Eternals opens with an immediate reference to the Bible: “In the beginning.” The first scene alludes to the The Creation of Adam painting by Michelangelo, firmly establishing a religious tone to the film. Yet the religious imagery and allusions only begin there. Director Chloe Zhao begins to weave a truly intricate creation story of the almighty and powerful Celestials who created the Eternals, whose purpose is to protect humans from the mischievous Deviants.
The story follows 10 Eternals who all have very different skill sets and personalities, from 5,000 B.C. Mesopotamia to the modern times of the 21st century. Over time, we see how the Eternals affected different cultures all over the world with their powers, but they were careful not to give humans more technology than they were ready to handle, shielding them from danger and despair.
We follow the Eternals after they kill who they think is the last Deviant on Earth, then have a split over how much they should intervene in the wars of humans. As they begin to go their separate ways, they must find out their new purpose with all of the Deviants gone. Some find jobs where they can work and be happy, while others seclude themselves, and others start families with humans. These are all personal choices, and none of them are guided by their creator, the Celestial Arishem, as he only communicates directly with Ajak, the leader of the Eternals.
The crux of the movie occurs when Ajak dies, the Deviants somehow return, and Arishem gives them a command that they are not all fully ready to follow: let mankind die so that a new Celestial can be born. The Eternals realize that all of their backstory has been based on a lie. They were not created to protect humans but to prolong life on Earth until a Celestial could be born from their energy. This sends the Eternals into another internal battle. Should they blindly follow Arishem or turn against him and save mankind?
Arishem is a creator. However, some major things separate him from our Creator. Arishem is not holy. Arishem is never mentioned to care for his creation, and he doesn’t seek to have a relationship with them. Arishem is a cold creator who gives orders but doesn’t extend love. So when Arishem gives the Eternals an order to let mankind die so that a Celestial can be born, it’s on brand. Cold and unloving. Arishem’s cause is not just. Therefore, the Eternals realize that Arishem’s will contradicts their purpose. In contrast, our God is consistent in his character, so when he gives us a task, we can trust that it will be loving, holy, and just. And if we ever struggle to understand God’s will, we have access to communicate with him on a personal level, unlike the faraway, aloof Arishem.
“And so we know and rely on the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). We serve a God who is love, and his being will never give us a command that is unloving. “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?” (Psalms 77:13). There is no one. Films like Eternals can prompt thought-provoking conversations for Christians about the trustworthy character of God, the role of the creator in our lives, and our response to his commands. (Marvel Studios, Disney+)