Chloe Zhao's Eternals is finally slated for release in November, and with it comes a closer look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe's take on the Celestials, the ancient cosmic aliens. The MCU has turned some of its focus towards space in the last several years, beginning briefly in The Avengers with the arrival of the Chitauri and that has since been expanded on in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Captain Marvel. In Eternals, the MCU could finally explore the history and powers of the ancient race known as the Celestials.
Eternals won't be the first time fans have seen a Celestial before, however, with Ego, Star-Lord's dad, playing a decent-sized role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Eson the Searcher being shown using the Power Stone. There was also Knowhere, a space location that was actually the severed head of a dead Celestial. But the powerful alien race will be explored further in Eternals, with the Celestials possibly playing a major role in the MCU going forward. In the comics, the Celestials are strongly associated with the Eternals, whom they created, so there's certainly a good case for arguing the momentum is building for the powerful alien beings.
Who are the Celestials and where do they come from? What role can they be expected to have in future MCU movies and how will they factor into Eternals? Here is how they originated in the comics, the MCU's adaptation, and everything that's known about the Celestials' presence in the MCU and in Eternals specifically.
The Celestials' Origins In The Comics
The Celestials were created by the legendary Jack Kirby in 1976. They were essentially envisioned as the ultimate Space Gods, who had seeded the potential for mutation and evolution within the human race countless millennia ago - and had done the same on countless other worlds too. The Eternals typically left a world with three separate strains of the indigenous population: the Eternals, the Deviants, and a majority "normal" strain that was also sometimes enhanced in order to improve its chances of survival. The Celestials would then leave a world, with the three races tending to fall into conflict, with each seeking dominance.
In the comics, the Celestials visited Earth 100,000,000 years ago, and their experiments on humanity are responsible for the creation of the X-gene - a dormant gene that would one day trigger the birth of mutants in the human race (i.e. the X-Men). Kirby didn't originally consider the origins of the Celestials; after all, they were essentially his version of divine beings, and the Eternals literally worshiped them as gods. In fact, it's only recently that writer Al Ewing revealed the ancient history of the Celestials. Al Ewing's Ultimates series saw him explore some of Kirby's craziest and most cosmic ideas. He revealed that the first universe was barren and devoid of life, empty and alone. This "First Firmament" created the race known as the Aspirants as its worshippers, industrious workmen who would populate the cosmos with life. But the Aspirants separated when some of their number desired their creations be able to change and evolve, and these rebels became known as the Celestials.
War raged between the Celestials and the Aspirants, a war unlike any in all of history. Finally, the Celestials unveiled their ultimate weapon - and destroyed the entire universe, shattering it into a multiverse of infinite possibilities. The Celestials are thus, in a sense, the creators of the entire multiverse; and they travel the stars, seeding the potential for evolution and change within inhabitants' worlds, then returning to judge whether their creations are worthy to survive.
The Celestials' Origins In MCU Movies
In the MCU, the Celestials have been portrayed as an ancient and possibly extinct race of powerful beings. The first Guardians of the Galaxy revealed that they used to travel through the cosmos, judging entire worlds; they used the Power Stone to destroy civilizations that they deemed unworthy to survive, and it's possible they also wielded the other Infinity Stones as well. Something ultimately happened to the Celestials, though, and they vanished from the universe. The space-borne mining colony, Knowhere, is the severed head of a Celestial; according to the Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary, the planet Sakaar (seen in Thor: Ragnarok) is littered with the corpses of Celestials. This may well explain why the Grandmaster had his agents dress in Celestial garb, unable to resist having them look like the space gods whose bodies were scattered upon his world.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 revealed that at least one Celestial had survived, Ego, and explored his powers. It seems that the MCU versions of the Celestials draw power from an unexplained "living light," and can use this force to create matter itself. Thus the Celestial bodies were probably just constructs, Celestial will given form. According to Ego, if a Celestial stays away from its "living light" for too long, it is trapped in its current shape, and becomes mortal. This may well explain how the Celestials could be rendered almost extinct in some unimaginable, cosmic war; if they were kept away from the source of their powers for long enough, they would become vulnerable. Eternals, however, could shed some more light on the cosmic beings' background, especially since they're directly connected to the titular heroes and their entire creation is predicated on the Celestials' power.
