Is it too early to say Eternals is doing some setup work for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Because Eternals definitely feels like it’s doing some setup work for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Needless to say, spoilers are a-coming. If you haven’t seen Eternals, bookmark this and come back after you’ve taken care of that.

I’ll start with the most obvious link: That wild mid-credits scene. Harry Styles as Eros, brother of Thanos! Patton Oswalt joins the MCU! We love a good surprise when it remains unspoiled! But the real thrill here is how that scene is constructed and what it means.

When the spacefaring duo shows up aboard the Eternals’ ship, the Domo, it’s Eros who breaks some difficult news: Arishem is on to the Eternals’ little plot to save Earth, and the Celestial has spirited away Sersi, Phastos, Kingo, and possibly Sprite (who, remember, is human now) to parts unknown.

Well, not totally unknown. Arishem probably knows, as the being behind the act. And Eros claims to know. He says as much to the puzzled Eternals, indicating with a smirk — that is best described as Stylesian — that he can help the Eternals find it. Is he on the level? Who knows! But there’s an immediate strong suggestion that we’ll find out in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Why? Because as Eros makes his offer and the scene ends, a familiar tune picks up. Crunching guitar, anthemic melodies, a ripping rock organ. It’s Foreigner, the British-American glam/prog rock band, singing their hit, “Feels Like the First Time.” It’s just the kind of music genre and era — Foreigner got big during the late ’70s — that you’d expect to find on a Peter Quill mixtape.

Harry Styles as Eros! Patton Oswalt as Pip! We love a good surprise when it's unspoiled!

One song doesn’t give the whole game away, of course. But there are other reasons to see the spirit of Guardians haunting this scene. For one, the musical selection doesn’t line up with any of the other choices made on Eternals’ soundtrack. Pink Floyd’s “Time” opens the movie, but Quill’s deal is more Foreigner’s brand of arena rock than Floyd’s psychedelia.

There’s also the vibe of that scene. When Pip and Eros come barging in, they feel deeply out of place. Eternals isn’t completely devoid of humor, but the writing veers harder toward drama and serious-minded themes. Then, all of a sudden, in walks these two space weirdos: a booze-swilling troll and his swaggering prince pal. Their arrival is heralded by a shimmering rainbow of energy — itself a break from the Eternals fairly muted color palette —and a smirking Styles queues up a musical blast of arena rock soon after.

It’s all so very out of place, but in a way that immediately comes off as suggestive. If you’re fluent in the MCU’s tonally diverse lineup of blockbuster stories, the atmosphere is unmistakable. The scene feels like something out of a Guardians movie.

That’s not the only link. Eternals also brings a massive exposition dump about Celestials like Arishem. We learn that these towering, ancient beings are — for all intents and purposes — a creator race: They use their power to give birth to stars and planets and — by extension — the living population of the universe.

We’ve heard about the Celestials a few times as the MCU has developed, but nowhere was it more explicit than in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. That’s how Ego described himself to the Guardians as they arrived on his beautiful paradise planet (before they learned what he’d really been up to). What Ego describes roughly correlates with what Eternals tells us: Celestials are creators. But these stories don’t totally line up.

The Eternals’ explanation of Celestials is closer to how they’re depicted in the comics: Massive, armored beings who possess god-like powers and who use the life force of populated planets to incubate new Celestials until they’re ready to emerge, fully formed. There’s nothing about them taking on human form as Ego does, and nothing to even suggest that’s possible.

let's talk about the guardians of the galaxy-sized elephant in 'eternals'

This is the typical visual of a Celestial, both in Marvel Comics lore and in the 'Eternals' reveal. Credit: Marvel Studios

The MCU is forging its own path through Marvel lore. So, it’s certainly inside the realm of reason that Celestials can pull an Ego and make themselves look like Kurt Russell. But we’ve all seen Ego’s true colors. He was a liar. Who’s to say the whole “I’m a Celestial” thing wasn’t bullshit? Ego’s main goal was to take over the universe, and now thanks to Eternals we know that doing so would’ve involved going through the Celestials. Maybe that was part of the plan.

Let’s assume for a moment that Ego actually had beef with the Celestials. In the Guardians sequel, he glosses over the specifics of how he came to exist: “I don’t know where I came from exactly,” he tells Peter. But it’s what he says right after that may matter more.

“First thing I remember is flickering, adrift in the cosmos, utterly—” he pauses here, a haunted and distant look creeping across his face before he finishes the sentence: “—and entirely alone.” Ego doesn’t say “alone” so much as he sighs it out. It’s clearly something that has weighed on him for a very long time.

He then continues, strength returning to his voice: “Over millions of years, I learned to control the molecules around me. I grew smarter. And stronger.” There’s a distinct edge to Ego’s voice as he spits out “stronger.” That strength is particularly meaningful to him. Why? It’s not clear. Is it something Russell baked into his performance because that’s how it was scripted? Or perhaps just a coincidence?

Whatever the truth may be behind Russell’s performance in that scene, the MCU’s Ego is indisputably a villain and a liar. He’s not someone who can be trusted. Just because he said he’s a Celestial, that doesn’t make it true. But the possibility that he did lie about this detail immediately raises the question: Why? What purpose did that lie, delivered to Peter and his friends, serve?

If that’s how things went down and there’s really a question to be answered there, then Eternals strongly suggest that answers are coming in our next Guardians of the Galaxy adventure, which is tentatively set for a May 2023 release.

Eternals opens in theaters Nov. 5.


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