How Marvel Studios solved its Eternals immortality problem

Well, we were sort of right…

As we detailed a few months back, Marvel Studios had something of an issue on its hands – it had a young actor who was 14 years old (and looked much younger) when she portrayed a near-immortal being who never aged, which presented something of a logistical problem if Marvel wanted the actor Lia McHugh to star in a sequel and/or make subsequent appearances in other Marvel projects. 

Lia McHugh - Sprite

Lia McHugh at Marvel’s Eternals 2021 red carpet premiere (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

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It was less of an issue for all her adult co-stars – nothing a little make-up, strategic lighting, and some digital manipulation couldn’t handle if the cast got back in front of the cameras a few years later. After all, Chris Hemsworth is now surpassing a full decade starring as an Asgardian who shouldn’t logically show any signs of aging during that time. 

However, for McHugh, who is now 16, was 14 during the film’s 2019-early 2020 principal production, and will be 17, 18, or even 19 when a sequel goes before the cameras, that’s a whole other can of worms. 

But solve the problem they did.

How? 

With Eternals having just premiered on Disney Plus on January 12, potentially introducing a whole new audience to the Eternals, let’s revisit our suggestions and compare them to what actually went down. 

For more on the new MCU characters and concepts introduced in Eternals, check out:

Prediction #1: There was a secret villain in addition to Kro and the Deviants and Sprite was it. 

Accuracy: 66.6%

Yes, the real villain of Eternals was a traitor among the Eternals’ ranks, and Sprite more or less did betray her team. 

But we were one important detail shy of nailing this one completely. 

While Marvel Studios did lean on Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.’s 2006 comic book series (opens in new tab) as we suggested, faithfully adapting the storyline in which Sprite, bitter for remaining in the body of a child forever while her friends could live adult lives, betrayed the Eternals. But in the film, she is not the primary traitor. That role is left to Ikaris, with Sprite following him because she is in love with him and jealous of his love for Sersi. 

Sprite stabbing Sersi Loki-style to stop her from preventing the Emergence of the Celestial Tiamut was shocking, which is part of the Marvel Studios brand, but in the end, Sersi found a reserve of forgiveness given Sprite eventually joined the Uni-Mind that stopped the Emergence and Tiamut in its tracks. 

Prediction #2: Sprite would die or be regenerated into a new, different being, the former possibility relieving Marvel of having to figure out how to bring McHugh back, the latter allowing her to return older, or allowing another actor to be cast in the role. 

Accuracy: 33.3%

The ‘Sprite will die’ theory again came straight from the Gaiman-Romita Jr. series in which Zuras, the leader of the Eternals in Marvel comic books, kills Sprite for his (yes, his) schemes. The regeneration theory came from more recent stories from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Esad Ribić in their current Eternals series (opens in new tab) that also helped explain how the Marvel Comics versions of some of the characters recently swapped genders (like Sprite) and races (like Makkari, who swapped both) to match their live-action counterparts. 

Sprite in 2006's Eternals

Sprite is killed by Zuras in 2006’s The Eternals (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Sprite didn’t die or regenerate in a new form in the movie. So, how do we grade ourselves as 33.3% accurate when neither aspect of our prediction came to pass?  

Well, we got the core premise right. Marvel Studios did anticipate having to explain McHugh’s absence or advanced maturity when the promised Eternals sequel (“The Eternals will return” says the film’s final image) materializes, and it instead looked again to the Gaiman-Romita Jr. comic book story for inspiration. 

In an element of that story we overlooked the first time, Sprite uses the Uni-Mind and the Dreaming Celestial to transform himself into a mortal to achieve his heart’s desire, which is more or less what happens at the end of the film. 

Again, a forgiving Sersi uses the residual cosmic power granted to her from the remaining Eternals joining Tiamut in a Uni-Mind to transform Sprite into a mortal who will age like a human being. And at the end of the film, she’s again seen in the good graces of Sersi and Kingo, as she readies to begin life as a mortal.

The future of the character remains unclear, however. McHugh – who gave a terrific performance – is seemingly positioned to return for a sequel, but it hasn’t been established whether she still possesses her superhuman Eternals powers. 

Whatever Sprite’s fate is, she could return simply as a powerless friend and ally of the remaining Eternals, and/or given this is the MCU, achieve superhero status through other means.

Or, if she retained her powers, that could set up all sorts of interesting implications in a shared universe that’s still awaiting the introduction of mutants

Either way, at the end of the day, we were more or less half on target, which all things considered, isn’t half-bad. 

Newsarama digs into the comic book history and MCU future of another Eternals character – Kitt Harington’s Dane Whitman AKA the Black Knight

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