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Warning: Major Eternals spoilers ahead!
(Last chance to look away before major spoilage.)
After being introduced by sidekick/herald Pip the Troll (voiced by Patton Oswalt) aboard the Domo spaceship to the perplexed members of the Eternals, global pop sensation-turned-actor Harry Styles strolls into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Eros, aka Starfox, the teleporting, much better-looking brother to Thanos (apologies Mad Titan fans) and who is seemingly on the right side of history from his galaxy-decimating, Avengers-battling sibling.
As Pip proclaims, Styles’s character is “the royal prince of Titan, brother of Thanos, the knave of hearts, and defeater of Black Robert… the great adventurer Starfox!” Once Eros takes the stage, he claims to be an Eternal himself and warns Thena (Angelina Jolie), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) that their friends are in “big trouble” but that “we know where to find them,” teasing future MCU exploits — be it in Eternals 2 or even before unannounced sequel.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Eternals director and co-writer Chloé Zhao revealed how deliberate she and the Marvel team were in casting the ex-One Direction member who made a memorable impression on her with his appearance in Christopher Nolan’s 2017 Oscar-nominated war epic Dunkirk, which also starred fellow Eternals actor Keoghan.
“I pitched the idea of Pip the Troll and Eros a while back,” Zhao said (watch above). “For me, it was never like, ‘Let’s create a character Eros, find an actor. The conception of Eros, Thanos’s brother — which is very interesting, I have a whole backstory in my head that I think would be really interesting — the character was created because I thought, ‘We’re going to ask Harry to play it.’
“I kept looking at his career since Dunkirk, and thought he had the perfect temperament, what he represented, to play the character of Eros. [The pitch to Marvel] was very much, ‘Here’s Eros, played by Harry, can we do this?’ And then when I got a yes, I went to Harry and said, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ When he said, ‘Yes,’ that’s when it happened. Otherwise I don’t think this would’ve been a thing.”
Styles is new to the MCU, but Oswalt has a longer history with Marvel. The comedian and actor has lent his voice to a variety of animated shows, including Disney XD's 2017 Spider-Man series and the recent M.O.D.O.K. cartoon on Hulu. He was also a recurring player on the out-of-canon ABC serial Agents of SHIELD, which may or may not be confirmed as part of the Marvel multiverse as Phase 4 continues to unfold. When not paling around with Starfox, Pip has also come to the aid of Adam Warlock, who former child star Will Poulter recently bulked up to play in James Gunn’s soon-to-shoot Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. After visiting the Domo, maybe Pip and Starfox can do a flyby past the Milano?
In brightest day, in blackest knight
Much like their Game of Thrones counterparts, Kit “Jon Snow” Harington lives to see the end of Eternals, while Richard “Robb Stark” Madden dies in spectacular fashion. The film’s climax finds Madden’s Ikaris plunging into the sun — much like the Greek myth he supposedly inspired — tormented by betraying of his fellow immortals, not to mention failing the mission tasked to him by his creator, Arishem.
Meanwhile, Harington’s all-too-human (or maybe not — more on that in a moment) alter ego, Dane Whitman, lives on to woo their shared love interest Cersei… uh, make that Sersei (Gemma Chan). But their happily-ever-after doesn’t last all that long: Angered by her decision to stop the emergence of a new Celestial, Arishem lifts Sersei into the cosmos for a stern talking-to before sending her falling back down to Earth. Where she lands will remain an unsolved mystery until at least Eternals 2, if not before. The last shot of the film proper is Dane staring at the sky wondering what the heck just happened.
But that’s not the last we see of Dane: A post-credits scene sets up Harington’s post-Eternals future in tantalizing detail. Before Sersei pulls her inadvertent vanishing act, Dane had broached the subject of his family lineage, something she was helping him try to gather more intel about. “My family history is complicated,” he tells her right before Arishem scoops her up.
We get a sense of just how complicated when we later cut back to Dane in his study, nervously contemplating a time-worn box sitting on his desk. “You can do this,” he tells himself, and lifts the lid. On the inside of the box is an inscription in a foreign language that Dane reads out loud: “Death is my reward.” Below that is a long sword that he appears reluctant to grasp. “I’m sorry — I have to try,” he says to the seemingly empty room. As Dane reaches down, the metal on the sword begins to vibrate and he quickly pulls his hand back. “Sure you’re ready for that, Mr. Whitman?” comes a voice from off-screen as the scene cuts to black.
Are you ready to learn who this “Dane Whitman” is? In the pages of Marvel Comics, he’s better known as Black Knight — although the lineage of that name is as complicated as Dane’s big-screen counterpart suggests. Black Knight made his inaugural Marvel appearance in a 1955-56 comic series that ran for five issues and followed the medieval adventures of King Arthur ally Sir Percival of Scandia, who wields the Merlin-forged Ebony Blade. Jump ahead to a 1963 issue of Tales to Astonish, and Percival’s distant descendent, Professor Nathan Garrett, comes face to face with his ancestor’s spirit, but is judged unworthy of inheriting the sword. Nathan decides to fashion his own Black Knight identity — albeit one that fights for the Masters of Evil instead of the forces of good.
Dane enters the scene four years later in a 1967 issue of The Avengers. Introduced as Nathan’s nephew, the young man is handed the keys to Garrett Castle after his uncle died of wounds sustained in a fight with Iron Man. Before passing into the great beyond, Nathan has Dane promise that he’ll try to redeem the Black Knight’s name. Although Whitman initially returns to the Masters of Evil fold, that’s actually a classic feint. His larger plan is to sabotage the villain collective from within, thus earning the respect of Iron Man and the other Avengers in the process. He also acquires the talisman his uncle couldn’t: Sir Percival’s Ebony Blade, although that comes with its own complications in the form a powerful curse — one that slowly but inevitably corrupts the soul of the person who wields the sword.
Over the decades, Whitman’s Black Knight has been an on-again, off-again member of the Avengers, and that could very well be Harington’s destiny, too. So far, the actor has understandably been coy about when he’ll next pop up in the MCU.
“I don’t know … if it’s going anywhere,” he told the website /Film recently. “I do think that this is the intro to the character. This is why I took the role, because it's an introduction to a larger story, hopefully. But right now I'm in this movie, it may go nowhere.” If Marvel were interested in orchestrating another Game of Thrones reunion, the logical next stop for Dane would be the upcoming Disney+ series, Secret Invasion, which will star Emilia “Daenerys” Clarke — the Mother of Dragons and Aunt/Lover of Jon Snow — in a major yet-to-be-announced role alongside Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s shape-shifting Skrull, Talos.
Not for nothing, but Dane’s comic book counterpart tangled with the Skulls in the 2008-09 series Captain Britain and MI13, where Black Knight was paired with a bevy of British heroes and one legendary vampire hunter — Blade. Wesley Snipes originated the role of Marvel’s daywalker in a trio of big-screen hits released between 1998 and 2004.
But in 2019, two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali was unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con as the new Blade. Since then, both Marvel and Ali have been quiet about how he’ll join the MCU, but they’ve finally made some noise: that’s Ali’s voice that asks Dane whether he’s ready for what comes with picking up what can only be the Ebony Blade. Zhao confirmed the vocal cameo in an interview with Fandom, remarking with obvious delight: “That was the voice of one of my favorite superheroes, Mr. Blade himself!” A Black Knight/Blade pairing would be extra sharp.
Eternals is now playing.
Watch the cast talk about the power of the film's diversity:
-Videos produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee