The following story contains spoilers for Marvel’s Eternals (2021).
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Eternals was that, in the end, not all of the Eternals were such good guys. While the movie spends a large chunk of its 2.5 hour+ runtime introducing viewers to these new beings and their longtime friendships, relationships, and bonds, almost all the characters seem to either look up to or be in love with Ikaris (Richard Madden), the Superman-like de facto leader of the group. In the comics, Ikaris is a He-Man-looking hero who almost always does the right thing and saves the day; so it comes as a shock to everyone in the film when it turns out that he’s actually the movie’s de facto villain, responsible for killing Ajak (Salma Hayek) and trying, essentially, to bring upon the end of planet Earth and human life.
There’s a lot of story to cover in Eternals, but let’s basically just put it all in a nutshell: the Eternals were created by Arishem, a giant being in the sky who oversees the creation of all-powerful beings called Celestials. While the Eternals at the story’s center believe themselves to be organic beings, a twist basically reveals that they’re super advanced robots. Kind of weird! Anyway, Arishem wants the Eternals to make sure that “The Emergence,” happening on Earth, occurs, and that a new celestial can be born. This, basically, would be good for the universe, but bad for planet Earth, destroying the planet and wiping out the human race.
Most of the Eternals, led by Sersi (Gemma Chan), eventually agree this is wrong and try to go against Arishem and stop this; Ikaris is still loyal to the giant being in the sky and goes against them. After a struggle, Ikaris is tied down, and when all the Eternals put their powers together (a “Uni-Mind”) behind Sersi, they’re able to stop the Emergence and turn the new celestial into marble, saving Earth. Ikaris, afterwards, feels extreme guilt—he flies off the planet, directly into the sun.
I guess he’s dead? Kind of hard to survive that one. But either way, it clears up Sersi to have a nice clean relationship with Dane Whitman (Kit Harington), who, it turns out, has a secret of his own. Uh oh. But a bunch of the Eternals end up floating in space anyway, so we’ll put a pin in all that for now.
But let’s dive a bit deeper into the whole Ikaris thing, shall we?
So, did Ikaris kill himself when he flew into the sun in Eternals or what?
Well, officially speaking, that was the intent. We don’t have to do all that much speculation here—Eternals screenwriter Kaz Firpo spelled it out in an interview with CBR:
“What is the melting point of an Eternal? How long does it take to literally melt an Eternal robot?” he said. “For what it’s worth… yeah, it was always that. He can’t bear to face his family after what he’s done, which he realizes.”
“I don’t think that Ikarus even thinks that he’s wrong. I think that he just has so much regret. He’s very sorry. I think he’s sorry for the way he lived his whole life on this planet, and that’s a lot of burden to carry,” he explained. “So really, that act is basically saying, ‘I made a mistake, but I can’t face my family, and I can’t go on living.'”
“It began as an exile that I think, throughout the course of the filmmaking, really became something that needed to be definitive. It really is a moment of saying, ‘It’s sacrifice.’ It’s sort of saying, ‘I can’t serve the Eternals. If I can’t serve the Celestials, and I can’t be with my family, then I choose this third option,’ which—for him—really is oblivion. So yeah, he dead.”
There’s also the whole not-exactly-subtle reference to Greek mythology; you’ve surely heard the phrase “Icarus flew too close to the sun.” That story is about someone who created his own wings out of wax to gain the power of flight before literally flying too close to the sun before they melted and he fell and died; this Ikaris simply over-estimated his place in the world and power. Both are cases of overconfidence.
But let’s not act like these things can’t get retconned, or similar things haven’t in the past. Do you think Marvel really planned to bring Red Skull back after Captain America: The First Avenger 7 full years later, played by a different actor, for Avengers: Infinity War? Probably not. That’s not exclusive to the MCU either—part of the glory of Comic Book storytelling, and the film and television that’s based on it, is that any new writer or creative storyteller can basically go back and remold whatever it is to fit their liking.
Even look at something that wasn’t necessarily life or death stakes like the status of Mjolnir in the MCU. In Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi had Mjolnir destroyed in a way to basically have Thor learn as a character that he didn’t need to be defined by his weapon of choice and worthiness meter, Mjolnir. The Russo Brothers then basically wrote that Thor did need a weapon to have a chance against Thanos in Infinity War, giving him the Axe Stormbreaker and then him finding Mjolnir again in Endgame. Both things worked! It’s justa classic Comic Book-style move to have each creator sort of do what they want with the character and how they interact with the world around them.
Is Ikaris returning to the MCU any time soon?
Coincidentally, just as Eternals landed on Disney+, rumors began circling online that Ikaris could be making a surprise return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
These rumors were rooted in the fact that a TikTok user named Emmy Kennard said in a post that her stunt double brother would be playing a returning MCU character in his next role; the only MCU role to date for her brother, Joe Kennard, is for Richard Madden as Ikaris in Eternals.
Now, obviously that far from confirms anything; if you look at Kennard’s IMDB, you can see that he also doubled for actor Wyatt Russell in Overlord. The way her post is phrased—”When your brother is a stunt double and his next job is a character coming back into the MCU”—kind of makes it sound like he’ll be doubling a different character and actor. This could very easily be Russell’s John Walker/US Agent, who was introduced in 2021’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and will likely be a part of the next Captain America movie.
We’ll have to wait and see. It could still be a returning Ikaris—the Eternals are basically super-advanced robots, so they could always just repair his torched body or, you know, build another one. There’s also the whole multiverse angle, so we could see a “variant” Ikaris. Who knows! A lot of food for thought, really, but none of it is off the table.
Evan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.
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