Eternals TV Show Would Have Been Weirder (and Better?) Than the Movie

Before the middling Eternals movie made it to screen, Academy Award winning writer John Ridley had a much weirder TV show planned.

Cast of Marvel's Eternals
Photo: Marvel Studios / Disney

Consider the opening scene from Marvel‘s Eternals. A teenage boy picks up a power drill and switches it on. As the whirring of the motor intensifies, the boy puts the drill to his ear and slowly, methodically. pushes it in.

What? You don’t remember that scene? Probably because it comes not from the 2021 movie Eternals, but from the 2015 television show Eternals. Moreover, it comes from a treatment from writer John Ridley, who had been hired by Marvel to develop the show, which never came to fruition.

Unlike Inhumans, another unpopular Jack Kirby tale about an anti-social group of superpowered weirdos, which was announced as a movie but became a TV series, Eternals began as a television program before it transitioned to a movie. A veteran of television (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Third Watch), movies (winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 12 Years a Slave), and comics (The Authority: Human on the Inside, The American Way), Ridley seemed like the perfect person to bring the Eternals to the big screen.

Outside of early reports about Ridley making changes to the source material, little has been known about his plans for Eternals. However, while guesting on the Comic Book Club podcast, Ridley revealed more about his take on the titular undying defenders of the planet. And there’s one word that he repeated when describing his version: “Weird.”

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“It was so fucking weird,” he told the podcast, before hastening to add, “but good.” Ridley did not go into specifics about plot beats or even characters, adding to the aforementioned drill bit scene that he also imagined a moment involving a “kid who has to sleep in the bath tub.” Instead of going into details, Ridley talked about the tone of his approach. “It’s just a really weird story about these people,” he declared.

Although he tries to be generous toward the 2021 Eternals that actually made it to screen — it was not good “for all kinds of reasons,” he said — Ridley does make it clear that he would have preferred this version. But that sounds very much out of step with Marvel television on ABC, especially in 2015.

Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter took more of a procedural approach and even when they built out the world by adding Kree soldiers and Life Model Decoys, the shows stayed relatively tame by superhero standards. And if 2017’s Inhumans is any indication, limited budgeting would result in bad CG and mundane settings, stripping Ridley’s pitch of any of its oddball energy.

Still, even fans of the Chloe Zhao movie Eternals would have some interest in Ridley’s version. The sparse details he provides recalls Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.‘s 2006-2007 run on Eternals, in which they have all lost their memories and live their lives as normal people, the result of a devious plot. For most (this writer included), Gaiman and JRJR told the best, and possibly only good, Eternals story of all time.

Would a shot of a teen drilling out his brain make it better? Who can say, but given how many of us have tried to drill out our eyes after watching the movie Eternals, it sounds like a real improvement on the film.