The Celestials' Origins in Thanos' Prequel Book
If you want to learn a little more about the Celestials in the MCU, though, there is one other place you have to look; Barry Lyga's Avengers: Infinity War novel, Thanos: Titan Consumed. This was announced as the first official MCU tie-in novel, although it was quickly branded non-canon. For all that's the case, though, it's clear that Lyga worked closely with Marvel Studios when writing it. He'd completed it well before the theatrical release of Avengers: Infinity War, and yet Lyga still clearly knew about events such as the Titan's assault on Zehoberei; he knew that Thanos achieved his insane goal of erasing half the life in the universe; he even knew the genocidal being had an out-of-body experience when he snapped his fingers. The book even confirmed that Thanos survived Titan's destruction because he was exiled after making the insane suggestion of euthanizing half his home world's population, a detail not explained in the film.
All this means that, for all it may be dubious in terms of canon, Thanos: Titan Consumed should be taken very seriously indeed. And, significantly, it features a scene where Thanos encounters the fabled Lorespeaker. The Lorespeaker is an insane being who has collected the myths and legends of the entire galaxy for an unknowable amount of time; it's eventually revealed that he's learned all these because he has possession of the Mind Stone, and has been peering into the minds of men and women across the galaxy. Lyga uses the Lorespeaker to tell Thanos a lot of the universe's deepest, darkest secrets - including the existence of the six Infinity Stones. Significantly, the Lorespeaker also gives a bit of an infodump on the Celestials as well.
"In the wake of the universe's creation," the Lorespeaker declares, "there arose the Celestials! Beings enormous in power, in stature, and in influence... Some say they were born in the heart of the Big Bang. Others that they came into being billions of years later, predating the rise of intelligence and civilization throughout the universe." As the Lorespeaker tells it, the Celestials were "the first great species to roam the stars," and he even suggests that it was the Celestials who forged six singularities into the current Infinity Stones. All this is so ambiguous an origin story that it would no doubt make Kirby proud, given he avoided telling the tale of the Celestials' origins as well. But, assuming that the Lorespeaker is correct, it suggests that the Celestials were the first spacefaring race in the MCU, and that their story is intimately bound with that of the Infinity Stones.
The Celestials' Origin In Eternals
Future MCU movies could expand upon the Celestials' origins, with Eternals setting them up for an even bigger role in the universe than they've played in the past. Out November 5, Eternals will likely reveal how the Celestials created them and why — to protect Earth from the Deviants, the Eternals' villainous counterparts who were also created by the ancient cosmic beings. The film spans 7,000 years, with the Celestials shown to be communicating with the Eternals and another scene revealing Arishem the Judge, the leader of the Celestials who decide which planets get to live or die. The film will also introduce Jemiah the Analyzer, who is responsible for monitor the progress of civilization and who will appear in some capacity.
The final Eternals trailer also confirms that it's the Celestials that have prevented the Eternals from becoming involved in human affairs unless it involves the Deviants. Eternals will likely tell the story of how the Celestials created the Eternals and Deviants, as well as their plans for humanity as they seem like more of a domineering presence the Eternals may rebel against at some point. The movie appears to be heavily influenced by Kirby's original Eternals run, which focused on the relationship between the Eternals, the Deviants, and the Celestials themselves. Perhaps the Eternals will reveal the origin of the Celestials themselves and possibly how they can be destroyed. Whether they play a small or large role in the plot of Eternals, it's clear the Celestials' history and relationship to the titular heroes (and to Earth) will be further explored.
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