Marvel Studios' Eternals movie is probably the weirdest one they've done yet, but it appears the once-planned TV series centering around the characters would've been much more surprising.
If we go all the way back to 2015, we can find reports of 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley entering the Marvel sandbox to develop a "mysterious superhero project" for ABC. For those who can't remember, ABC once was a key part of the MCU-adjacent plans, serving as the home for Marvel TV's Agents of SHIELD series. Now, Ridley has briefly opened up about his experience developing that show for Marvel.
The reveal happened last week during the Comic Book Club podcast, where Ridley said his show was going to be "a television version of The Eternals... But good." He admitted not liking what Marvel ended up doing years later with director Chloé Zhao and the Firpo Brothers: "There was the version that [Marvel] ended up doing which I don’t think... that version was particularly good. I’ll be honest."
While the version that ended up hitting the big screen was somewhat true to the original characters created by Jack Kirby in the 1970s, it sounds like Ridley's version was a deeper character drama on a more intimate scale; keep in mind the budget constraints would've been quite different for an ABC show. Here's his full quote regarding the pitch: "My version started with, the first thing you see is a young man, probably about 18 years old... And he’s sitting there. He’s sitting there for a moment. And then he lifts his hands. He has a drill in it. And he turns the drill on. And he puts the drill to his ear. And he starts pushing it in. And then it goes from there. That’s the start, right? That’s how it starts. And then I think you see... another kid... He sleeps in the bathtub, covers himself with foil. It’s just a really weird story about these people who are, I mean, it’s just weird." Yeah, we can see how this one would've been hard to sell.
Ridley later admitted that he probably wasn't "the right person for it" and that Eternals is "a really hard property." We can agree with the latter, as the Eternals movie, while ambitious and often stunning, felt too scattered and a bit on the heavy side for what ultimately was designed to be a big blockbuster. A slower-paced TV series that went smaller could've fixed some of those issues, but looking at the grand comic books, it'd likely have been a far from faithful adaptation too.
For now, we don't know when and if Marvel Studios will move forward with a second Eternals installment despite the first movie's very open ending. But if they do, it'll join a very busy slate of Marvel movies and TV shows.