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How Dune Impacted Chloe Zhao’s MCU Debut

Marvel’s Eternals finds itself in a peculiar place as the film is not only the follow-up movie to Chloé Zhao’s Oscar winning Nomadland but also introduces major new narrative branches into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while also being critically mixed and the first “Rotten” movie from Marvel Studios to be released. The film also finds itself debuting just a few weeks after the critically acclaimed Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s latest feature film and the first part in a planned multi-part adaptation of the classic Frank Herbert novel. With the two films now set to appear in theaters next to each other, Zhao credits Villeneuve’s work with IMAX on the sci-fi adaptation with being a major boon to her own success on her Marvel movie.

“I gotta say that I’m a big fan of Denis; he’s a friend,” Zhao revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. “We got pushed and shifted because of the pandemic. We got pulled apart and now we’re back together again at the same time. Even when I was working on IMAX for Eternals, I asked him if it was okay for me to watch Dune. I knew he did incredible things in IMAX, so I knew I could learn from him. He was so generous; he was like, ‘Yes.’ He also gave me other references to look at. So I actually find a lot of strength in our films coming out at the same time and to have a colleague who I respect and love and to be able to go through this together and to hug each other at Venice [International Film Festival] when Dune came out. He even sent me a message last night, so it all feels very empowering.”

In addition to optimizing the film for IMAX viewers, Zhao shot the movie much like all of her other features, utilizing mostly natural lighting in scenes that were shot on location and not in studio. She opened up about this aspect as well, noting how this aesthetic that has become a filmmaking trademark of hers was something they used on Eternals to make its story that spans thousands of years a little more believable.

“We knew that this film had to be immersive, and we knew that there had to be a level of realism to everything, from action to the Eternals in historic periods,” she added. “So we, as the audience, have to actually believe that these immortal aliens have walked the planet for several thousand years. I want the audience to discover these characters and their relationship with this planet….So shooting natural light in this situation added to that realism, and we were able to just go into a world and not worry too much about setting up a lot of lights. Our actors could actually interact with this environment, so you can believe them in their outfits and that they actually could have existed in ancient Babylon.”

Eternals is scheduled to hit on theatres on November 5th.

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